“Pinkie, wake up, my little pony.” She dimly heard a voice, sweet, light and loving, full of joy and glory. Slowly, painfully, Pinkie opened her eyes and found herself looking into the relieved eyes of the sun princess, Celestia. “Good, you’re awake now. How do you feel?”
Pinkie blinked, struggling to sit up in the hospital bed. “I feel horrible,” she admitted. As she sat up, she Luna, Twilight and Rarity. The other three weren’t there: Applejack had returned to Ponyville, and the pegasi had taken off to warn other cities in Equestria. All were looking at the pony with various degrees of relief.
“Princess,” Pinkie asked, noticing the other medical staff in the room, “what are you doing here?”
An amused grin crossed Celestia’s face. “Well, the moment I heard you were attacked, I immediately informed the zebra and gazelle leaders about everything that was going on and that if Equestria fell, well, they’d probably be next. King Xerxes and Chancellor Swift Tail not only signed the treaty in record time, but they additionally started negotiating a military alliance with us. I left things in the hands of Ambassador Zecora, so I returned immediately. The medical staff had already started working on your wounds by the time I arrived, but I felt it was necessary to use magic to accelerate your healing so you wouldn’t have to live with a broken rib and fetlock for a few weeks.”
“So the zebras and gazelles are falling over themselves to work with us?” Luna asked. “Rather sneaky of you, sis.”
Sis! Pinkie got out of bed, shouting, “Where’s Blinky?”
“Please, you need rest, and we don’t know who this ‘Blinky’ is,” a nearby nurse said, helping Pinkie back into the bed against her will.
“Octavia,” Pinkie answered, starting to get hysterical. “She was with me when we were attacked! Where is she?”
“Nurse, I’ll take responsibility for her,” a doctor spoke up. She was light pink, with a red-and-white mane; she wore a labcoat that covered her cutie mark. “If the Princess used a healing spell to restore her, she must be fine.” Candystripe looked to Twilight. “She’s all yours, Twilight. With apologies to the princesses, the Hippogriffic Oath prevents me from releasing a patient to the divinities. Since she’s a friend of yours, I leave it to you.”
“Thanks, Candystripe. Have the paperwork sent to my office and I’ll fill it out later, if that’s okay.” When the unicorn nodded, Twilight looked at Pinkie. “Let’s go see your sister.”
At the other end of the Royal Canterlot Infirmary was the trauma care center. Most of the seriously wounded from the Everfree attack were still in there, and considering the infirmary’s status as a military and government medical center – the city proper was handled by Canterlot General Hospital – there were enough beds to handle “special” cases. Being rather egalitarian, most of the gentry and celebrities were handled at CanterGen, but once in a while, the Infirmary would accept an out of the ordinary patient, especially when said pony was a minor celebrity and the sister of one of the more important ponies in Equestria.
Placed in a secure, guarded room, a gray earth pony lay in the bed. She was unconscious and looked frail and fragile, delicate enough to break. She was breathing through a snout mask, the clear mask fogging up occasionally with her breath. She was hooked up to diagnostic equipment, with the medical monitor’s heartbeat indicator beeping in time with her pulse. Several parts on her body were bandaged and those that weren’t were either covered with a medical smock or the blankets she slept under.
Pinkie leaned against the glass from the outside, her own breath fogging the window. The look on her face broke her friend’s hearts, hating to see her like this. After a few seconds, she turned away, collapsing into Rarity’s embrace.
“She lost a lot of blood by the time I was able to break the barrier spell,” Luna said by way of apology. “It was something…something I’ve never seen before and I couldn’t override immediately. I rushed to get her here as fast as I could, while Twilight teleported you here herself.”
Twilight dully read from a medical chart. “Three stab wounds, one serious; severe loss of blood. Doctors had to pump an antitoxin from her system, and they’re not sure they got it entirely. Like the guards from Everfree, she’s not responding to magic healing.”
“Pinkie, what happened out there?” Celestia asked. “We found another pony out there, and she had knives on her. She’s in the brig in the castle right now, heavily guarded. I assume she was the one who attacked you?”
Pinkie looked up from crying into Rarity’s mane; her eyes were red with tears. “Yes. She was the one who attacked us. She was also the one who used the magic spell.”
At that, everyone had a shocked look on their face…all, curiously, except Celestia. “Tia, I think I’d better see to the detention personally,” Luna said, the surprise clear in her voice.
“Please do. Weave as many spells as you can, and set them for anti-chaotic strength.”
“Discord?” Twilight gasped, dropping the chart. “You don’t mean….”
“Not exactly, but I think I know what’s going on,” The sun princess rose up, and in that moment, Twilight’s mentor and their friend was gone, replaced by the ruler of Equestria. “Pinkie, I know this is hard for you, but I need your help.”
“No.” Pinkie was surprisingly defiant and frantic. “My sister needs me…has anyone told my family? My parents, I don’t know how they’re going to handle it. I’m not sure how I’m handling it.”
“I’ve already sent transport to get them,” Celestia continued. “I’ve also sent messengers to notify Applejack and Rainbow Dash to return immediately. Fluttershy left Fetlock Mountain this morning and is enroute.”
“I’ll stay here then, until my parents arrive,” Pinkie said, turning back to the window. “I broke my promise to protect my sister, and I won’t leave her again.”
Celestia moved forward and nuzzled the distraught pony. "But you did protect her, Pinkie – you protected both of you. You would have been killed if you hadn’t done what was you did. And that’s part of the problem and why I need to talk to all of you, but you most of all. And it ties into your Pinkie Sense.”
“My Pinkie Sense?”
“Yes, and I wish I’d known of it sooner,” she intoned. She then turned to her protégé. “Twilight, why didn’t you tell me about it?”
“I did. It was my fifteenth report.” Twilight closed her eyes, and repeated her report from memory: “‘I am happy to report that I now realize there are wonderful things in this world you just can't explain, but that doesn't necessarily make them any less true. It just means you have to choose to believe in them. And sometimes it takes a friend to show you the way.’” She thought about it and added, “I guess it wasn’t as clear as I could have been, but then again, it was a report on friendship, not on Pinkie. But what does that have to do with her?”
“Forgive me for sounding a bit melodramatic, but both our current problem…and solution…may come from Pinkie.” She sighed and said, “We’ll talk about this later, tonight, when everyone reconvenes, but for now, Twilight, I want you to take a special message to the other ministers. Talk to them privately, and make sure that they understand that none of this is official but to prepare for it regardless.”
