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When you first get back to America after a long time spent elsewhere, everything feels a bit surreal.
You walk through the mall, recognizing everything. You don't stand there, gaping at the shelves like you've never seen them; you aren't overwhelmed by the choices or surplus. You remember, somewhere in the back of your mind, that this is normal. This is what life was always like before you left. The strange, indescribable feeling hiding just behind your eyes, that none of this is real, is like a veil upon your thoughts, shrouding them, but even through it you still see. Seven months was not enough time to forget what walking through a department store is like, or how it should feel.
While you were gone you made a list of all the things you wanted to do, to see and to buy when you got back. You may have kept a word document on your desktop with all these things, or just emailed them to your personal account so you would have them ready when you got home. The list was like a talisman back when you were in country and the days seemed endless. If you had time, you could open it up and imagine each one come to life, or dream of something new to add. The mere imagination of them helped banish the tedium of deployed life.
But now you walk through the department store, and you can't remember half the list. You found one item, a favorite drink or snack, and you carry it with you through the store as you try to remember the rest, as you try to remember what was so important that you had to come home. You turn down the next aisle, scanning the shelves, wondering if this is where you will find it, though you cannot recall what it is. You turn the corner and look, and turn the corner and look, and again and again.
At some point, as with all the previous deployments, you'll realize that it wasn't the list or the stores or your favorite drink that brought you home. It was your friends, and they never really left you. They were just harder to talk to while you were gone.
I'll be getting home tomorrow, and as such this will be my last 'deployed' blog post. Thank you to everyone who wrote or watched or even just read something I made over the past seven months. You guys are great, and there's rarely a day that goes by that I don't think about how lucky I am to be part of this fandom.
Back to our regularly scheduled programming.
29 comments · 339 views
I'm typing this on my Samsung Galaxy, so forgive my brevity and typos. It's the first time I've turned this phone on in seven months, and I'm having to learn hour to use it all over again.
We landed earlier this morning in Qatar after a six hour flight in a C-130, which is about the least comfortable aircraft ever designed. Also, I get air sick easily, so today has been a particularly uncomfortable experience. I've been awake for 36 hours now.
But, of course, it's worth it. When it's time to come home from a deployment you just accept that there will be discomfort, but the alternative is never leaving Afghanistan. For some reason I've never understood, the flight home is always worse than the flight there. But the reward at the end will be better.
In a few hours, I'll be getting on a 15-hour flight back to the states. I'll hate it, and it's possible I'll be sick many times before we land, but I still can't wait.
Talk to you guys again in a day or so. If you see me in a bar, first round's on me.
Edit: I guess I can link a story to this post. Go read Forever Summer!
30 comments · 474 views
6w, 4dOutside Insight Wrap-Up15 comments · 487 views
The candles on Twilight Sparkle’s desktop guttered weakly. She had relied on them for light so long that they were burnt down nearly to nubs. Thin trickles of wax dripped down their sides and onto her desk, unnoticed, as she scribbled feverishly in her notebook.
Behind her, Spike mumbled in his sleep and rolled over, pulling his tiny blanket tight over his shoulders. She stopped writing and froze, her hooves covering the notebook, until she was sure he remained asleep. It wouldn’t do for Spike to read this. Oh no, this was definitely not for foals — or hatchlings, for that matter. She slowly straightened back up as his quiet snoring filled the room.
“Oh Evening Glimmer,” she whispered, uncovering the notebook. “You don’t care if anyone sees, do you?” She dashed off another sentence, the tip of her tongue peeking out between her lips. Another chapter done.
Through the window, she could see stars beginning to fade. The first light of dawn was still an hour or two away, and she had written all the night long. Again. Evening Glimmer’s story, her story, needed to be told.
She wondered if she was becoming obsessed. It had happened with her before: magic, friendship reports, centipedes. Probably just part of her personality. Fortunately, her friends were always there to keep her level.
She watched the horizon slowly begin to lighten, the black of night washing away to a pale grey tinted with pink. Maybe it was time to talk to her friends about this. One friend in particular.
“I have a confession to make.”
Rarity paused, a cup of tea held at her lips. For a brief moment, she thought she had misheard, so unexpected were the words. The sound of ponies ordering food, eating their lunches or chatting with friends filled the silence that followed. The everyday commotion of life in a small town.
Confessions, however, were not an everyday occurrence, and certainly not for Rarity. She set the tea down and leaned forward.
“I’m sorry, darling. Come again?”
Twilight Sparkle glanced around nervously. She blushed, though only her closest friends could have noticed beneath her purple coat. Her ears wilted, and she hunched forward to whisper.
“I said, I have a confession to make.” Her voice was soft but intense.
“Oh?” This was going to be good. Twilight Sparkle, of all ponies, caught in an indiscretion! Was it a stallion? A mare? Two stallions?! Her heart trembled with excitement. “What is it, dear?”
Twilight glanced at the tables around them, searching for eavesdroppers. The few ponies seated nearby were engrossed in their own conversations. Lunch hour was nearing its end, and there was nothing unusual about two friends having a quiet talk at their favorite little corner cafe. Still, Twilight seemed nervous, as though royal guards were about to leap from the shadows and slap her in chains. Rarity’s anticipation jumped another order of magnitude.
“I’m writing a novel,” Twilight whispered.
Rarity blinked. “A novel?” she blurted. A few ponies glanced in their direction for a moment, before returning to their own conversations.
Twilight flinched, a pained look on her face. “Rarity!”
Rarity fought back a swell of disappointment. The juicy confession wasn’t so juicy after all. She gave Twilight a patronizing smile and reached out to pat her hoof reassuringly.
“That’s what has you so worried?” she asked. “Twilight, there’s nothing wrong with being a novelist. I thought you’d understand, as a librarian and all.”
Twilight grabbed Rarity’s hoof like it was a lifeline. “It’s not that. It’s...” she trailed off, blushing again.
Rarity raised an eyebrow. “It’s what?”
Twilight took a deep breath. “It’s... it’s a romance novel.” She spoke the last two words slowly, as though they tasted bad in her mouth.
The disappointment ebbed, replaced by a cautious interest. Perhaps all was not lost. “You don’t say? That’s perfectly fine, Twilight. Respectable, even.”
Twilight perked up. The hunted expression faded from her face, and her ears swivelled forward. “It is? But I thought—”
“You thought they were trashy?” Rarity said. She waved a hoof dismissively. “Twilight, romance novels are the best selling books in all of Equestria. There’s nothing ponies want more than to read about the triumph of love over adversity.” She sighed quietly, her eyes losing their focus. “Why, I have my own little collection of romance novels back at the boutique.”
“You do?” Twilight seemed almost back to normal. Hopeful, even.
“Well of course, darling. A mare is entitled to her fantasies, after all. It’s not surprising that a pony as educated as you would try her hoof at writing.”
Twilight was quiet for a while as she digested that thought. Eventually she nodded, a relieved smile on her face.
“Maybe I am worrying too much. Thank you Rarity, you're a good friend.”
