Twilight had been going through her books late into the night, looking for clues to the origins of their mysterious alien visitor, but hadn't found anything terribly useful. Getting to sleep late, she had found herself waking tired, but early, even as the first light of dawn came through her open window. Heading down to breakfast, she considered her options.
"Hmm, I could go over and see if the creature is awake yet..." she said thoughtfully. "I wonder if Princess Celestia has ever seen anything like him before?" she brightened. "Spike, take a letter!"
"Right!" Spike produced parchment and quill in a moment, rarely going anywhere without them. It was always handy to be prepared to write around Twilight Sparkle, after all.
"Dear Princess Celestia,
I wish to inform you of an unusual visitor to our village of Ponyville. Some time yesterday afternoon, a bipedal creature of unknown origin wandered into our village. It is somewhat similar in form to the Diamond dogs, but taller, and without a natural covering of fur, apparently. This creature came out of the Ever-free forest, and after a short incident at the Sweet Apple Acres, wandered into town, where it was... temporarily rendered unconscious due to a slight misunderstanding.
Thankfully, there were no serious injuries, and the strange creature, once I was able to establish communication with it through a translation spell, was friendly and cooperative, and quite willing to answer questions, although it's injuries prevented me from having more than a short conversation with him.
While I have searched my texts for references to such a creature, I was unable to discover anything that matched its description. The fact that it did not speak Equestrian, as well as it's unique appearance, led me to believe it is of alien origin, that is, not of Equestria. The creature's own experiences, as it has related them to me, seem to agree with this hypothesis. According to the creature, who calls himself Johnathon, he is an archeologist by trade, and was investigating an ancient ruin in a jungle rainforest in his world, when he encountered, as he put it, a "hole" or "nothingness" that pulled him into our world, where he suffered a head injury. He apparently arrived at the Castle of the Two Sisters, where we recovered the Elements of Harmony, and I believe this location to have some significance, although what that significance is I am uncertain. Also, the time of his arrival seems to coincide roughly with Discord's storm of chaos, which I feel is also likely a factor, although again, whatever combination of factors that brought this creature here, I can only guess.
I intend to continue my investigations, and I will keep you informed of anything new I discover.
Your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle."
Twilight nodded to Spike. "Send that please."
Spike was struggling along as quickly as he could. "continue my investigations..." he glanced up at her. "Twilight, didn't you ask this Johnathon character what kind of creature he is?"
Twilight blinked. "Well, I would have gotten around to it, Spike, but Fluttershy felt he needed his rest after his injuries. Apparently he's had a number of blows to the head over the last few days, and we don't want to take any chances."
Spike shrugged. "I guess you can ask go ask him now then." he went back to writing. "anything new... faithful student..." he finished writing, then glanced up at Twilight with a raised eyebrow. "Aren't you going to mention the other stuff? I mean, this creature seems kind of dangerous to me. He's really strong, and he hurt Big Macintosh."
Twilight blinked. "What? No one told me Big Macintosh was injured! When did that happen?"
Spike rolled his eyebrows. "Couldn't you tell? Big Mac was kind of walking funny yesterday, as if his chest hurt. I asked him about it after you carried this... Johnathon away. Apparently Big Mac ran into him, and this creature stopped him dead at a full run."
Twilight blinked again. "Stopped... Big Mac? How?"
Spike shook his head. "Big Mac wouldn't say, exactly, only that he ran into the creature and it stopped him."
Twilight shook her head, then focused.. "Well... is Big Mac going to be alright? Does he need to see Nurse Redheart?"
Spike shrugged. "Big Mac said he'd be fine, it was only a bad bruise. Still, is it alright to leave that creature alone in Fluttershy's cottage? It could hurt her!"
Twilight hesitated, then shook her head. "Fluttershy has dealt with lots of dangerous creatures before... it's not like this... like Johnathon is any more dangerous than a Manticore. Besides, he was injured pretty badly as well. He seemed barely able to stand. I don't think he'll be in any condition to be a threat to anyone for awhile yet."