“Yes?” The purple unicorn knew what her mentor and ruler was going to say, but she waited for the words to be spoken.
“Tell them…tell them to start preparing for war.”
“There, that should do it.” Luna’s indigo aura dissipated as she completed the spell; violet lines and runes covering the walls and door of the detention center began to throb with embued power. “Mage Snowcatcher, have the Guild station at least two mages here to monitor the spells at all times – and they need to be certified mages, not apprentices or students.”
The aqua unicorn nodded, her mulberry-and-pink mane falling in her face. “Yes, your highness. I’ll take first watch myself.” He looked at the runes strewn all over the place and studied them. “Princess, this is an extremely potent spell. Are these spells necessary for a single earth pony?”
Luna smiled, but there was no merriment in that gesture. “That earth pony supposedly created a spell that took me a while to break. Let that sink in for a second.”
Snowcatcher looked in the cell, staring at the wounded pony sitting on the bed. Despite her serious wounds, she had her eyes closed as if she were asleep. Or meditating…. The thought unnerved the unicorn. “I’ll double the mages. I’d better get everyone on duty and contact the Guild to set watch shifts.”
“I’ll stay here for the nonce, until you return,” Luna said, sitting down. “I’ve got one more spell to set, and the pony should be no trouble while I’m present.” The mage bowed and departed immediately on his mission, leaving Luna alone outside the cell, to watch the pony within. As soon as Luna was sure the prisoner would remain harmless for the moment, she closed her eyes to begin her spell…
…and opened them, standing in the center of the nocturnal planes that were the dreamlands, a place only she could reach while awake. The stars and moon above were a spray of jewels, the iridescent colors of nebulae and deep space just behind the starfield. The long grasses stirred with a wind that could not be felt or discerned and appeared, if anything, for looks only. Such was the nature of the dreamlands.
Luna walked a ways, passing the occasional pony whose dreams had carried them here. Most of them were foals, pure of heart and untainted by daily cares; as the night princess passed by, they smiled and waved at her; she, in turn, returned the smile warmly, silently wishing them a wonderful sleep and a refreshing wake. As she walked deeper into the dreamlands, she saw less and less ponies, and it briefly saddened her to realize that Pinkie’s sister Octavia couldn’t be here to enjoy this; despite the name, a coma was not the same as true sleep.
Eventually, she reached a place in the land where a miserable being sat, held fast by stone chains glowing with a rainbow aura. He looked like he’d given up attempting to break through the shackles and was merely waiting through the irritating time that these chains would weaken and break and allow him to be free once more, though he knew not when. To Luna, however, he seemed a sorry, pitiable wretch who could never be forgiven his crimes, even as he could be excused from them. Such was the pathetic state of Discord, divinity of chaos.
“My, I seem to have a visitor,” the draconequus said, trying to find a comfortable position in his current state. “Ah, dear Luna. Such a pleasant surprise to see you here, visiting poor little me. I am poor in fellow travelers on the road of immortality, so to see one of my favorites here pleases me.”
“Favorites?” Luna arched a brow.
“Of course. Celestia, despite her humor, is too prim and proper to be a true friend. You, however, are not afraid to let down your mane when it counts.”
“I wasn’t quite myself then, and you know it. I was a spoiled foal, acting out against my sister, and it took six mares who I now view as my closest friends to bring me to my senses,” the alicorn princess replied, her tone firm.
“Such a shame; I see your sister’s dourness is starting to rub off on you. Be that as it may, it is still good to see a fellow immortal. I even forgive you for imprisoning me the first time, as I suspect it was Celestia’s idea. But you are here to see me, which means you want something.”
Luna sat down before him, relaxing. This was going to be a long, long talk. Willing a cup of coffee into existence, she took a sip. “Care for one? I’m not as much of a tea drinker as my sister is.”
“Straight black, if you please,” Discord said, and a second later, a cup appeared before him. He drank the cup and let the liquid remain, which floated in the air in the event he required a “refill.” Looking at her with large eyes, his bushy eyebrows furrowed as he said, “I know why you’re here, Luna, you don’t have to tell me. I still have some attachment to the real world, you realize – you cannot remove chaos from the world, not completely. But I know why you’re here.” He laughed, a cacophony of sounds that sounded like mirth in several languages and species. “I’ve been watching them you know. Watching them cause all sorts of problems around Equestria. It’s rather cute in its own way.”
“I’m here to tell you to stop it,” Luna said. It wasn’t a threat, merely a statement.
“And allow me to tell you, dear Luna, something you might not believe, but it is true nonetheless: they are not mine. I have no truck with them. They are their own brand of anarchy, and I suspect they don’t even know of my existence. In fact, I must admit this: I hope you win, I truly do. I know what these ‘Black Ponies’ are up to, and why they are here.”
“Tell me about them, please.”
However, he waggled a talon in negation. “Sorry, I do hate to be petty, but this is my revenge against Celestia. She has imprisoned me twice, and in both cases, she didn’t even bother to get her hooves dirty, not really. I hold nothing against you or the other six; I’m actually rather fond of Pinkie Pie, truth be told. But since we are friends, dear Luna….”
“Are we?” Luna asked, somewhat caught off-guard by that response; it sounded genuine, not faked. Discord is being sincere? Something’s wrong here.
“I consider you one, even if you don’t feel the same way,” he said, matter-of-factly, “as my problems are with your sister and she drags so many of you into our personal conflict. But since you are my friend, I will tell you this much: this is all your mother’s fault. That isn’t an insult or a taunt, it’s the truth. Long ago before you were born, and when Celestia was still naught but a newborn foal, your mother Faust made a decision and now the crows have come home to roost.”
“My mother?” Faust, the first alicorn, the creator of the universe and the princesses’ mother, had long since departed the world for who knew where. She had done so when Celestia was young and Luna just born for reasons Luna didn’t know and Celestia never explained. In fact, Luna had been so young when her mother left and had been raised by her older sister, she’d initially thought Celestia had been her mother until the sun princess had to clarify. In truth, the reason Celestia, as ruler of Equestria, made the realm a principality instead of a kingdom was because she was never comfortable with taking their mother’s title of Queen; it would be an admission their mother was gone and would never return.
When Discord nodded, Luna took it as true. He had no reason to lie; if anything, it seemed as if he was going against his very nature to be open and forthright with her. However, there was something else Luna could see, something he didn’t and would never admit but she saw it regardless. “I see. Thank you, Discord. I appreciate the honesty.”