Well, of course. Rarity did her best not to smirk. Their conversation turned to more mundane topics, and soon she had completely forgotten Twilight’s novel ambitions.
The parcel was waiting on Rarity’s doorstep when she opened the boutique the next morning.
There was no note attached, just a purple starburst printed on the plain brown paper wrapping. Rarity felt the loose-leaf pages of a manuscript within when she picked it up. She smiled to herself and brought it inside.
There were no customers yet, and unlikely to be any for several more hours. She could have passed the time working on other projects, or sorting her inventory, or balancing the books, or any of the dozen other things a small business owner needed to do to keep the ship afloat. Instead she settled down on a plush couch near the eastern window drinking in the early morning sun and pulled apart the twine string sealing the package.
Sweetie Belle was already at school. In a few hours she would return, along with her two filly friends, and they would do their best to burn down the boutique. But that was several hours in the future; for now, there was peace.
A few pages wouldn’t hurt, she told herself. Besides, this was a favor for a friend. What was more generous than helping out a friend? Nothing, that was what.
She lifted the first page into the air before her and began to read.
“This is terrible,” Fluttershy said. She winced at her own bluntness. “Um, sorry.”
“Don’t apologize,” Rarity said. She was morose, her mane frazzled from hours of poring through the dense prose, incomprehensible dialogue, and wooden love scenes that populated Twilight’s novel. Not even a novel, she corrected herself. It was a mish-mash of incoherent scenes connected with sordid, trashy glue. “It’s the truth. I feel terrible, though. What am I supposed to tell her? ‘Hello Twilight, I just finished your story and I discovered absolutely no redeeming qualities in it whatsoever. I suggest you burn it before anypony else sees it.’”
Fluttershy considered that. To her credit, she didn’t think about it for very long. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. Maybe you should just tell her it’s a good first try?”
Rarity looked at her flatly. Her horn glowed, and a random page from the manuscript floated through the air toward her. She cleared her throat and began to read aloud.
“‘Oh baby,’ Evening Glimmer moaned. She cried out in ecstasy, and then in pleasure, followed by more ecstasy. ‘Do me. Do me harder. Mount me. Make me a mare.’”
Rarity set the paper back down. Fluttershy studied her hooves.
“Um, maybe she’s trying too hard,” the pegasus finally said. “That doesn’t sound like her.” A pause. “Or anyone.”
It certainly didn’t. “So, what do we tell her?” Rarity asked.
“Write something else?”
“No!” Rarity shouted. Fluttershy ducked beneath her wings at the outburst. “I told her there was nothing wrong with writing romance novels. I can’t go back and tell her to stop now. She’d be heartbroken!”
“Oh,” Fluttershy said. “That would be bad.”
“Very bad. We need to gently nudge her onto the proper path.”
“Right.” She considered that for a moment. “Um, we?”
Rarity smiled. “Yes, we. More specifically, you.”
“Oh, but Rarity, I don’t know how to critique anypony—”
“Nonsense.” Rarity dismissed her concerns with a wave of her hoof. “You’re the kindest and most gentle of us, Fluttershy, and you know a thing or two about romance novels. Just give her a few ideas on how to improve.”
“Do... do we have to?” Fluttershy asked. “I mean, why can’t we just let her keep writing? Maybe she’ll get better on her own.”
Rarity pulled out another page at random from the pile. “‘Yes!’ Evening Glimmer cried. ‘Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Yes! Yes, yes, yes! Yesssss! Yes.’”
Fluttershy sat in thoughtful silence for a while. Rarity started to reach for another page.
“Fine,” Fluttershy said, before Rarity could start reading. “I’ll talk to her tomorrow.”
Twilight Sparkle was at her reading desk when somepony knocked at the library door.
For the better part of three hours she had been furiously scribbling in a notebook, all the while reading from a series of novels floating around her in a literary cloud. The soft susurration of flipping pages and the scratch of her quill were the only sounds to be heard. Occasionally she would pause and examine a particular passage in greater detail, her pen freezing in place as all her mental powers bent to dissecting the sentence and ferreting out the particular genius that made it so powerful.
So powerful. Also hot, steamy and sweaty. She had tossed open the library’s windows in an effort to cool down. This was definitely more... exciting than her studies on the magic of friendship.
In three hours Twilight had assembled more research into romance novels than any pony in history. She had studied dozens of heaving bosoms, hoof-fuls of throbbing stallionhoods, and enough maidens’ flowers to fill a garden. It was insightful. It was eye-opening. It was probably a little bit unhealthy. Time to take a break.
After one more chapter, she decided a moment later. The Black Stallion had just confessed his love to Berry Cream, and they were about to retreat to her secluded patio to joyously consummate their relationship. Twilight turned the page, a tiny bead of sweat trickling its way down the side of her face, when the knock came.
She yelped in surprise, the constellation of books falling to the floor as she lost her grip on them. The thought of being discovered reading over a dozen trashy romance novels at the same time sent her into a panic, and she scooped them up into a pile and shoved them under the desk.
“One moment!” she sang. She grabbed a cushion from the couch and shoved it in front of the desk. Not the best disguise, perhaps, but better than nothing. Before her guest could knock again, she trotted to the door and pulled it open.
“Fluttershy!” she exclaimed. “Come on in. You know you never need to knock...” she trailed off as she got a closer look at the pegasus.
Fluttershy seemed nervous, which was hardly unusual. What was unusual was the brown paper package held in her mouth. A brown paper package with a purple starburst on the cover. Twilight pulled her into the library and slammed the door shut before anyone else wandered by.
“Where did you get that?” she squeaked, mortified. A blush spread over her face. “Did you read it?!”
Fluttershy set the manuscript on the floor. “Now Twilight, you know we’re you’re friends. You never have to be embarrassed or ashamed around us.”
That wasn’t what Twilight wanted to hear. Her ears flattened back against her skull as she sank to the floor. “Oh Celestia, you did! You did read it!” She moaned, covering her face with her hooves.
“Um, it wasn’t... it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t bad at all.” Fluttershy said. She carefully avoided making eye contact.
“It... wait, you mean that?” Twilight looked up, her eyes filled with hope. “You liked it?”
Fluttershy was quiet for a while. Her gaze danced around the room, before eventually settling back on Twilight. Her hopeful expression hadn’t changed. Fluttershy sighed quietly.
“It was... fine,” she said. “But, um, Rarity and I thought of some ways to make it better. If you want, that is.”
Twilight nodded frantically, a pleading look on her face. Her outstretched hooves grasped at Fluttershy’s forelegs.
Fluttershy sighed again. “Well, um, first, you need to be more realistic with your... scenes. Especially the, um, you know...” She looked away, a blush on her cheeks.
“Er, right.” Twilight scratched the back of her neck. “But I don’t have much, er, experience with those things.”
“Oh, most romance writers don’t.” Fluttershy looked wistful for some reason. “That doesn’t matter. Just write what you know, and try to make your story as personal as possible.”
“Personal? Like, about me?”
“No. Well, maybe... no, no, not yet,” Fluttershy mumbled the last few words, as though she were speaking to herself rather than Twilight. “Try to put what makes you special into your story.”