She frowned. "It is strange that he could stop Big Mac like that... Johnathon is... tall, but not really very big. He probably weighs less than I do!" Twilight thought about trying to stop Big Mac at a full run herself without using magic, and her imagination failed. "Perhaps creatures of Johnathon's species are exceptionally strong for their size? He was able to hog-tie Applejack, and she's the strongest pony I know, aside from Big Mac."
Spike nodded. "Like I said, dangerous!"
Twilight shook her head. "Don't worry too much, Spike. Just sent the letter to Princess Celestia. Maybe she might know something about his species that we don't have in our books here?"
Spike shrugged and sent the letter.
The Princess of the Sun was standing on the balcony with her sister Luna, having raised the sun only minutes before, when Twilight's letter popped into existence in front of her.
Luna smiled fondly. "Ah, another letter from your faithful student!" she teased lightly. "I do enjoy reading her lessons on friendship, when you'll share them with me, big sister."
Celestia couldn't help smile as well. "She has grown into a wonderful little pony, don't you think,Luna?"
Luna nodded gracefully. "She does her teacher proud." she looked curious. "What discovery on the magic of friendship has your student made this morning, I wonder?"
Celestia unrolled the parchment with her telekinesis, and started to read. In moments, her expression changed from one of cheerful anticipation, into one of confusion, and finally settled into a faint frown.
Luna grew grave as well at the sight, as she was aware of very few things that would so disturb her older sister. "Tia?" she asked softly. "What is the matter? Is Twilight Sparkle well?"
Celestia shook her head, then turned to her younger sister. "She is not harmed, although her message worries me. A creature from another world has arrived in Ponyville, and... I fear I may understand more about it's arrival than my most faithful student. I think she may have encountered a creature called... a human."
Luna blinked. "The same creatures we encountered after we defeated Discord the first time?" She asked, looking slightly worried as well.
Celestia. "I do not believe it to be a coincidence, dear sister. I shall contact Twilight Sparkle at once."
Twilight Sparkle hadn't quite made it out the door to the library when there was a loud *thump* on the balcony outside, and a polite knocking on the second story window.
Twilight blinked in confusion. "When did Rainbow Dash actually start knocking on pony's windows rather than flying straight through them?" she grinned slightly to herself, and quickly headed up the stairs to her bedroom, only to stop in shock. Outside her window, Princess Celestia was patiently standing on her small balcony.
"Princess Celestia!" Twilight rushed up to the window to open it, stepping aside as her mentor gracefully stepped into her room. "I didn't expect you to come yourself! Is everything alright?"
"I hope so, my faithful student." Celestia said with a calm expression. "I do not wish to cause undo alarm, but given this matter's possible relationship to Discord, I thought it best to make sure everything was all right myself."
"Of course, Princess." Twilight nodded seriously. "Shall I show you the way to Fluttershy's home then?"
Celestia smiled softly. "Please do, Twilight Sparkle. I am most interested in meeting this alien creature you have described."
Twilight led the way, and they were soon on the path to Fluttershy's house. Several ponies they passed on the way paused in shock, usually bowing as they passed, and Twilight couldn't help but feel a little uncomfortable with the attention. While she was used to the way most other ponies treated her mentor, it was always a little strange, especially here in Ponyville. As they walked, Twilight explained a little more about their visitor.
Celestia was unusually quiet, and finally Twilight felt she had to ask. "Princess, have you ever seen a creature like what I've described before?"
Celestia hesitated a moment. "I can not be certain, and it was a long time ago. I believe it will be better to simply see for myself."
They traveled the rest of the way in silence and found Fluttershy tending her garden when they arrived. "Oh my! Good morning Princess Celestia!" Fluttershy said, bowing low, but doing her best to address the alicorn clearly. "Are you here to see Johnathon?"
"And a fine morning to you, Fluttershy." the princess answered with a gentle smile for the timid pegasus. "Yes, is he awake? I'd like to speak with this being myself, if possible."
Fluttershy hesitated only a moment. "He was asleep a moment ago, when I checked on him, and he should get his rest with his injuries...." she glanced at Twilight Sparkle, who was looking at her with an impatient expression. "...but I'm sure he wouldn't mind visitors. He seemed very... nice when we spoke last night." she continued as she cowered lower to the ground.