“Luna, I do have a request, if you please.” To her surprise, the request was not to be released, as he knew Celestia would never allow it. “The birds that come by the garden…they’ve been quite messy, thinking me to be nothing more than a statue. As much as I value the…randomness of it all, it is still insulting to be used as a bidet. Would you move me? Somewhere preferably where birds aren’t as likely to be a problem.”
“I’ll ensure it and have your form cleaned as well,” she replied, genuinely appreciative of all he’d told her. “It’s the least I can do…for a friend.”
It was nighttime when all were gathered in Celestia’s private dinner room. Dinner had been brought to them, and all waiting staff and guards were told to leave them be. Pinkie had spent time with her family in the intensive care unit and she was stunned when Celestia had asked that they be present as well. Fluttershy had arrived several hours ago and looked like she’d been through an ordeal; she broke down sobbing when she recalled the deputy’s death. Rainbow Dash had arrived ten minutes prior to dinner and was being filled in on what had transpired since the day before; the look on her face was that of someone just short of blowing a fuse. There were a few others invited, such as Blueblood and Gainsboro; when the royal unicorn asked as to what country bumpkins were doing at a royal function, a dark stare from Celestia herself shut him up.
As dinner completed, the plates left as is due to the dismissal of the staff, Celestia began. “Thank you all for coming. I realize this is a very uncomfortable time for many of you; you, especially, Mr. and Mrs. Pie.” The Pie family all acknowledged their sovereign’s notice, and she continued. “What I say here is a closely regarded royal secret and must not leave this room. Some of you are not in the government, but I trust in your honest hearts that you will keep this confidence close to you.” She paused. “I will also admit this will be hard for many of you to hear. It will be just as hard for me to tell you.” Had this been court, the room would have buzzed with sudden outbreaks of whispering here and there, but as this was a different group than courtiers, they merely remained silent.
With a breath, Celestia began. “Many of you know the story of Earth’s creation. My mother, Faust the Muse, created heaven and earth, the stars, sun, moon and seas. When she was done, she left the care of the world in the hooves of her daughters. But as we were still too young to rule, the three tribes argued and broke into three nations: the earth pony nation, the unicorn kingdom and the pegasus stratocracy, until the tribes departed Caballus and arrived here, creating the Equestrian republic, the predecessor to modern Equestria. The republic would remain the way things were until Discord tore everything asunder and Luna and I came into our own, defeating him and starting our reign.” She gestured towards everyone. “You still see remnants of the old republic and before, such as the Gates of Tartarus or Prince Blueblood’s line.”
“Wait,” Blueblood asked, “I am not descended from your line?”
Celestia rolled her eyes. “Blueblood, has it ever occurred to you how you’re supposedly my nephew on my mother’s side, 52 times removed, when my only sister is Luna, who’s younger than me and hasn’t had any foals?”
“Well, isn’t ther—” He suddenly shut up and his face went ashen; he looked with fright at Luna who merely gave him a faux-innocent look.
“As I was saying, the period of the Great Sundering – the period where the tribes were at war with one another – was drastic and nothing that any pony would ever wish to live through. The problem is, they said that the last time, too – during my mother’s reign.” Celestia closed her eyes, and her horn lit with the very power of the sun. A huge grimoire appeared before her, leathery and ancient and true in a way no one there could comprehend. “This is my mother’s journal,” Celestia explained. “Only I have had access to it – sorry, Luna – and no mortal has ever seen this book until now.” She looked around the room, adding, “I don’t intend to open it, as I value and respect my mother’s privacy, but I present this just to prove that the tale I am about to tell is true.”
Celestia then recalled from her foalhood the memory, the story when she was barely able to comprehend language. She remembered her hair back then, pink as the first rays of dawn, and her mother’s face, the deep red of her mane seeming always to frame the smile for her then-only foal. “In a time before any pony remembers, when the earth was far younger, there were four pony tribes: the pegasi, who were known for their flight; the sea ponies, known for their ability to live both in and out of water; the unicorns, whose command of magic was more general than it is today; and the earth ponies, stalwart and strong. Together, these four tribes lived in peace and harmony.”
“Sea ponies?” Twilight inquired, her natural curiosity coming to the fore. “But I thought they were a myth, Princess.”
“No, they once lived. After tonight, many of you here will have very different views on what is myth and what is real,” she said kindly to her former student. “At first, the four tribes had no need for government, save for the veneration they gave my mother and I. For the most part, they kept to each other, only interacting as needed. In retrospect, this was a grievous error, as it led to the rise of ponydom’s first tragedy and would set the stage for the way things are now, millennia later.”
“Beggin’ pardon, Princess,” Applejack asked, “But how far back wus this?”
“A lady never gives away her age, Applejack,” Celestia said with amusement. “Suffice to say it happened thousands of years ago. But to continue, there were a group of earth ponies who felt strong, stronger in a way nopony had ever been before, powerful in a magical way. Shunning their brethren, they went north of the earth pony lands, until they found a place far away which suited their needs, a canyon made almost entirely of gypsum. It was there these ponies settled, creating arcane spells and advancing magic to new highs, higher than any unicorn was capable of then…or since.” Her words were not lost on the unicorns present, particularly both Gainsboro and Twilight. “These ponies sequestered themselves in the canyon for generations, learning and refining their talents in a way unicorns had not yet thought to do.
“Eventually, these ponies were considered a separate tribe entirely from regular earth ponies, and began interactions with the other four tribes as such. These magical earth ponies referred to themselves as the gypsum tribe. But to the other tribes, they were known as the gypsies. It was the gypsies that formed the first government, soon emulated by the others; it was the gypsies who created homesteading, where before ponies were nomadic. The gypsies shared these innovations with their pony brethren, and the five tribes lived in harmony for hundreds of years, though there were some difficulties between the unicorns and the gypsies over who were the better magic-users.
“My mother, focused on raising me and preparing for her eventual pregnancy with Luna, stayed out of the bickering, seeing it as a relatively harmless and bloodless problem, presuming the elders of the two tribes would eventually sort it out. What she didn’t realize was that the solution was already on the horizon – a brutal, fatal solution.