What made her special. Twilight thought about that for a while, her ears twitching back and forth like flags.
“I think I have an idea, then.”
Not just any idea. A wonderful idea. Once Fluttershy was gone, she swept the hidden romance novels out from under her desk and flung them carelessly across the room. Let Spike re-shelve them later. She didn’t care -- she had an idea!
“Make your story personal,” she mumbled, echoing Fluttershy’s command. In retrospect it was obvious. Blindingly so. All those other novels were like cookie-cutters. Change a few names, swap out the scenery, and they might as well have been written by the same pony. No originality. Nothing special. Nothing that spoke to the soul.
But now Twilight had an idea. A beautiful, precious, seductive, dangerous, alluring, sensual, sexy idea. She felt herself growing hot just thinking about it.
Hot and... other things. She checked to make sure the door was locked.
She trotted over to her bookcases, ignoring the romance section. Her eyes danced across the shelves as she plucked books into the air, floating them beside her head. This called for some research.
Anatomy. Sociology. Chemistry. Physics! Lonely physics, how long had it been since anypony pulled this book from the shelves? She ran a loving hoof over the dusty binding.
Twilight sat at her reading desk and gave her notebook a disdainful snort. The chicken-scratch within was trash. Worthless. She ripped the used pages out and flipped to a blank white sheet.
A clean sheet, but not for long. Oh no, there was nothing clean about this! It was time to get dirty. Dirty with science.
One week later, another package was waiting on Rarity’s doorstep when she opened the boutique. A package wrapped in plain brown paper with a purple starburst on the top. She felt the start of a headache behind her eyes.
Maybe Twilight had taken Fluttershy’s advice and somehow produced a masterpiece of literature. A romance novel that would define their generation and be studied by scholars for decades to come. A story of love, loss and redemption that would reduce even the most powerful stallions and jaded mares to tears. Historians might someday refer to Rarity as the opus’s first editor, and write lengthy treatises on her contribution to the arts.
Or maybe not. She lifted it into the air, holding it away from her body as though it might somehow stain her dove white coat. It was... heavier. Thicker. Twilight had been busy, it seemed.
She briefly fantasized burning the boutique down, and the manuscript along with it. A terrible accident, she would tell Twilight. Nothing to do but move on and never write again.
Alas, boutiques were expensive, and she only had the one. There was nothing to do but read through the story again. That was what friends did.
In fact, the more friends, the better. She put a ‘closed’ sign in the boutique window and trotted down the street, the package floating serenely behind her.
“I don’t see why I’m here,” Rainbow Dash said. She was perched upon one of the higher bookcases in Fluttershy’s den, which put her at about head level with the other ponies in the room. Fluttershy’s bookcases weren’t all that tall.
“We’re here to help a friend,” Fluttershy said as she walked into the room. A tray filled with teacups and a piping hot pot of water balanced carefully on her back, and she set it down gracefully on the low table in the center of the room.
“Besides, you like reading now,” Rarity said. She hadn’t moved from her spot on the couch, the plain brown package that held Twilight’s manuscript beside her. “You’re perfect for this.”
“I like reading about Daring Do and her awesome adventures,” Rainbow shot back. She paused for a moment. “This doesn’t have Daring Do, does it?”
Fluttershy glanced at the package. “I don’t... I don’t think so,” she said.
“There would probably be copyright issues with that,” Rarity said. “Besides, Daring Do is more for foals... er, young adults,” she amended, noticing Rainbow Dash’s glare.
Fluttershy took a seat next to the coffee table. “So, have you read it yet?” she asked.
“No, I haven’t even opened it.” Rarity nudged the package with her hoof. “I figured we’d break it up and each read a section... divide the pain, as it were.” Her horn glowed as she tugged the twine knot apart and peeled the paper wrapping away.
Naked Singularity: Event Horizons of Lust. The title was printed in small type in the center of the cover page. Rarity blinked at it.
“Fluttershy,” she said, not taking her eyes from the page. “What exactly did you tell Twilight?”
“Um, I said to make it more, um, personal?” Fluttershy ducked her head, hiding behind her mane.
“More personal? That’s not what we agreed to tell her. You were supposed to...” she trailed off with a sigh. “You know what? Never mind. It can’t be worse than the last one.” Her horn glowed again as she broke the manuscript into three parts, and passed one each over to Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash.
“Remember,” she said. “Twilight put a lot of time, heart and effort into this. We need to be good friends and put just as much effort into helping her.” With that she set the title page to the side and began to read the novel’s first line.
Mass distorts space. Greater concentrations of mass distort space more greatly. Evening Glimmer knew this simple fact like she knew the back of her hoof. The theories of special relativity were foal’s play to the young librarian unicorn, and she had always believed the mysteries of time, space and magic were firmly within her grasp.
That was before she met him. Before he galloped into her life. Now she realized how woefully incomplete the equations were. They accounted for matter and energy but not for love. For just as mass distorts space, so too does love form its own distortion. Greater love creates greater distortions, until like matter crushed together under the force of gravity it forms a point of no return. A singularity of love; an event horizon of lust, beyond which no feelings can emerge.
Rarity stopped and returned to the top of the page. She read the paragraphs again. She was about to read them a third time when Rainbow Dash’s voice, quiet and cowed, broke the silence.
“I... I don’t know what a lot of these words mean,” she said. She sounded lost.
“That’s fine,” Rarity said. “This is a bit, ah, different than Twilight’s last attempt. It seems to be more...” she trailed off, searching for the right word. “Technical.”
She glanced over to see how Fluttershy was doing. The pegasus was staring at her page, eyes wider than Rarity had ever seen, her cheeks practically glowing with a fierce blush.
“Did you find a steamy section?” she asked.
Fluttershy bobbed her head ever so slightly.
“Can you... read it for us?”
The blush intensified. Fluttershy shook her head.
Rarity blinked. Romance novels were like a sixth food group for Fluttershy. Nothing Twilight could have come up with should have been able to garner such a response. She gently pulled the pages out from under Fluttershy’s hooves and floated them back over to the couch.
Evening Glimmer moaned into his shoulder as something solid, roughly equivalent to a 3.5 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, pressed against her flank. It was somewhat firmer than calcite, though not so much as unforgiving fluorite*.
“Yes,” the librarian cried. “Yes! Take me, you ruffian...”
Rarity glanced down to the bottom of the page. Sure enough, there was a detailed note marked with another asterisk on the density and chemical composition of calcite, fluorite, and several other rocks. The note spilled over onto the next page as well, with suggestions for additional reading.
“Fluttershy,” she said again. “I need to know exactly what you told Twilight.”
An hour later, the three friends had managed to chew through approximately a dozen pages each. Opinions were mixed.
Among the three, Rarity was perhaps the most erudite, most educated, and most well positioned to understand Twilight’s technically accurate love scenes. Even so, she found herself reading over each one several times. They bore repetition. She flipped over a new page and read.