Celestia hesitated as well. "Perhaps we could just peek in and see how he's doing? I wouldn't want to disturb his slumber..." she said in a kindly tone.
Fluttershy nodded her agreement quickly. "... sure." she said in a tiny voice, not daring argue the point. "if you think that's a good idea..."
Celestia's eyes went soft, and she smiled very gently down at the yellow and pink pegasus pony. "It is important, Fluttershy. We will try not to disturb your patient too greatly." she nodded at Twilight, who gave Fluttershy a reassuring look before leading the Princess quietly into Fluttershy's cottage.
Celestia stopped and took a good look at the form reclined on Fluttershy's couch. Still fully dressed, save his boots, which now rested on the floor, and covered in a blanket, she could not be certain at first what exactly she was looking at. But only moments after she and Twilight had entered, the man was stirring, glancing in their direction, then slowly rolling onto it's back and laboriously rising into a sitting position.
"Good... good morning." the man said slowly, looking at the Princess as his eyes went wide in astonishment. He glanced at Twilight, and after a moment's contemplation, greeted her by name. "Twilight Sparkle. Good morning. Could you introduce me to your... companion?" he returned his gaze to Celestia again, obviously thinking hard.
Twilight cleared her throat. "Johnathon, this is Princess Celestia. Princess Celestia, this is Johnathon."
"Johnathon Dwire." the archeologist corrected absently. "My full name is Johnathon Dwire."
Celestia's doubts faded. While different in many ways from the creatures she remembered, this was almost certainly a human. "I am... pleased to meet you, Johnathon Dwire. Welcome to Equestria." she frowned just slightly, and seemed to make a decision. "Your people... call themselves human, am I correct?"
Johnathon nodded. "That's right." he opened his mouth as if to ask a question, then closed it. "And... you are...?" he shook his head. "I apologize if it seems rude. I'm just... quite curious. So far I have seen three distinct species of... er... ponies since I've arrived. You appear to be a fourth... and from something Twilight Sparkle said last night... are all members of your species royalty?"
Celestia raised an eyebrow. "My sister Luna and I are known as Alicorns... and yes, I suppose we are considered royalty. There are only the two of us, I'm afraid."
Johnathon nodded. "I apologize if that was an impertinent question."
Celestia smiled slightly. "Not at all. How are you feeling, Johnathon Dwire? Would you be willing to answer some of our questions as well this morning?"
Johnathon smiled back. "Sure. Can I ask some of my own at the same time?"
Celestia nodded. "That would be acceptable."
Johnathon found himself opening up to the Princess with surprising ease. There was just something... reassuring about her. It was more than the fact that she was the most magnificent animal... he corrected himself, the most magnificent being he'd ever seen, more than the subtle but undeniable sense that she was immensely powerful, which normally would have worried him rather than reassured him in any case, it was something about how calm and controlled she seemed, even though she had let him see a little bit of the worry she was feeling.
It was that he wanted, very badly, to reassure her, even though he realized, as he continued, that perhaps not every thing he had to tell her would be sure to engender her confidence, he found it very difficult to keep from telling her everything she wanted to know.
Twilight glanced at her Princess, looking slightly confused. Why was Princess Celestia using magic? it was subtle... so subtle that she could barely detect it, but it was there. She could feel it calming her, making her more willing to share... almost like a truth spell, although much more sophisticated then anything she had ever seen before. Just a... gentle nudge toward being more open and honest. She started to ask, then shook her head. Surely the Princess knew best.
"And that's when something hit me in the back of the head, and I woke up here." Johnathon explained, finishing his abbreviated story with a shrug and a chuckle. "Apparently Rainbow... err... Dash, I think? The blue pegasus with the rainbow colored mane, hit me when I was reaching for Twilight...." he waved a hand quickly. "Not that I'm mad. She was just worried about her friend... and I'm alright, mostly."
Celestia smiled gently at him. "I am grateful that you do not hold a grudge." she turned to Twilight. "I did not think to ask. Were all accounted for after everything had settled? No injuries, I hope?"
Twilight hesitated. "Big Macintosh was a bit bruised, but he was moving alright when I saw him last. I don't think anyone else was injured."