“One year, the gypsy king died, leaving his only foal as the leader of the tribe. Her mother had died in childbirth, and he was forced to raise her alone; out of respect for his wife, he never took another mare as a bride. The problem with this was that the filly grew up spoiled and coddled, and eventually petulant and vain. Worse, she’d inherited her mother’s magic talent, her mother having been a prodigy even amongst the gypsies – no offense, my mages, but Queen Starlight was easily as powerful as either of you, and her daughter that much more so.” She paused both for breath and to let that set in. “So when she was enthroned, Princess Bright Eyes took a new name, one that suited her fashion and nature. She decreed that she would now and forever be known as the Queen of Magic.
“At first, relations with the other tribes were cordial under Queen Bright Eyes. But little by little the Queen of Magic no longer saw them as equals. She saw them as lesser, and then eventually, slaves. One day, she declared that she was the true ruler of all the pony lands, and that any who was not a gypsy was nothing more than property. Needless to say, the other tribes chafed under this and rebelled, but none more so than the proud, independent sea ponies. Their ruler, Wavedancer, sent a message to the Queen of Magic to meet on the great field near Gypsum Canyon, where the two sides would either straighten out their differences, or wage war.
“On the day of their parley, Wavedancer and all her sea ponies met on the field to face their potential foes. What they met, instead, was death. Having realized the potential of losing to the much larger tribe, Queen Bright Eyes instructed her ponies to set great sigils on the plain, turning the ground into a huge trap. When the sea ponies were in the center of the field, the spell was activated and hundreds of acres were set aglow with horrific, destructive sigils. The screams of death were enough to catch my mother’s attention, but by this time her pregnancy with Luna had begun, sapping her strength – while no gypsy could hurt her, the very real possibility that she could destroy them all would add to the holocaust now unfolding, and so my mother was at a loss to solve the problem even as the gypsies, now emboldened, began their bloody war against the rest of the tribes.
“But fortunately, there was a glimmer of hope: a newly-marked mare named Strawberry Surprise. She had been too young to set the sigils that destroyed the entire sea pony tribe and found herself horrified and enraged by her queen’s warmongering. With a small band of mares and stallions just barely out of foalhood, Strawberry Surprise found the leaders of the other tribes and swore an alliance with them, good gypsy to counter dark. These good gypsies lost many a pony; it was said that Strawberry Surprise had found love with one of her followers, Secret Star, only to see him killed at the hoof of Queen Bright Eyes herself. But instead of the intended effect of destroying the good gypsies, Strawberry Surprise instead led the tribes to ultimate victory with the death of the Queen of Magic.
“And so, Strawberry Surprise led a delegation of victor ponies to plead to my mother. They petitioned for the gypsies to have their magic removed, their realms destroyed, and to be treated in the same way as the very sea ponies they had killed. As for the good gypsies, they vowed to rejoin the earth ponies and to have their own magic erased for the good of the world.
“My mother, saddled with a daughter becoming aware of what was happening in the outside world and heavily pregnant with another, made a compromise. Using her magic, she exiled the dark gypsies to a land vibrant and lush but whose magic had died out a long time ago. Over generations, the gypsies would slowly lose their power until they became normal earth ponies, and without Queen Bright Eyes, they would never have the magic necessary to return to ours. As for the good gypsies, she allowed them to keep their magic, but trusted Strawberry Surprise’s promise that never again would they wield it, leaving magic to the unicorn tribe. Lastly, she sent the tribes over the sea and away from the cursed land, to a new home, one they would eventually call Caballus.
“But the damage was done. Because of her reluctance to intercede and a compromise they found abhorrent and disgraceful to the memory of the sea ponies, the tribes would no longer entirely trust my mother and the path had been set for the Great Sundering. As for my mother herself, not long after Luna was born, she left me with the care of the moon, stars, sun and earth…and a baby sister to raise. At the time, I was the equivalent of a fourteen year-old mare, already with my royal cutie mark, but still not entirely wise in the ways of the world. To this day, I still don’t know why she left, and unless I open her book, I probably never will.
“Perhaps if my mother had stayed longer, trained me a bit more, I could have prevented the Sundering. Perhaps I would have realized that Discord would escape from his eternal prison in the earth and I could have found a way to permanently imprison him. Perhaps I could have done a lot more. But Equestria would never have been founded, and things wouldn’t be the way they are now.”
Luna was silent throughout this time. Just as many of the others here, she was hearing much of this for the first time, and though she was thousands of years old herself, it became clear to her just how much older her sister was. Eyes welling, she said, “All in all, I think you did a good job of raising me and handling Equestria…Mom.” Luna’s teasing remark was rewarded by a rare blush from the sun princess.
However, Celestia quickly recovered. “No, I didn’t. If I had, you wouldn’t have been so sad and I would have prevented you from turning into Nightmare Moon.”
“That was not your fault, Tia. That was something I had to overcome…and failed. The rest, as they say, is history.” She levitated a glass of wine to her lips, not wanting to say more. Now was not the time to air personal laundry in front of those assembled. The room grew silent as the two alicorns looked at each other, unsure of what to say next.
Fortunately, the uncomfortable silence didn’t last long.
“Okay, history, yeah, whatever. But what does any of that have to do with what’s going on…or Pinkie, for that matter?” Rainbow Dash, always the impatient one, spoke. While she loved the history lesson – she could probably tie it into a Daring Do fanfic when she got a chance – it was a waste of time to figure out how that tied into reality.
“That’s easy, Dash,” Blueblood spoke, gleeful at putting the brash pegasus in her place. “We’re being attacked by strange ponies, many of which we’ve never seen before. We have one of them in our stockade. Obviously the gypsies – or what we call the Black Ponies – have found a way to return to our world.”
Luna narrowed her eyes. “That is confidential information, Blueblood. I wonder how you came about it.”
The unicorn suddenly looked nervous. “I, uh,” he stammered, tugging at his collar. “Um, would you believe there was a note left for me at my desk?”
“Your highness, it matters little for the moment how Prince Blueblood came by the information,” Gainsboro said, giving him a stare. “The point is that he will keep it in confidence, won’t you, my lord?”
“Sure! Absolutely. State secrets and all that,” Blueblood blurted, wondering how humiliating it would be if he spent the rest of the meeting under the table.
“Very well. Please, dear sister, continue.”
Celestia nodded, and only those closest to her noticed the slightest upturn of her lips, silently chuckling at the aside at Blueblood’s expense. “Blueblood, however, is correct. I remember the undercurrent magic signatures of the dark gypsies and there has been a lot of that going around as of late. Soon, we will be at war with an enemy the likes of which we have never seen before.”