Evening Glimmer collapsed onto the mattress like an electron falling to a lower energy state. "Three times every hour for the past six," she whispered breathily. "They're going to name a new constant after you."
“Only if we provide them with a sufficiently large data set,” he whispered back.
Rainbow Dash, surprisingly, seemed to be enjoying her section. The fact that she skipped over any paragraph with more than two lines probably helped her along.
“This is actually pretty good, if you ignore the boring parts,” she told the others. “Check this out. ‘Prism Slash reared up to his full height, towering over her like a stallion slightly taller than she was. “No more, Evening Glimmer! For too long you have haunted my dreams like a Jungian archetype for unrequited love! Prepare to be taken!” he cried.’”
Rarity attempted to digest that, failed, then circled back to the name. “Prism... Slash?”
“Yeah, he’s a sky-blue pegasus stallion with a, uh...” She paused to look up the word. “Prismatic mane, and he’s the fastest flyer in all of Equestria! Sounds pretty awesome, huh?”
Rarity and Fluttershy exchanged a glance. “Awesome indeed,” Rarity finally offered. “He seems a bit familiar, don’t you think?”
“Huh? No, never met anypony like him,” Dash said. “Too bad, too. He really gives it to her!” She started reading another passage. “‘Harder,’ she moaned. ‘Give me at least ten newtons of force!’ Their bodies os... oscillated together like a pendulum with a period of 1 over 10 f.”
Rarity felt the headache returning. She put Prism Slash out of her mind for the moment and turned to Fluttershy.
“How about you, darling? How is your section?”
“Oh! It’s, um, interesting,” Fluttershy said. She was blushing again. “Evening Glimmer has a mare friend.”
“Let me guess, is she a yellow pegasus?”
Fluttershy shook her head minutely.
“Orange earth pony?”
She shook her head again.
Rarity sighed. The headache was back now. “Of course, of course. White unicorn?”
Fluttershy bit her lip. After a long moment she gave Rarity a tiny nod. “K-kind of.”
Rarity raised an eyebrow. “Kind of? Do tell.”
Fluttershy flipped back a few pages through her portion of the manuscript, searching for a particular line. Eventually she found it and began to read.
“‘My name is Uncommon,’ the slutty off-white unicorn mare said. Her pelt bore a curious mottled pattern, like a lab coat used in animal husbandry experiments for too long. ‘I hear there’s a librarian in Ponyburg looking for some... oh dear, um... looking for some hot, hot, mare-on-mare action.’”
“Well, thank you, Twilight,” Rarity said dryly. “I suppose that could’ve been worse.”
“Oh, there’s more,” Fluttershy said. “Lots more.”
“Nice,” Rainbow Dash said. “I’ll trade you sections when you’re done, Fluttershy.”
Twilight Sparkle was a happy pony.
The long nights were finally at an end -- the novel was complete and in the hooves of her friend-slash-editor, Rarity. She imagined the fashionista swooning over her complex sentences, erudite prose, scientifically accurate descriptions, and technically perfect metaphors for the act of beautiful lovemaking. It was probably the best romance novel Rarity had ever read, she realized. Possibly the best romance novel ever written.
What sort of awards did they give out for excellence in romance novel writing? Something prestigious, certainly. She would probably have to go to Canterlot to accept it.
Oh, who was she kidding? She giggled to herself. The awards committee would come to her for this masterpiece!
Twilight yelped and dropped the book she had been carrying. She spun around to see Spike watching her warily from the kitchen door.
“Oh, hello Spike!” She trotted over to him, beaming. He leaned back as she approached.
“You’re in a good mood today,” he said. “Get a new book?”
“No, something better!” She enjoyed his shocked expression for a moment before continuing. “I’m attending a literature recital in Canterlot this evening.” She preened.
“Wow, can I come?”
Twilight blinked. No, no he could not. She cast about for a reason, then settled on a version of the truth.
“Well, you can if you want,” she said. “It’s a love story, though. Kind of mushy.”
“Ew!” He made a face. “Nevermind, then. I’ll stay here.”
Another victory for reverse psychology! She beamed and ruffled his spines affectionately. “That’s fine, Spike. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea.”
Prism Slash leaned over Evening Glimmer’s supine form. Her lavender coat glistened with sweat in the fading afternoon light. The cooling effect of evaporation was insufficient to quiet the twin fires burning in her heart and loins (see Dalton et al for a complete discussion on evaporation rates and the physiological effects thereof).
"Librarians," he whispered huskily. "You drive me mad with lust!"
Evening Glimmer moaned. Never before had anypony stirred up such incredible passions within her. Her resistance to his advances diminished in inverse proportion to the area of contact between their bodies.
Rarity set the page down and rubbed her temple with a hoof. Her mood had not significantly improved since she found the manuscript lying on her doorstep.
“Girls, I’m not sure there’s much else we can do,” she said. “I think we should go have another talk with Twilight. All of us.” She shot a glance at Fluttershy, who ducked beneath her bangs.
“Why? This is awesome!” Rainbow Dash said. She nosed through her section of the manuscript, found a page she had dog-eared for reference, and began reading.
“Evening Glimmer panted as Prism Slash went to work. Their hips rotated in time with each other, like two massive objects orbiting a common center of gravity in a classical two-body problem. ‘Faster!’ she cried.”
“Do you even know what that means?” Rarity asked. It was possible Rainbow Dash did. Weather ponies sometimes had a strong grounding in the physical sciences, and while Dash had never shown any real affinity for the subject, she may have some sort of background expertise in astronomy or other—
“Duh, they’re having sex,” Rainbow Dash said. “C’mon Rarity. Jeez.”
—or possibly not, Rarity decided. Daring Do novels were apparently still her speed.
“Yes, well, that is certainly the case,” she said. “But I still think we need to provide some new guidance for her before she invests too much time and effort in these scenes. Fluttershy, what do you think?”
No response. Rarity glanced over to see Fluttershy engrossed in her portion of the novel. Her face was flushed a bright pink.
“Eep!” The pegasus ducked beneath her wings. “Sorry, sorry. It’s just, um... maybe you should read this part.”
Rarity sighed and pulled the page over to the couch. The page somehow felt sodden in her grip. Just being around it was making her wish for a shower. She held it as far from her face as she could to read.
Uncommon ran a tender hoof down the trembling mare's side. “Don't worry, love. It's just us, now. No one has to know your terrible, dark, dirty secret fantasy. As long as you do as I say.”
Evening Glimmer moaned with fear and lust in an approximately 2:5 ratio. The emotions mingled in the still air like ions dissociating in a solvent solution. “Please, please don't tell my friends! I'll let you use the library for your perverted magical rituals! I'll do anything!”
“That's right,” Rarity whispered. “Now then, which do you want first? The crop or the paddle?”
“The paddle! The paddle!”
Rarity’s eyes homed in on her name. It had been crossed out, and the word ‘uncommon’ penciled in above it. She sighed again.
“We’re going to talk to her,” she declared. “Now.”
The evening crowd was just arriving for their after-dinner coffees when Twilight Sparkle stepped into the door.