Johnathon frowned slightly. "Was that the big red stallion wearing the horse collar?" He asked, looking slightly guilty. "I thought I might have hurt him a little. I'm sorry about that." he reached up to rub his right shoulder, wincing slightly. "Although I'd wager he got off lighter than I did. I'm going to be feeling that hit for a week at least."
Twilight Sparkled mouthed the word horse in mild confusion before nodding. "Yes, that's Big Mac." she looked slightly impressed. "I'm surprised he didn't knock you flat. Big Macintosh is very strong. Are humans normally as strong as you are?"
Johnathon blinked. "Well, er... I suppose I'm pretty fit. Stronger than average, I guess. I also spent some time as a linebacker in high school...." he shook his head. "Sorry, a linebacker is a position I played in a sport, a game my people call football...." he paused, checking his audience to see if he'd lost them. "Do you have team sports here?"
Twilight nodded. "A few." she looked a bit surprised. "What kind of sport teaches you to... stop somepony that big in the middle of a charge like that, anyway?"
Johnathon chuckled wryly. "A rough one. I was... well, I was really small growing up. I was the smallest guy my age growing up, so when I played football, I had to block guys twice my size... or more, on a regular basis. I just... well, I already knew a lot about leverage, and that sort of thing from these jujitsu classes I took when I was little, and I took that onto the field... mind over matter, you know?"
Twilight started to nod, then blinked, and shook her head. "I'm not sure I do, really. What is ju... jujistu?"
Johnathon blinked. "Oh... that's an unarmed combat form from my world. Um... big on grappling, and joint locks, and holds, that sort of thing. A lot of it is designed to allow someone who's smaller to take advantage of their opponent's greater size... and at the time, I was the smallest one around."
Twilight blinked. "You learned... a form of combat when you were very little?"
Johnathon hesitated. "Well... er... several, actually."
Princess Celestia sighed slightly without letting her disappointment show. It seemed humans had not changed as much as she had first hoped, although at least this individual seemed somewhat less aggressive than she remembered. Still, humans could lie as easily as anypony... she could not be sure he was being completely honest with them, although he did at least seem quite sincere.
Johnathon looked at Twilight with a bit of concern. "I take it that... er... that sort of thing is not typical for this area?"
Twilight hesitated. "Well, not really, no, although it's not unheard of, I suppose. Is your world very dangerous, then?"
Johnathon looked thoughtful. "I suppose it's a matter of perspective. So far, this place has seemed rather dangerous to me, although thankfully now that we've gotten past our communications problem, I'm hoping that won't be a problem." he shrugged. "Some parts of my world are more dangerous than others. Some parts... very dangerous, others, like the part I grew up in, less so. I learned to fight... to defend myself when I was young because I was smaller than the rest of the boys my age, and... well, it was part of the culture of the region where I grew up that boys had to be strong. Fighting... not serious fighting, but fist fights and minor scuffles were just part of growing up. It was how a lot of boys figured out their... place among their peers." He shrugged. "I didn't exactly fit in... I was taught not to fight by my parents... to... in their words, to turn the other cheek, but after I was, well, beaten up a few times, my father encouraged me to learn to defend myself." he chuckled wryly. "And, while it's not really the most useful skill, it turned out that I had a talent at it."
Johnathon turned serious. "I don't want you to get the wrong idea. By the time they become adults, almost everyone grows out of that sort of nonsense. My culture does not tolerate adults fighting the way they do boys... and I, personally, dislike violence... harming any living thing. I always have. I did study the martial arts... unarmed combat styles, for many years, but when I reached the point where I could defend myself without having to hurt anyone in the process, I stopped training... well, mostly. It's good exercise, and I did spend some time as a self defense instructor for awhile." he grinned. "But now I'm rambling, and you probably are getting lost. To make a long story short, at one point, I had a big growth spurt... I was about sixteen years old? I grew ten inches..." he demonstrated the distance with his hands. "About that much, in three months..." He frowned. "Er... ninety days?" he shrugged. "After that point, I never... well, I never purposely inflicted injury on anyone. I did have a few altercations, but I was able to deal with the situation without doing anyone any harm... which was the best part of my talent for... well, for combat."