“The likes of which even Discord is afraid of,” Luna added. Before anyone could stare further, she added to her sister, “I had a talk with him in the dreamlands, where he is still vital. He admitted, quite truthfully, that he has nothing to do with these invaders. What he didn’t tell me was what I saw in his eyes: he was afraid, because his body still remains in the mortal world, and thus even Discord can be slain. As I know from experience, even a divinity has limits.” She reminded herself that first thing in the morning, she’d assign someone to clean his fossilized body and to arrange for it to be moved to the Royal Museum. She did promise him, after all, and she kept her promises.
Celestia gave her sister a curt nod, a silent signal that they’d be talking about that in private later…which probably meant the elder sister would scold the younger. “Things have been progressing so fast that it never occurred to me that the dark gypsies have returned. But now two things have occurred that may help us. The first, as Blueblood has mentioned, is the capture of the assassin. Should she prove to be a descendant of the dark gypsies, we will know our enemy. But the second is just as important, and possibly tied together in fate.” It was at this point that Celestia looked straight at Pinkie. “Pinkie, do you remember how you defeated the assassin?”
“Um, no, not really,” she said, thinking about it. “I just remembered that I had to do something to save her, since I promised my grandmother that I would always protect my sisters. And then I remembered some advice that she once gave me.”
“What was that, if I may?” Celestia said softly. The fact that the middle Pie sister was lying in a trauma bed in the Infirmary on the other side of the castle complex was not lost on her.
“She told me my greatest ability was to reach inside…and beyond,” Pinkie said. “So I did.”
“We’ll get back to that in a moment,” Celestia said gently. “A little over sixty years ago I had the chance to meet a wonderfully happy-go-lucky pegasus named Surprise. She told me about her ability to predict things, something she referred to as her Surprise Sense. She was vital and chipper, much more bouncy than people half her age. I wasn’t aware that Pinkie has the same abilities…or that she looks a lot like Surprise.”
Mrs. Pie shot to her feet, stunned; the looks her husband and youngest daughter’s faces were equally slack-jawed. “Surprise is…was…my mother,” she said before turning to face her oldest foal. “Pinkamena…do you mean to tell me your Grandmother’s tales were true?”
All eyes focused on Pinkie at that moment, and while the pony usually had no problem being the center of attention, something about it this time was unnerving. “Princess, while you were telling that story, I was remembering all the stories my grandmother told me, and they don’t sound very different. She never told me where she got them from, and I was under the impression that she’d made them up, or they were folk tales I wasn’t familiar with. But now….” Pinkie closed her eyes, and then began to pull things out of thin air as easily as a unicorn could make them materialize; in short order, she retrieved a ball, a pack of cards, her banjo, a tennis racket, a bunny plushie and a baker’s dozen of cupcakes. Looking at her mother, she said, “Grandmother so very much wanted you to believe, but since you didn’t have the ability, you couldn’t.”
“But sis, how can ye do all th’s stuff? Be ye really a gypsy?” Inky asked, looking at her sister in a new light.
“I always thought I just had whatever I had on hand whenever I needed it, or any of my emergency stashes around Ponyville – balls, eye patches, comic books, you name it. But I didn’t bring anything in with me to this meeting today—” she quickly ducked behind the table, and just as quickly reappeared in a turban and cape, wearing a large earring. “—and yet I can suddenly put on my Fortune Teller costume.” She looked at everyone, suddenly feeling really small. “I guess I am one. I hope you don’t hate me for it.”
“Pinkie, we could never hate you,” Twilight said. “But I’ll admit, now I’m a little jealous of things you can do. I just thought that part of your special talent involved sleight-of-hand, but this….wow.”
“Yeah, it just makes you that more awesome, Pinkie. Almost as awesome as me,” Rainbow Dash announced, and after that, all her friends and family joined in expressing their approval for her newfound abilities. Blueblood and Gainsboro, not familiar with her, kept a respectable distance, as did the princesses, who would voice their own opinion for their friend in private.
As the bit of commotion died down, Celestia started up again. “Pinkie, you may have provided an explanation as to what is going on, because of the particular item you brought into our world.” Celestia levitated a wooden box from the floor, which then opened in a position for only her to see its contents. “Archmagus Gainsboro, Mage Sparkle, would you two be so kind as to combine a barrier spell, please?”
“Of course, your majesty, though I wonder why,” Gainsboro said as his horn lit with a soft gray light, setting a protective dome around the table. Twilight had no need to even ask, immediately adding a second layer to the dome.
The sun princess looked at everyone with a slightly amused smile and said, “You should be safe, but just in case, you might want to duck.” With that, she pulled the object out of the box…and using her magic, flung it as hard as she could. A bright blast of light rocketed away from the alicorn, headed straight for the wall. Once there, it bounced off, changing trajectory and heading in the direction of another wall, but would impact into a flower vase, first. It shattered the container and kept going, bouncing off that wall, heading for the ceiling, where it destroyed the chandelier and kept going. The chandelier fell with a hard and loud crash upon the barrier, spooking nearly everyone but leaving them otherwise unharmed. Meanwhile, the object continued its destructive flight, bouncing off walls a few more times – and breaking two more vases and a spare chair against the wall – before heading back to Celestia at blinding speed, who merely turned slightly to let it pass her before reaching out to catch it in her hoofspace.
She set the object on the table for everyone to see. It was a flat, toroidal object made in a black material not familiar to anyone. One of the sides was covered in a related but different material, which was textured. The sides of the object, as well as a ring around the center and four small dots on the surface of the toroid, glowed a brilliant electric blue. The item sat there, humming softly, until Celestia pressed a hard-to-see button near the textured area. With a soft beep – Fluttershy winced, suddenly reminded of the last time she’d heard that noise – the object shut down.
“Had anyone not familiar to me brought this into the world, they would be in a prison cell next to the assassin,” Celestia said, with all seriousness. “This object is forbidden technology, something that neither my mother nor I would ever allow in this world.”
“What is it?” Rarity asked. “It looks dangerous.”
“It is, Rarity, more than you can know,” Celestia replied. “It’s a weapon. Specifically, it’s a human weapon.”
The looks on everyone’s faces clearly indicated they had no idea what to make of that. “Princess,” Twilight asked, wanting to believe in her mentor, but somehow not being able to wrap her mind around it, “you haven’t been listening to Lyra’s crackpot ideas again, have you?” Once a talented and promising musician, Lyra Heartstrings had been all but laughed out of town for her insistence that the mythological creatures known as humans once existed. Eventually she settled down in Ponyville as a music teacher, but her rather odd hobby of “anthropology” (as Lyra called it) always got her unusual glances from everyone in town, including her best friend Bon-Bon. This was especially the case, when the celeste-colored unicorn tried to emulate the supposed human lifestyle.