Sip! was a trendy coffee house she remembered fondly from her days as a student in Canterlot. The coffee wasn’t all that great, but the shop offered a quiet spot of relaxation, away from the hustle and bustle of the castle and Celestia’s court.
A spot at the far end of the spacious room was cleared of tables and chairs, all replaced by a raised stage and a microphone. Technician ponies were busy plugging in wires and adjusting the overhead lighting. Many of the nearest tables had already filled, and the quiet buzz of conversation permeated the air as more customers arrived for the evening recital.
“Good evening, ma’am. Are you here for the reading?”
Twilight turned to see a young orange pegasus with a pair of hipster-ish glasses smiling at her. To judge by her apron, she was one of the baristas.
“Hello! Yes, I was wondering if there are any spots left for tonight?”
Her smile widened. “For you, Miss Sparkle? We’ll be glad to add a spot in the line-up. What sort of work will you be presenting?”
“A chapter from a novel I’m working on. It’s, uh, a love story. Of sorts.” She paused a moment. “If you don’t mind my asking, how did you know who I am?”
“Oh, everyone knows Princess Celestia’s star pupil!” she gushed. “We’re very honored to have you here tonight, I should add. This is certainly going to be exciting.”
Twilight blushed lightly. Hopefully she couldn’t tell beneath her coat. “Well, I just hope to keep everypony entertained.”
“Of course you will,” she reassured her. “Take a seat near the front. I’ll send somepony along with a coffee in a moment. Regular?”
“Double,” she corrected, then made her way to the front of the room. It was bigger than she remembered, with space for at least a hundred ponies in the audience. Around half that number were already seated, with more filing in every moment.
She found a spot at the last empty table left in the front row and took a seat. Her horn glowed, and a slim bound manuscript floated out of her saddlebags onto the table before her. She only had time to make a copy of one chapter, but it was the best. The climax, as it were. She tittered at her own joke.
Twilight jumped in her seat, the pages falling to the table. She hastily scooped them up and spun around to face the familiar voice that had called to her.
“Mom?” she gawked at the unicorn mare standing behind her. The thought processes in her mind came to a screeching halt.
“Look, Orion! I was right, it is her!” Twilight’s mother, a pale grey unicorn with a striped purple mane, stepped up and wrapped her in a hug. A few feet farther back a blue unicorn stallion with a darker blue mane trotted up beside them.
“Twilight, we didn’t know you were in Canterlot!” her father said. “Did you come for the recital?”
What to do?! Bluff, lie, flee? Twilight considered all options before the calmer, more thoughtful part of her psyche came online. She had nothing to be embarrassed about. The recital was a cultural event meant for mature, educated ponies, who would appreciate the value of her work. Besides, if she was going to be a famous author, her parents would have to find out about her story someday. Today was as good a day as any.
“Yes, yes I did,” she said, straightening up to her full height, which still left her a few inches shorter than both her parents. “In fact, I’m reading a selection from my new book!” Her chin tilted up proudly.
“Your new book!” Star Sparkle beamed at her. “Oh, my little Twilight, a novelist!”
“At such a young age, too,” Orion added. “What’s this book about?”
“Well, it’s, uh...” Her courage fled for a moment. “It’s a, um, romance novel,” she finished softly. Her parents had to lean forward to hear.
“A romance novel!” Her mother laughed. “Twilight, don’t be embarrassed! We’re all adults here. Why, I love reading a good love story as much as the next mare.”
Her father rolled his eyes, but nevertheless smiled at her.
“As long as you’re happy, Sparky,” he said. She blushed at the use of her nickname. “I’m sure you’ll make us proud.”
Right. She visualized a blank checklist, adding an empty square at the top. Step One: Make parents proud.
“So wait, what’s a ‘salty, alkaline colloid’?” Rainbow Dash asked. She was hovering beside Rarity and Fluttershy as they made their way across town to the Ponyville library, the pages of Twilight’s manuscript still held in her hooves. Her distracted flying habits had already sent her bumping into no fewer than three ponies, a lamp post and a cabbage stall in the course of their brief journey.
“Um, what’s the context?” Fluttershy asked.
“Prism Slash just finished another marathon session with Evening Glimmer, and now she’s using her tongue to—”
“Sweat!” Rarity broke in rather hastily. She looked around furtively. “It’s just sweat. And if you’ll please recall, we’re in public!” she hissed at them. Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy both blushed at the reminder. Dash, predictably, recovered first.
“Jeez, Rarity. You don’t have to be so uptight. It’s just a story.”
“It’s a story that is not appropriate for reading out loud!” Rarity said. She shot her friend a glare, then turned back to their destination. The library was dead ahead, its open windows shining like a beacon in the dimming evening light.
“Now, remember,” she told them. “Twilight put a lot of time and effort into this story. We need to be gentle and encouraging with her. Encouraging her to write other stories.” She added the last part with a glare in Rainbow Dash’s direction.
The three stopped in front of the library’s front door. Gentle and encouraging, Rarity repeated to herself. She took a deep breath, opened the door, and walked inside.
“Cheerilee? What are you doing here?” Twilight Sparkle stared at the fuchsia earth pony in surprise. The Ponyville school mare was one of the last ponies Twilight expected to see at a literature recital in Canterlot. Up on stage the technician ponies were making the final adjustments for the start of the night’s event.
“Oh, hello Twilight!” Cheerilee beamed at her. She took a step away from the long table she was helping set up alongside the wall. A small herd of fillies stampeded around her with the unrestrained energy of youth.
“I’m volunteering with the Canterlot Benevolent Association for Impressionable Young Fillies,” she added, moving clear of the gaggle. “We go on field trips once a month to various cultural events like this. Last month we went to the history museum!” A few groans emerged from the fillies at the mention of the museum. Cheeriliee shot them a look, then turned back to Twilight, her smile intact.
“What’s with the table?” Twilight asked. The fillies were pulling boxes in the door and shoving them under the table. A few others were unrolling signs drawn on butcher paper and decorated with glue and glitter.
“We’re doing a bake sale tonight,” Cheerilee said. “It’s how we raise money for our trips!”
The fillies set to their work with surprising industriousness. One set opened the boxes, revealing trays of homemade brownies, cookies and other treats. Another group arranged the goods on the table and set up a small cashier stand, while the final, largest portion of fillies dispersed into the crowd, looking up at patrons with huge, watering eyes, and asking if they would please consider supporting young, needy, vulnerable foals.
Across the room, Twilight saw her parents forking out a large wad of bits to a young unicorn. The filly grabbed the money in her mouth and galloped back to the table, where another filly took it and dumped it into the cashier drawer. Twilight was vaguely surprised they didn’t all have their extortion cutie marks yet.
“So I see... are you sure this is really a good event for them, though?” Twilight felt herself starting to blush and did a few quadratic equations in her head to calm down. “Some of these stories might be a little, er, adult for fillies this age.”
“Twilight, you’re a librarian,” Cheerilee said. She leaned closer, her voice dropping so the foals couldn’t overhear them. “Would you ever refuse to let a filly check out a book, because it was too adult?”