During his long winded explanation, Twilight and the Princess simply listened. While Twilight's face expressed so many different emotions that he wasn't quite sure what she was thinking, the Princess's expression remained dispassionate, as if she was simply used to hiding her emotions.
Twilight was the first to speak. "So... because you disliked violence, you became good enough at it that you didn't have to... use it anymore?" she wrinkled her nose. "I'm not really sure I understand."
Johnathon scratched his head. "Yeah, I do have a bit of trouble explaining that one." he looked thoughtful. "Um... maybe if I use an example. If... oh... Big Mac wanted to stop Applebloom from hurting him, he could be gentle, right? He wouldn't have to hurt her."
Twilight nodded. "Sure, he's so much bigger than she is! He could just hug her, or something."
Johnathon nodded. "Well, skill is like being bigger and stronger... and I've got a lot of skill. I'm also pretty big and strong... and fast. Bigger and stronger and faster than most people... and a whole lot more skilled than most people too. If I want to stop someone from hurting me, I can almost always do so without having to hurt them. Does that make sense?"
Twilight nodded now. "Oh! I get it now." she frowned. "I'm sorry, but your world doesn't sound very nice... if you have to learn all that just not to hurt anypony...."
Johnathon blinked. "Well... it's not quite that bad. I mean, I was, for various reasons, in positions that were more dangerous that what most people had to deal with. I was a security guard for several years, in between going to school...." he hesitated. "Um... I protected people and things?"
Twilight nodded. "We have guards here."
Johnathon nodded. "Before I finished my degrees, I did quite a bit of security work, and sometimes I had to... keep people from harming me or each other. It was nice to be able to do so without doing harm."
Twilight nodded. "I see. And most ponies... er... people, aren't guards..."
He nodded. "As adults, most people do not have to worry about violence very often at all. It's not really that common where I come from."
Celestia spoke up. "Where you come from is one of the more peaceful places on your world?" her words were kind, but the question was plain.
Johnathon nodded slowly. "Well, yes, in fact. There are parts of my world that are quite a bit more dangerous, to be honest. I've never really visited any of those places personally. Not any place really dangerous."
Celestia looked at him solemnly. "You spoke of... unarmed forms of combat. Are there other forms of combat on your world?"
Johnathon hesitated, hearing something that he didn't like very much in her tone. "Well, yes." he admitted, not wanting to lie. "I know a few armed techniques as well, although they're more of a sport where I come from. I have never carried a weapon, personally, aside for practice."
Twilight glanced at the Princess again. It seemed like she was fishing for something, and she wasn't sure she liked where this conversation was going, but she didn't know what to say.
Celestia nodded at the human. "You do not have to defend your own actions in this, Johnathon Dwire. I believe you to be a... gentle human. But I would like the complete truth."
Johnathon nodded slowly. "I won't lie to you, princess. Lying isn't one of my failings, thankfully."
Celestia smiled. "I believe you. I'm sorry to be so blunt, but your people, they use weapons against each other?"
"Some of them." Johnathon admitted gravely. "Yes. Even in the best parts of our world, there are some that do."
Celestia nodded again. "To harm... or to kill?"
Johnathon nodded again. "Yes. That's true enough. It's not something that's permissible in our culture... to harm or kill others, but it does happen. Such things are crimes where I come from... and severely punished."
"With death?" Celestia asked, tone very soft, her eyes forgiving but still firm.
Johnathon hesitated. "Not where I come from... or at least, so rarely that when it happens it's a remarkable event indeed, but in some parts of my world, yes."
Twilight Sparkle felt a shiver go down her spine, and she sounded upset as she spoke again. "Oh." she said simply. "I've read the history books... I know that, long ago, ponies used to fight... sometimes even kill, but... it was very long ago."
Johnathon turned to Celestia, looking helpless, then back to Twilight. "That's... well, I'm glad to hear that. I'm afraid my people haven't quite grown up that far." he tried to think of a way to explain it, but couldn't come up with anything. "I'm sorry... I...."
Celestia sighed, and held up a hoof. "I'm sorry as well. I know these questions are not pleasent. I'm afraid I have one more, however."