“I can’t say that I know anything about her ideas, Twilight, but in this case, she’s not wrong. Humans do exist, and they once lived on Earth, long before ponykind existed. However, it’s fair to say they no longer do – whether they became extinct or moved to other worlds is a matter of debate – but based on this, they likely exist somewhere out there in space in our universe.” She set the weapon back in the box. “Humans are or were special in that only a fraction of them had any abilities to use magic, and even then on the smallest scale – the most powerful of human mages could easily be outdone by the average unicorn. But what they had, and what made them so special, was an ability to create and understand technology in the same way we understand magic, possibly more so. Our technology comes in uneven spurts – we’ve created advanced things like calculators and alarm clocks, but we’re still using locomotive technology that is over a hundred years old. With a society such as ours that uses magic extensively, there’s not as much of a demand for ‘tech’, as the humans called it. Humans, because they didn’t have magic, could make technological leaps and bounds, in many cases beyond our comprehension.”
“We’re not havin’ t’ deal with humans’ are we?” Applejack asked, thinking of her younger sister’s hula hoop that she played with when still a foal, then looked at the box and its deadly contents. It was one thing when Apple Bloom expertly flicked the hoop off her tail and knocked an apple from a fence post. It was something entirely different when a smaller hoop made of an entirely different material was strong enough to break through an apple tree and keep going, especially when brandished by those mythical ape-like creatures.
“No, otherwise we’d be in even worse straits. But it’s clear that someone’s bringing in forbidden weapons; that assassin pony was carrying throwing knives of various types, a couple of which were even coated in a toxin.” Celestia said no further on that; there was no need to make the Pies worry any further. “But these are all human weapons and they’re being used against us – and Pinkie, you’ve just proved how they’re doing it. They’re breaking Paries Quartum.”
“Para-what?” Blueblood asked.
“I see someone fell asleep in the Academy,” Luna cooed. “We know of four dimensions of existence: height, width, depth and perception. The last one has been called ‘the fourth wall’ – paries quartum, in the old language – by scientists and mages because it’s the wall that keeps us separate from other universes. Like a wall, it’s not supposed to be broken easily. Once in a while, there’s a unicorn mage who can ‘see’ through the barrier, which is how a lot of our inventions are made – they’re copies of human inventions.”
Wordlessly, Pinkie’s friends stared at her. She’d often look in a random direction for no reason, stand on the side of an invisible wall and other extremely odd things. Most of the time, it was chalked up due to Pinkie being Pinkie. But now they knew Pinkie was being Pinkie for an entirely different reason, one she wasn’t even aware of until now.
The sun princess could have continued for several hours more, but the looks on the faces of those assembled indicated that more than enough information had been given tonight…probably too much. “From the looks of you all, it’s been a frightfully long night, so we’ll call this an evening. Blueblood, please ensure that someone escorts the Pie family to their guest chambers – my apologies to all of you, but my day is hardly done yet. Pinkie, please feel free to join your family, if you’d like.”
“I will ensure that,” Blueblood said, though the look on his face showed it was the least thing he’d rather do. Pinkie, not catching the veiled insult, told him she’d take care of it and the seneschal sighed in relief. Stating that he had more duties before retiring for the evening, he bade his farewells and departed, probably somewhere to ease his bruised ego.
“Thank ye fer ev’rything, yer majesty,” Mr. Pie said as he bowed, his accent thick enough to cut with a knife. “Oi canna tell ye how blest we be that yer taking care o’ me daughters.”
“The pleasure is mine, good sir,” Celestia responded. “Pinkie is one of my most valuable right-hoof ponies and I admit to being a fan of Octavia’s music. I promise both will be fine.”
Meanwhile, Rarity and Applejack went up to Pinkie, and it was the unicorn who spoke first. “Pinkie, dear, I find myself just a bit confused. Your family’s accent is thicker than Applejack’s, yet you don’t seem to have it.”
“Y’re one t’ talk, Rarity,” Applejack accused, “since yo’rs ‘s plum fake as an apple bush.”
“It not faked, it’s…acquired,” Rarity responded in a feigned huff. “Designers, for reasons I don’t understand, need to have Caballan accents to be taken seriously, and I learned mine under my apprenticeship to Double Stitch. I can assure you I spent long and arduous hours perfecting it.” Rarity leaned over to her pink friend and asked again in conspiratorial tones, “But your father and your sister have a very heavy accent, dear.”
“Well, Father’s from the old country, in his case, Inverneighs, so he still has the thick regional accent. Inky’s extremely impressionable and pretty much adopted it. Mother finds it quaint but obviously doesn’t have it, Blinky can’t use it as herself or as Octavia, and ‘Oi’d be a haard-bit t’ oonderstand if Oi spoke loik this.’ A party professional should be easy to understand; communication is the key,” she said proudly.
Rainbow Dash came and joined them. “Celestia told me to let you guys know to meet Luna down in the detention center. She, Fluttershy and Twi are already down there. Pinkie, go ahead and take your parents to their room, but I don’t think you should stay long, since there might be something the assassin knows that might be important to you.”
“I’m sorry, your highness,” the senior of the four guard mages on duty said, “But she's not talking. We’ve tried everything possible, from Berryshine trying to talk to her, to Dewdrop Dazzle threatening her. Lovestruck even tried to cast a, well…she says it works on her fillyfriend, but apparently not on the prisoner.” In the background, the white-and-hot pink unicorn blushed. “To be honest, we’re completely at a loss, and somewhat worn out from maintaining the wards.”
Twilight clapped the brown unicorn on the shoulder. “Thanks, Cherry Spice. The Princess and I will take it from here. You can all stand down until your relief arrives.”
“Believe me, we’ll be glad to.” Looking over her shoulder, she said to her team, “C’mon, fillies, we’re done for the night…and Lovestruck? Down, filly. Your hormones are in overdrive.” Giving a bemused smile to Twilight, Luna and Fluttershy, the four mages departed, leaving the trio to themselves in the ensorcelled space of the prison area.
“I’ll talk to her,” Twilight offered. “I’d be safer going in there than Fluttershy, and you should probably stay out here to keep the wards up.”