“Well, no, of course not. But the selection I’m reading deals with some very mature topics. I don’t want to offend—”
“You’re reading?!” Cheerilee beamed at her again. “Oh, I didn’t realize! Twilight, please believe me, there’s nothing a fine, upstanding young mare like you could write that would be harmful to these fillies. Why, I’m sure you’ll be a wonderful role model for them!”
“You... you think?” Twilight asked hopefully.
“No, dear. I know.” The school mare gave her a friendly nuzzle, then turned around to break up a scuffle among the fillies. They appeared to be fighting over the evening’s profits already.
Twilight let out a quiet breath and trotted back to her parent’s table. Orion and Star Sparkle sat quietly, looking at the two tiny, burnt muffins their bits had purchased.
She took her seat across from them. “Those look... interesting?”
Her father sighed. “I feel happy to have helped those fillies,” he said. “I also feel like I’ve been mugged.”
“She reminded me of Twilight, when she was little,” her mother said. “Besides, it’s just a few bits.”
Twilight chuckled to hide her nervousness. She pulled up the mental checklist again, adding a second blank box below the first. Step Two: Be a good role model for impressionable young fillies.
Rarity glanced around the seemingly empty library. Ponyville’s resident librarian was nowhere to be seen. Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy followed her in silently.
“One moment!” a young voice called from within the kitchen. Just as promised, a moment later Spike walked in, a towel in his hands as he brushed his claws clean of the evening’s dinner preparations.
“Hey ladies! What brings you here?” he asked.
“Hello Spike.” Rarity trotted up to the dragon and looked down at him, a serious expression on her face. “We need to speak with Twilight. It’s important.”
“She’s at the recital. I thought you’d be there with her.”
Rarity stared at him, momentarily at a loss. “Recital?”
“Yeah, she’s reading a chapter from some new book she wrote. Some kind of love story.” He made a face, then paused, as if realizing something. “But, uh, if you want to go Rarity, I’d be happy to accompany you.”
“Oh no,” she mumbled. “No no no no no. Spike, where is this recital?!” She clapped her hooves on his shoulders and shook him vigorously.
“It’s at some coffee shop in Canterlot. What’s wrong? Is she in some kind of trouble...” he trailed off, realizing he was speaking to an empty room. The front door slowly swung shut behind the three ponies.
He shook his head. Mares.
Twilight and her parents clamored to their hooves and began to bow as the princess approached their table. Celestia stopped them with a raised hoof.
“Please, my little ponies. No need for such formalities tonight. I just wanted to get away from the palace and take in some of the more popular entertainments of the day. When I saw you up here, Twilight, I had to stop by and say hello.”
Twilight smiled up at her mentor. “That’s very sweet of you, princess. You remember my parents, I hope?”
“I certainly do. It’s good to see you both again.” She gave Twilight’s parents each a small nod, which they returned much more deeply. “Your daughter has been a wonderful friend and student. You must both be very proud of her.”
“Oh, we are, your majesty. More than you can know.” Star Sparkle gave her daughter a loving nuzzle, which Twilight endured with a wince.
“Mom, not in public!” she whined under her breath. Her parents chuckled.
Celestia smiled at their display. “I didn’t realize you were in the city, Twilight. I take it you’re here for the recital as well?”
“More than that!” her father said. “She’s one of tonight’s readers!”
“She has a novel!” her mother added, beaming.
“Oh? Is this true, Twilight?” Celestia turned to Twilight.
Twilight nodded. “Yes, princess. Will you be staying for the whole evening?”
“I suppose I have to, now.” Celestia took a seat at their table. Around them a small group of guards unobtrusively took up station. The other patrons buzzed at the new addition for a few moments -- even in Canterlot, a visit by the princess was something unusual. “I know you’ll show the world what a wonderful student you’ve been, and highlight the value of an education in the arts and natural sciences."
Twilight bit her lower lip. No pressure, then. She imagined her mental checklist and drew a third empty box beneath the first two. Step Three: Show the world what a wonderful student I’ve been, and highlight the value of an education in the arts and natural sciences.
The recital went about as Twilight expected. Some poetry, some fiction, some autobiographical sketches. She clapped appreciatively after each performance, trying to ignore the dozens of eyes staring at her table. Princess Celestia was responsible for most of the attention, she told herself. Nopony was judging her silently. She glanced around to make sure. No, no judging.
The hipster pegasus trotted onto the small stage as the last of the applause died away. “Thank you, Cloud Fire, for that wonderful poem. I’m sure it touched all our hearts. Next up we have a pony who needs no introduction. She is a personal student of none-other than Princess Celestia, bearer of the Element of Magic, and author of a soon-to-be published novel, from which she will be reading a selection for us. Mares and gentle stallions, Twilight Sparkle!”
A swell of applause filled the coffee house. Twilight stood and gave a nervous wave to the crowd, and at the gentle urging of her parents trotted onto the stage, her manuscript floating behind her.
“Ah, hello everypony,” she said into the microphone. The glare of the spotlight turned the audience into a sea of dark shapes, more heard than seen. The wood boards creaked as she took a comfortable seat. She spent a moment fiddling with her pages, tilting them this way and that in the bright light. The feel of the crisp pages calmed her mind. Paper: her oldest friend.
“This is a little different than my usual writing,” she continued. “It’s a work of fiction. An attempt, if you will, to bridge the divide between literature and science. For your consideration, I present this chapter from Naked Singularity: Event Horizons of Lust.” She cleared her throat and began to read.
“The Ponyburg library was empty when Evening Glimmer returned. Empty, except for the sweet scent of arousal. She tested the air cautiously — no doubt, Uncommon was here.
“The first stirrings of lust began to seep through her conscience, like particulates crossing a membrane via osmotic action…”
The early evening express train from Ponyville to Canterlot pulled away from the station five minutes after its scheduled departure time of 6:39 p.m. Rarity spent all five minutes silently seething over the delay. Rainbow Dash was not helping.
“I don’t see why all of us have to come,” she said. She had swapped manuscript parts with Fluttershy and was now reading about Evening Glimmer’s adventures with Uncommon as they set about corrupting Ponyburg through perverted, sexy magical rituals. “Can’t you just go yourself and tell Twilight to come back?”
“No,” Rarity said. “First, this might be hard on Twilight. It will be better if more of her friends are there to support her when we put an end to this travesty.”
Rainbow Dash opened her mouth to say something, but Rarity rolled right over her. “Second,” she said, “it will be easier for me if I have the two of you backing me up.”
Dash rolled her eyes. “This isn’t a big deal, Rarity. I think the book’s fine. It’s better than some of the Daring Do stories!”
Fluttershy and Rarity exchanged a glance. “You don’t think it’s a little, um...” Fluttershy trailed off, lost in her search for an appropriate term. “Unusual?” she finally suggested.