Johnathon nodded slowly, having a feeling where this was going, but not willing to lie to her.
Celestia's eyes were grave. "Do they still have war on your world? Do humans still kill each other for land, for wealth, or for political gain?"
Johnathon hesitated, then nodded. "Yes... we still have war."
Celestia sighed. "I feared as much."
Twilight felt her ears flattening against her head. "War?" she vaguely knew the word, although she had almost never heard it used. It meant many ponies... fighting and hurting each other over some sort of goal. She knew the concept, having studied their history as completely as any Pony she knew, but it had seemed such a strange... alien idea. She shivered again, realizing that she was actually frightened. Standing by her mentor... Princess Celestia, in Fluttershy's cottage, she was suddenly scared to death. She couldn't stop herself from shaking!
Celestia put a wing over Twilight's back comfortingly. "The human society is not like ours, Twilight Sparkle. The last time Discord was free, after my sister and I defeated him, sealing him in stone and freeing our land from chaos, there were many strange things left behind. One was a gateway... a weak point in space and time that led between the human world, and our own. My sister and I encountered travelers from that place... strange, barbaric men who bore only the faintest resemblance to Johnathon Dwire, and unlike him, did not desire peace in their hearts. We tried to reason with them, offered friendship and peace, and while they were not truly dangerous to my sister and myself, they could not be trusted around those who were weaker than themselves."
Celestia sighed. "By that time, it had been many hundreds of years since the ponies of Equestria had moved beyond the need for such violence. We lived in harmony, at least for the most part. The humans, unfortunately, had not yet learned that lesson. I had hoped, somehow, that in the time that has passed, they might have achieved a lasting peace as we did so long ago, but it seems that's not the case."
She turned to Johnathon. "At the time, we felt that the humans were too dangerous to stay in Equestria. We, my sister and I, forced the few humans that had found their way into our world to return to their own, and we traveled to your world for many years, attempting to make a lasting peace between our peoples, and we hoped, between your own. Unfortunately, we were not successful. We built embassies on both sides... one eventually became what you know as the castle of the ancient pony sisters, Twilight Sparkle, the other.... The other I believe you may have been excavating when you were pulled through to this side."
She looked thoughtful. "We sealed the gateway long ago. We thought it was a permanent thing. Neither my sister or I had the power to open such a gateway again once it was sealed, so we only closed it when all other options seemed hopeless to us. I am afraid that Discord's return has reopened the gateway..." she frowned sadly. "And from what you have told me, Johnathon Dwire, I think it best if we seal the gateway once again... before more of your kind come through."
Johnathon Dwire had sat silently and listened to the alicorn princess. He didn't know what to think. At the same time, however, he couldn't argue with her.
"You're probably right." he finally admitted. "I'm sorry to say, but... I think your world would probably be better off without any of the... bad parts of mine." he sighed. "I wish I could argue with you. If there is a gateway... and I could travel back and forth, it would be the opportunity of a lifetime for me... to study your people, perhaps to learn something that could benefit mine... but...." he should his head. "But if this place is as... as peaceful as you imply, well, while the chance of something... truly bad coming through seems small to me, it's probably not worth the risk."
Twilight sighed, closing her eyes and visibly calming. "I am sorry Johnathon. Even though it sounds like parts of your world are terrible, I would also like to find out more about it. I'm sure we would learn a lot from each other!"
Johnathon nodded. "Of that I have no doubt. But the Princess is right. While most of the people of my world would not abuse a place such as this, there are enough that would... and I would not let that happen if it could be prevented."
He turned to the Princess. "We should hurry. The site we were excavating is quite remote, but my team should have returned almost two days ago... and they would have called for help. There may be more humans here already." he frowned. "My team won't be any problem... they're scientists, like me... and peaceful enough. Those who come to help...?" He shrugged. "I don't know, and I don't want to risk it. We should go now."
Celestia hesitated. "Are you not injured, Johnathon Dwire?"
He shrugged. "I'll live... and there will be medical care on the other side. I'll be fine so long as I don't hit my head going... going through again."
Twilight suddenly rushed forward, putting her hooves around him. "I'm sorry I could not get to know you better, Johnathon." she told him softly. "I think we could have been friends."