“Be careful, Twi. She put up a spell that could counter me; there’s no knowing what she could do.” Luna sounded genuinely worried; a momentary doubt in her own abilities? Twilight gave her friends an encouraging nod and opened the cell door, entering.
Manacled by to the ground by heavily-enchanted chains and bound up in the bandages from her own injuries, the pony sat on the bed, laying in a quiet, reflective pose. It was likely a meditative posture, though it was one that Twilight had never seen. The pony took a slight inhalation before she opened her eyes. “Ah, finally. It is a pleasure to meet you, Royal Mage Twilight Sparkle, Duchess Shetland and Knight Commander Elemental of Magic. Your reputation precedes you, milady.”
“Well, you know a lot more about me than I do about you,” Twilight commented. “And you are?”
“No one of consequence, as I will likely be dead by the morning, Lady Twilight – may I call you Twilight? It’s so much easier than wasting syllables tripping over every title and flourish. As for me, you may call me Hunter One, or merely Hunter for short. That’s not my name, but as I mentioned, I will not be alive long enough for you to truly miss my presence.”
“Why do you say that? You attacked my friend, but nopony here’s going to harm you because you have to face trial. That’s how we do it here in Equestria.”
Hunter shook her head. “You misunderstand me. I understand you Equestriani are squeamish about the nastier things. I used to be that way once myself, but innocence lost can never be regained. I lost my innocence when I was chosen to serve her, and as I have failed, my life is in her hooves…or rather, her Mortem Incantatores.”
“No. I won’t let that happen.” The look on Twilight’s face was severe. “No one deserves to die, not even you, Hunter. If there’s even a chance of a death spell getting past the Princess’ wards, it won’t get past me. Period.”
Hunter laughed, a gentle sound that would have been pleasant under different conditions. “You would spare me, Twilight? You have a gentle heart for such a fearsome knight. No, don’t deny it – I have heard the tales. You defeated a monster that possessed your princess. You rescued your friends from corruption and fought back the very divinity of chaos itself. You have faced churlish dragons, treacherous diamond dogs, bestial hydras. If the rumors are true, you even survived being turned to stone by a basilisk. You’ve done all that and cannot call yourself a fearsome and potent mare? If no, then you truly have the heart of a poet and scholar, lady knight.”
“You don’t sound like someone who would kill Pinkie.”
“As I told her, I did not mean to harm her sister. And yes, I attacked Lady Pinkamena – Pinkie – and no, I don’t care for my job. But it is my special talent, a talent that, quite surprisingly, my mark does not indicate. Such a gentle, innocent mark I have; no indicator of what I’ve become.” The pony leaned back against the prison bed’s pillow. “And before you ask any more, Twilight, the fact is, I cannot tell you anything else. Nothing against you; you seem like a wonderful sort, and should the situation ever change, I would be honored to strike a friendship with you. But my time is short, I will be dead soon, and I think it would be best to spare you my untimely end.” Nothing more to say, she lay back on the pillow, laying there until Twilight left the room.
Twilight came out just as everyone, save for Pinkie, was there. “She calls herself Hunter – she won’t tell me her real name,” she told her friends. “She’s a very charming pony, and I get the feeling that she’s doing all of this against her will.”
“Oh, c’mon, Twi!” Dash blurted out. “A killer magic earth pony who hates killing? That’s got ‘badly written Daring Do fanfic’ written all over it!”
“Uh, Dash, this is real life, sugarcube,” Applejack pointed out.
“Maybe it is true,” Fluttershy thought. “After the Hearths Warming Eve play, I read a biography about Private Pansy. Turns out she was actually a very capable warrior, not at all like me, but also very loving and kind. She became Commander Hurricane’s successor eventually, so it is possible.”
“Well, however she feels, she’s convinced that she’ll die soon. She says she’s under the thrall of a death trigger spell and since she’s failed, whomever set the spell should be setting it off shortly.”
Luna looked at the spells she set. “We’re in trouble, then. These things are meant to keep something in, not to keep something out. I can start setting another set of barrier spells, but we have no idea how much time we have. Fortunately, if we move fast enough, we might be able to short circuit the spell.
“Short circuit a death spell? That’s new to me.” Twilight’s natural curiosity kicked in once again. “I didn’t think anything like that could be circumvented.”
“Personally, I’d rather you not know,” Luna said sadly. “These are dark, horrid bits of magic that I’d rather no one know. But thankfully, there is a way to countermand these sorts of things. Leave it to me.”
The Pie family stood before the windows of the room Blinky was in. Guards were posted everywhere, and at Pinkie’s request, they stepped slightly away, allowing the family some private time.
Mr. Pie was shaking with anger. “Pinkamena, Oi swear Oi’ll….” The pony couldn’t finish his words, instead, shaking a hoof in anger. “An’ ye have th’ attacker as a prisoner? That canna be roight.”
“She’s in one of our heavily guarded facilities, Father. We have the most experienced of the guards watching the place, and it’s heavily locked down with magic. She’s not going to get out, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
Mrs. Pie looked to her husband, then to her oldest daughter. “Pinkamena, what your father’s trying to say is that it’s not fair that the prisoner’s unharmed, and your sister….” Her eyes were red from crying, as were all of theirs. “And frankly, I would agree with him. It isn’t fair that your sister is seriously wounded and the attacker’s okay.”
Inky looked at her parents, mildly annoyed. “Mother, Father, did ye not ferget that Pinkie was also ‘urt? Th’ Princess used her magic t’ heal Pinkie, but couldna do the same fer Blinky.” The youngest daughter then faced her sister. “What happened t’ her that the Princess was able t’ fix ye but na sis?”
Pinkie leaned down and kissed her younger sister on the forehead. “I don’t know, but I’m going to find out. Pinkie Promise.”
The door to the cell opened once more, and Fluttershy walked in. She took a deep breath, whispered to herself, “You can do this,” then moved to the table in the room and took a seat. She sat there patiently until Hunter took notice of her. “Hello,” Fluttershy said, giving the prisoner her most earnest smile.
“Well, this has been a day for surprises. First Twilight, and now you, Lady Fluttershy – this is quite unusual. My reports indicate that you are likely the weakest of the knights, and yet here you are. You are aware of what’s expected to happen to me within a short amount of time, are you not?”
“Well, yes, and that’s why I’m here,” Fluttershy said, beckoning Hunter to come to the table, which she did, slowly but surely. As soon as she sat down, the yellow pegasus leaned against the table, saying, “I’m here to ask you to please work with us. Despite what you did, no one wants to see you die.”