“Unusually awesome! Check this out.” Rainbow Dash nosed back a few pages. “Evening Glimmer cried out in pleasure. The ecstasy doubled and redoubled in her mind, like a pile of fissile material reaching critical mass. Neutrons travelling at the speed of lust collided with sensual nuclei, splitting them into two smaller, slightly less-sensual nuclei but also releasing more lusty neutrons, which then went on to impact additional nuclei. The chain reaction continued until the number of fissile sensual nuclei fell below the level necessary to sustain the reaction. ‘Oh yes,’ she moaned.”
There was a long pause as Rarity attempted to digest that passage. She failed.
“What?” she finally said.
“What do you mean, what? That’s awesome!”
It was a long train ride to Canterlot.
Twilight Sparkle felt herself getting into a groove. It was actually pretty fun. She couldn’t see the crowd’s reaction, with the glare from the spotlight and all, but the simple pleasure of reading her own high-quality writing eased her nerves. The silence was a good sign, no doubt — a sign the audience was enraptured by her characters and their adventures.
“Evening Glimmer and Uncommon strained toward the ceiling for one final moment of pleasure, and then fell to the mattress like a quantum wave function collapsing after interaction with an outside observer. 'Oh my,' Evening Glimmer crooned to her lover. 'The neighbors must have been watching.'
“Uncommon chuckled in the darkness. ‘That is but a hint of the pleasure I can show you, Evening Glimmer,’ she said. She traced a slow hoof down her gently undulating side. Her curves formed an almost perfect sine wave. ‘Come! Forget Prism Slash, and know the joy that only another mare can teach you!’”
Twilight Sparkle paused to take a breath. It was definitely getting hot up on stage.
An hour later the early evening express train from Ponyville to Canterlot pulled into the Grand Central terminal in Canterlot. The conductor ponies had somehow made up for their late start, managing to shave nearly seven minutes off the estimated travel time.
Rarity hadn’t noticed. Listening to Rainbow Dash reading lines from Twilight’s novel for the past hour had destroyed any sense of time she might have possessed. When the door finally opened she tossed herself onto the platform with a relieved gasp.
“Oh thank Celestia,” she gasped. “We’re here. Now, where is this recital again?”
“Um, Spike said it was at a coffee shop,” Fluttershy offered. She trailed behind Rainbow Dash, who was swerving erratically through the air while still reading.
“But there’s dozens of coffee shops in Canterlot! How will we find it?”
Fluttershy shrugged. Rainbow Dash drifted until she bumped into a lamp post, then sank to the ground, the manuscript still held in her hooves.
No help. No help at all. Rarity seethed quietly and trotted down the street leading to Canterlot’s upscale market district. The two pegasi trailed along behind.
Twilight wiped her brow with a hoof. Sweat was starting to trickle into her eyes. The spotlight was incredibly hot.
Yes, the spotlight. She took another breath and continued her recital.
“‘You must reject Uncommon and her evil, sexy teachings!’ Prism Slash cried. ‘She will bring you only ruin! Ruin, and some pleasure, but mostly ruin!’
“‘But I cannot resist!’ Evening Glimmer cried. ‘Help me, Prism Slash!’
“‘I will help you, Evening Glimmer!’ he cried. ‘I cannot resist you!’ He rode her like a train departing Canterlot at 4:27 p.m. at a constant velocity of 35 kilometers per hour and making stops every 20 minutes in Manehattan, Fillydelphia and Trottingham, but the train was actually a metaphor, and the stops were actually heights of passion, pinnacles of lust from which she spent long minutes in moaning recovery. ‘Oh yes,’ she moaned.”
The doors to the tiny corner coffee shop burst open in a flash of magic, followed shortly by a breathless, slightly bedraggled white unicorn. “Twilight, stop!” Rarity shouted.
The shop was empty but for a few patrons mulling over their coffees. The barista looked at her over the counter with a bemused expression. “I’m sorry, miss. Stop what?” he asked.
Rarity hung her head. It was the third coffee shop they had tried. Part of her mind reasonably pointed out that it would be easier to simply open the door and check for a literature recital, rather than bursting in and yelling, but Rarity was a bit of a drama queen, and so she ignored that piece of advice.
“Not here either, huh?” Rainbow Dash asked. She had finally stowed the manuscript after it became too dark to read.
“Um, maybe we should just ask where it is?” Fluttershy said.
Rarity opened her mouth to shoot that idea down, then paused. It was better than her current strategy. “Well, let’s. Excuse me, sir? Do you know of any coffee shops holding a literature recital tonight?”
“Yep, it’s at Sip! Right across town, on the corner of Bridle and Prancing streets. Good shop, used to work there years ago.”
“Oh, thank Celestia!” Rarity said. “Come on, girls!”
“Wait,” Rainbow Dash said. She was leaning on the counter. “They have ice cream here! Let’s get ice cream!”
Rarity glared at her. “No. We are not getting ice cream. We are going to find Twilight and stop her before it’s too late.”
“But what if it’s already too late!” Dash countered. “We might never get ice cream! Besides, this guy helped us, we owe him!” The owner nodded his head at this logic.
“Ugh! Fluttershy, help me out here?” Rarity turned to the other pegasus.
“Um, I want whatever will cause the least interpersonal conflict,” she said.
“Yes! Rainbow sherbet, please.” Dash fished a few bits out of her saddlebag and dropped them on the counter.
“Butterpecan for me,” Fluttershy said, nosing her own bits onto the counter.
Rarity scowled at them both. The look they returned was full of innocence and ice cream. Finally, she sighed.
“Fine. Double chocolate, but only one scoop!”
“‘No, Evening Glimmer!’ Prism Slash cried. ‘Ignore her! She will betray you in the end!’
“‘You’re a fool, Prism Slash,’ Uncommon purred. ‘Look at her. She has already made her choice.’
“Evening Glimmer moaned in passion, crushed between the two of them on her bed. Her lust increased exponentially, rapidly reaching heights beyond her wildest graphings.
“‘I can’t decide!’ she whimpered. ‘Please, don’t make me choose!’
“‘You must!’ they cried simultaneously. The stereo echo shook her to the core.
“‘It is a binary state,’ Prism Slash said. ‘One or zero. On or off. Her or me.’
“‘I have already done the equations,’ Rarity whispered. ‘They have only one solution. You must choose me.’"
Twilight paused, a bit breathless. “Er, wait. That was a typo. I should have said ‘Uncommon,’ back there, not ‘Rarity’. You probably knew that, though. Moving on!” She raised the pages again.
“Evening Glimmer shuddered. ‘I cannot! You must choose for me! Whichever of you makes me feel the most pleasure, he or she shall win my heart!’
“‘Challenge accepted,’ Prism Slash said slowly. Uncommon laughed, already triumphant.”
Twilight took a deep breath and lowered the pages. “And that concludes chapter 12. If you want to see how Naked Singularity ends, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until—"
The doors suddenly burst open in a flash of magic, followed shortly by an exhausted white unicorn. “Twilight, stop!” she cried.
The audience turned to Rarity. From the expression on their faces, she suspected she was too late.
Rainbow Dash trotted in beside her. “Hey, there she is. See, I told you we had time for ice cream.”
Twilight Sparkle sat at her table, alone. The pages of her manuscript were stacked neatly before her. She tried not to look at them.