"I think we are... just a little." he told her softly. "I'm sorry I can't stay longer, but if we get there too late, and someone... the wrong someone comes through? I can't let that happen."
Celestia nodded. "We will hurry." She hesitated. "I could call for the royal chariot, but it would take hours to arrive. In this emergency, I think we will have be expedient." she looked at Johnathon. "Can you climb on my back, Johnathon Dwire?"
He blinked. "Can I..." the archeologist nodded slowly. "I can ride... er... I used to have a horse about your size on my farm." He told Celestia. "Although she didn't have wings." he hesitated. "I'll just... hold onto your neck, if that's alright?"
Princess Celestia nodded firmly. "That will be acceptable." she turned for the door. "Let us go."
Johnathon Dwire quickly pulled on his boots, then forced himself to his feet slowly, taking in a slow breath. "OK... yeah, i think I can manage, for awhile, anyway."
Celestia smiled. "It should not take long to arrive. I know a... shortcut."
Johnathon raised an eyebrow. "You can teleport too?"
She smiled broadly and nodded. "You're a quick study."
Johnathon shrugged. "I pay attention." he followed her out into Fluttershy's yard. The yellow pegasus was laying in the middle of her chicken run, talking to her chickens quietly, and looked up as she saw the princess and Johnathon exit.
"Oh my!" she said, looking concerned. "Are you sure you should be up, Johnathon? You were so dizzy last night!"
Johnathon smiled faintly at the gentle pegasus. "I'll survive, Fluttershy. Thank you so very much for taking care of me. I'm sorry I have to rush off like this, but... well, we have a world to save." he grinned at Celestia. "OK... that was probably the coolest thing I'll ever get to say."
Celestia grinned back. "It is pretty cool the first few times." she agreed cheerfully. She slowly knelt before him, then folded her hind legs so that she was sitting on all fours. "Will this make it easier for you to climb on my back?" She asked politely.
Twilight nearly fainted at the sight, and Fluttershy got very confused. "Um... can I ask... er... what's going on?"
"I'm going to ride an Alicorn." Johnathon explained tersely, with a bit of a grin. "A very great honor." Celestia giggled lightly, her voice like the sound of bells.
Twilight looked horrified. "But... princess! It's not right!"
Celestia smiled gently at her and deliberately misunderstood. "I know Johnathon is hurt, but I promise, I will be most gentle with him... and as you know, time may be slipping away from us, and it would not be right to trap him on this side of the gateway."
Twilight's ears drooped. "Of course... but..."
Celestia nickered lightly, amused but not angry at her favorite student. "One serves in the way needed, Twilight Sparkle. It does me no harm to carry an injured man."
Twilight nodded, slowly smiling back at her mentor. "I will remember, Princess Celestia."
Johnathon slowly climbed onto the Alicorn's back, careful to place his legs so as not to interfere with her wings, and lowering himself so that he was hugging her neck. "I apologize if I squeeze too hard. Are you planning on actually flying part of the way?"
Celestia giggled. "I'm afraid so, for a little bit. Teleportation is a bit easier long distance if you travel within open spaces, and mid air is easiest."
"Ah." Johnathon sighed. "As much as I'd love to fly any other day, my poor head was hoping you weren't going to say that."
"We will begin slowly." Celestia said comfortingly, and rose to her feet, easily bearing the man's weight. She flapped her wings experimentally at first, making sure she had full range of motion with him on her back, before making several strong down beats, and lifting off the ground almost effortlessly.
"How do you do that?!?" Johnathon said in a loud voice into her neck as the wind rushed past them. "Achieve so much lift with wings that small... I'd think you'd have to beat them much faster!"
"Magic!" Celestia told him gaily. "Now hold on tight!" She instructed. A moment later, there was a flash, and they were gone.
Twilight shivered. "Please... let it be alright!" She begged. She wasn't quite sure who she was talking to. The sun? Celestia herself? She didn't know. There was something inside her... some small part of her that was absolutely certain that regardless of everything she had heard and seen today, this wasn't over. She wasn't sure if she should be frightened, or hopeful. All she knew was, somehow, this wasn't...