“What can you do to prevent that, milady? I’m likely doomed within the hour, and I spared Twilight the horror of seeing my end. I suspect it would be much worse for you. Please leave before it’s too late.”
Fluttershy shook her head, refusing to leave the table. “Twilight thinks you were forced to do all of this. I feel I’m a good enough judge of character to say that I agree with her. So please, surrender, um, if you’d be willing to.”
“Surrender? I’m already your prisoner,” Hunter said, arching a brow.
“I mean, join us. We’ll protect you. You’ll still have to face trial for what you did to Pinkie and her sister, but that’s better than the alternative.”
“As much as I would quite honestly like that, my fate is sealed. But I thank you for the offer nonetheless.”
Fluttershy nodded her head in quiet understanding. “I was afraid you’d say that. I was afraid she’d hear that.”
Suddenly, the lights flickered and the room began to rumble. Both ponies stared at the ceiling, which briefly warped under the jolt. “Looks like she’s here,” Fluttershy said in a nervous, disquieting voice. The table shook with a groan, the sound of a platform holding a weight that it was never meant to support. The room suddenly grew cold and still, the magical lights suddenly growing dim and pale.
Hunter looked up at a black figure looking above him. The creature was as dark as the deepest night, its wingspan almost covering the whole room, its horn daggertip fine at the end. The alicorn’s indigo mane flowed like black flame, burning a trail straight up to its capped head. It looked on the magical pony with unnatural, cat’s eyes, completely ignoring the quivering pegasus behind her. For a moment, either the creature was larger than the room or the chamber itself shrank, but the monster seemed to encompass all.
Nightmare Moon looked at Hunter, as if assessing her next meal. “I understand you are looking for death,” the creature said in a bassy, reverberating voice. “If so, I will be most willing to oblige you!”
“Ah, Princess Luna,” Hunter said, bowing as much as she could. “I am honored by your presence, your highness.”
“Um, t-that’s not Luna,” Fluttershy said, shaking in the presence of the beast. “That’s N-Nightm-mare Moon!”
“Oh, please, I am not a fool,” Hunter said, staring back into Nightmare Moon’s eyes. “You six defeated Nightmare Moon. This is merely your princess pretending to be her.”
Fluttershy started to back away from the table, to the door. “T-that’s what we told everyone,” she said, gulping. The pegasus looked genuinely frightened now, clearly not an act. “The t-truth is, we…only s-separated them into two. Luna’s n-not…that.”
As if by coincidence, the door opened, and Twilight and Luna popped their heads in. “Fluttershy, we heard you were interrogating the prisoner, and we wanted to see if the earthqua….” The night princess’ words trailed off as she stared at her dark alter-ego. “Oh, sweet stars,” she said, eyes growing wide with fright.
“GET. OUT.” The voice, cold as the grave, came from Nightmare Moon. She wrapped her tail around Fluttershy, throwing the shivering pegasus at Luna, who barely managed to catch her in a magical net in time.
Luna slammed the door shut immediately, shouting, “Sound the alarm! Twilight, find the others! Nightmare Moon is loose again!” There was a sudden cacophony on the other end of the door as the guards were called to alert.
“And now, then, for you.” The monster turned its attention to focus on the imprisoned pony. “I smell death on you, and it smells wonderful. I think it is time to claim that scent for my own.”
“You mean you’re not…?” Hunter said, staring into the baleful eyes of the beast. Nightmare Moon in turn, smiled at her prey, but there was no mirth in that grimace, merely to reveal jagged, razor sharp teeth.
On the other end of the door, there was an unnatural, monstrous bellow of a creature ready to consume its prey, followed by the bloodcurdling scream of a prisoner breathing her last. After that everything was quiet and still as a grave.
“What’s going on here?” From the entrance to the detention center Celestia approached, with Pinkie Pie and the four night-shift mages following close behind. “I thought I heard a scream.”
“Well, suffice to say, we took care of our little mage problem,” Luna said to her sister, as the door to the cell opened, with Nightmare Moon walking out, proud and fearsome…
…which made it all the more bizarre that her first action was to nuzzle Fluttershy. “Sorry about that,” the demonic alicorn said to the smaller pony in soft, worried tones that sounded very much like Luna. “I was afraid I threw you too hard.”
Fluttershy giggled. “That’s okay, I was prepared for it, so you don’t have to worry.”
Celestia, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Pinkie and the four mages stared at this very surreal scene unfolding before them. “Would someone care to fill us in?” Cinnamon Breeze, the seniormost of the night shift mages asked, confusion in her voice.
“Well, the prisoner informed Twilight that she was under a Mortem spell, so we had to stop it or lose her. The only way to do it was scare the horsefeathers out of her so she couldn’t unconsciously help protect the spell,” Nightmare Moon replied. “It wouldn’t have worked unless Fluttershy had been willing to pretend to be scared out of her own wits.”
“I had to learn some acting skills for my modeling career,” she said. “Glad to see they got some use.”
“Since she thought that I was a separate individual from Luna, she screamed in panic and fainted. That gave me just enough time to yank the spell out of her and destroy it safely,” Nightmare Moon said, as she transformed into Luna. “She’s asleep now, but she’s still got a lot of nasty spells on her.”
Celestia looked at the two Lunas, nodding approval. “Not the way I would have done it, but effective. So, would you two like to tell me why the Luna has been doubled?”
“Because we love you, Tia?” both chirped at the same time, before one shimmered and shrank back into Twilight’s form. The night princess looked at the smaller unicorn and said, “You do a great me, you know that?”
“Thanks!” Twilight said. “But I’m not the only one who can do a good imitation, right, ‘Twilight?’”
“It wasn’t easy, Twilight dear,” the purple unicorn said in Rarity’s voice, as one unicorn suddenly became another. “But as you said, I’ll need practice, so this was as good a chance to use the disguise spell as possible.”
The ruler of Equestria looked at the four mares, all of them giving each other sly grins. Sighing, she commented, “Why do I get the feeling it’s going to be a long day tomorrow?”
“I wouldn’t know, sis,” Luna laughed. “After all, you’re the day princess. Now, it’s almost midnight, so we’ve all got better things to do. I’ll see you all in the morning, I’m already late to the Night Court session.” With that, the younger princess strolled off, singing in a merry tune: “Trololololololololo….”