Her parents were the first to approach. Star Sparkle stopped by her side and cleared her throat.
“That was an, um, very interesting story, dear,” she said. “It was very...” she trailed off. “Detailed. Yes, it was very detailed. I’m glad I was able to hear it. So glad.”
Twilight mumbled something unintelligible.
“All those fillies were listening...” Orion said. He still wore a slightly spooked expression. Star Sparkle gave him a worried look.
“Anyway, it’s a bit late for us old folks,” her mother continued as though he hadn’t spoken. “So I’m afraid we need to run. It was wonderful to see you though, dear.” She leaned down to give her daughter a kiss on the forehead.
Orion started to do the same, stopped, restarted, then stopped again. Finally, with a prod from his wife, he leaned down and gave Twilight a light peck on the cheek.
“We love you, dear,” Star said. She paused. “Like family. Parents.” There was another awkward pause, and they shuffled off.
Twilight decided that no, it was not possible to die of embarrassment. If it were, she would have by this point.
Cheerilee was next. She sidled up to Twilight’s table, her eyes wide, her motions slow and careful. The way one might approach a wounded animal.
She opened her mouth to speak, then closed it. More silence. It wasn’t awkward — that line had been crossed so long ago it ceased to have any real meaning.
“When I grow up, I want to be like Uncommon!” one of the fillies yelled from outside.
“Her name’s not Uncommon, it’s Rarity!” another voice shouted.
Cheerilee and Twilight listened to the back-and-forth for a few moments. Cheerilee opened her mouth as though to speak, paused, apparently thought better of it, then simply turned and left.
Celestia was last, after the coffee house had started to empty. She still wore her gentle smile, the same as always. Twilight waited for the other shoe to fall.
The princess took a seat at the table beside Twilight. She didn’t speak, and the smile didn’t move from her face. Twilight finally looked up at her.
“That was terrible, wasn’t it?” she asked.
Celestia tilted her head in thought. “Well, I thought it was entertaining,” she said. “But, as far as its literary qualities... I’m afraid it was a bit lacking.”
Twilight set her head on the table. Celestia chuckled and rubbed her back with a hoof.
“I know it seems bad,” Celestia said. “But living as long as I have has taught me something, Twilight. Embarrassments like this may seem like the only thing in the world right now, but believe me, you’ll look back at this and laugh.”
Twilight sniffed. “Really?”
“Oh, yes. I would suggest you try your hoof at more prosaic topics, though. They make for better practice.”
Twilight managed a chuckle at this and leaned against her mentor. For the first time since the recital ended, she started to feel a bit better.
“I’m sorry, I hope I’m not interrupting.”
Twilight raised her head. Rarity had approached and was standing across the table from the princess. Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy hovered and sat, respectively, in the background.
“Oh, no,” Twilight said. She stood and sighed. “I think it’s time to leave anyway. The bartender’s been giving me some unfriendly looks.” They glanced over to see an orange pegasus glaring at their table.
“Yes, I see,” Rarity said. She turned back to Twilight. “I’m very sorry about this, Twilight. I feel like I should have said something sooner. Maybe some of this could have been avoided.”
“It wasn’t your fault, Rarity. I was so convinced I was writing a masterpiece, I doubt I’d have listened to you anyway.” She scowled at the pages resting on the table. “I should have listened more to my editors.”
“So wait,” Rainbow Dash said. “You’re just giving up on it? I thought it was awesome!”
Twilight blinked at her. “You... you liked it?”
“Of course I did!” Dash pulled the manuscript out of her saddlebags. “This is better than Daring Do! Especially Prism Slash. He was great.”
Twilight blushed, her eyes widening. “Oh, yes, Prism Slash...” She let out a quiet, nervous laugh. “You liked that part?”
“Of course! He was awesome!” Dash nosed through the pages. “Oh, what’s ‘prismatic’ mean, anyway?”
There was a long moment of silence. The assembled ponies looked back and forth between Twilight and Rainbow Dash.
“It means, uh...” Twilight trailed off. She glanced at Rarity, who shook her head slowly.
“It means ‘rainbow-colored,’ my little pony,” Celestia finally offered.
“Oh,” Rainbow Dash said, brightening. “So his mane is... wait...” She paused in thought. “Wait, so...” Her eyes widened in sudden comprehension.
“Oh no, that means I was... ew! Ugh!” She began scraping at her chest with her hooves, as though trying to rub something off. “No! I wanted his... oh Celestia! It’s me! It’s me!”
“And the last horse finally crosses the finish line,” Rarity said flatly. “By the by, Twilight. Uncommon? Thanks for that.”
Twilight blushed. “Ha ha... so you recognized... ahem...” She paused. “Ice cream, anypony?”
Other stories by Cold in Gardez:
The legends told of their return.
For over a decade Equestria has been beset by the dragons. Every year more villages vanish in flames, and the lonely cities stand as our last redoubt. Winter has gripped the world, and our hope is fading.
But the legends tell of another, a light in the darkness. The Dragonborn, a mythic warrior reborn with the power of the Voice, the only one who can stand against the dragons.
But when she appeared, she was not what we were expecting...
She is as beautiful and graceful as the moon, and just as hard to reach. He is a young artist with much to learn about the world. When he accepts her challenge to create an artistic masterpiece, will he win her heart, or learn a terrible lesson in the nature of beauty and love?
"It's called 'Shh'," said Fluttershy. "It's a game about who can be quiet the longest. Sound fun? I'm the world champion."
Fluttershy is not a pony who makes things up. She really is the world champion of "Shh," or The Quiet Game. And now it's time for her to defend her crown, with Twilight Sparkle and Rarity along for the ride.
It is the longest day of the year, and something has gone wrong. Canterlot is in ruins, Celestia is an out-of-control god flying west, and it's up to Twilight Sparkle and her friends to save Equestria. But with the Great and Powerful Trixie playing a reckless wild card, do the girls have what it takes to set things right?
Fluttershy's kindness to all creatures is legendary in Ponyville. When a freak storm blows in from the Everfree Forest, however, she and her friends discover the limits of compassion, and the dangers of living with your heart wide open to the world.
On June 28, 2011, Michael Bay released Transformers: Dark of the Moon, his third feature film based on the HASBRO toy line Transformers. The next day, Bay and HASBRO entered into talks over another of the toy company’s properties, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. The only concrete evidence of the new film to emerge so far is a tattered screenplay, presented here, which was found in a dumpster outside Bay’s production house.
The Cutie Mark Crusaders have finally gone too far, and Twilight Sparkle & Friends decide it's time to teach them a lesson. But when their prank starts to take on a life of its own, they may end up being too clever for their own good.
The ever-humble Rainbow Dash has selflessly agreed to give Scootaloo a wing-up on Flight School with a few lessons. Twilight Sparkle, however, has her doubts...
[Author's Note: As always, I cannot express my full appreciation to the reviewers who helped make this story possible. If it has any merit, it is due to their assistance. Thank you to Cassius, Drakmire, AestheticB and Kurbz. Cover image by GSphere]