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And… here we go.
Disclaimer: I don’t own it at all. Not My Little Pony, not Kingdom Hearts, not Prince, nuthin’.
“But professor,” Daring Doo asked in bewilderment, “what you’re talking about is beyond the realm of possibility. The Flare of Alzabad isn’t even substantially a well-known myth or legend. References to it over the past few centuries have been vaguer than obscure; it’s no Sapphire Statue of ancient Aztail ponies or ancestral Goblet of the Gryphon kings of old.”
“Precisely, Daring,” Professor Bitsworth replied, strangely still with a calm and sensible demeanor. “The Flare of Alzabad is the object of highly obscure references, so much so that it almost appears as though the Flare itself is only a rumor even to the ponies who have written about it. However, I have uncovered that Alzabad the Wondrous’ legendary flare has had at least four other names in its history, one of which being the Nebulus Horn.”
Daring Doo’s magenta eyes bulged for a moment. She opened her mouth, almost shouting out her stunned question. “The Nebulus Horn is really the Flare of Alzabad?” The professor nodded confidently.
“I’m sure of it,” he answered her. “I’ve spent the last five months pouring over the writings of Hoofer, Gemstone, Quillton, Bayclop, Virgil, Eeyupidies, and Aristrotle, as well as over a dozen other scrolls written anonymously. I wouldn’t be telling you this if I were not one hundred percent convinced of my conviction. The similarities are too numerous when you look at them. Alzabad the Wondrous’ remarkable Flare, that gave the unicorn the ability to—
Rainbow Dash looked up suddenly from her book, Daring Doo and the Wizard’s Flare, thinking that she heard an unfamiliar sound. The cyan pegasus swivelled her head around for a few seconds, eyes scanning the horizon for what might have caused it, if she weren’t just imagining it. She was about to shrug and return eagerly to the exploits of her favourite adventurer when she heard the sound again. It was the faint call of trumpets, and it sounded like it was coming from Canterlot.
She looked towards the silhouette of the royal city sitting against the mountain in the distance and let out a soft gasp. “I haven’t seen that before,” she said, watching as the small forms of many chariots took into the air. Her eyes flicked back and forth between each individual dot. She’d never seen that many chariots before; she hadn’t thought that Canterlot even had that many. “Something big’s going down,” Rainbow muttered to herself. She stood up on the cloud she’d been lying down on, picked up her Daring Doo book in her mouth, and transferred it to her saddlebags. Getting them on, she looked once more at Canterlot, and noticed that a larger chariot than the others seemed to be heading in her direction.
I’d better tell Twilight about this, she thought. Flapping her wings, the fastest flier in Equestria took off and streaked for the Ponyville library. It certainly didn’t take her long until the large tree was in sight, and Rainbow Dash didn’t slow down a smidge as she made a flight for the door. “Incoming!” she shouted at the top of her lungs, noticing that the picture of a lit candle on the door was getting awfully close.
The top half of the door suddenly swung open just in time for Rainbow Dash to enter without completely busting the doors down, as she had done a few times before. She felt resistance behind her less than a second after entering the library, shelves and shelves of books arrayed in a circular pattern around the central reading room in the tree’s trunk. Rainbow Dash spared a glance behind at her tail, seeing that it was covered in a magenta glow as Twilight Sparkle used her magic to grasp hold of the pegasus and slow her down.
“Whoa there Rainbow Dash,” Twilight said, gritting her teeth and digging her hooves into the wooden floor. She sighed as Rainbow came to a complete stop. “What’s the rush? Finished Daring Doo and the Wizard’s Flare already? I know it’s a hard one to put down, but you only got it out two days ago.”
Rainbow Dash dropped onto her hooves. She shook her prismatic-haired head. “No Twilight, it’s not that, although the book is really good.”
Twilight smiled excitedly. “Oh it’s good alright. The way that Daring figures out how the Nebulus Horn can be used to—”
“Gyah!” Rainbow shouted, shoving a hoof into her friend’s mouth. “No spoilers Twilight! Don’t spoil this one like you did with Chamber of Spellfire.” Rainbow Dash removed her hoof from Twilight’s mouth. Twilight giggled knowingly.
“Alright, I won’t give any spoilers. So, what’s up?”
Rainbow Dash looked at her quizzically. “You mean you don’t know? Didn’t the Princess send you a letter or something?”
Twilight Sparkle’s forehead knitted together. “Spike! Did Princess Celestia send a letter today?” Spike walked into the room from where he’d been organizing the shipment of new quills and parchment that had just arrived. Peewee sat perched on his shoulder.
“Letter from Princess Celestia?” he asked. “Nope. Haven’t gotten one of those today. Derpy did come by with a letter for you though. Why? Is something wrong?”
“I got a letter,” Twilight asked. “Who from?”
“Twilight, I really think you should…”
“It’s from your brother,” Spike said, coming over to the unicorn with the letter in claw.
“My brother!” Twilight gasped. “I got a letter from Shining Armor and you didn’t tell me right away?” The letter escaped Spike’s grasp as Twilight snatched it from him with her magic. She grabbed a letter opener with her telekinesis and slit the envelope open.
Rainbow Dash snorted in impatience. True, she’d never known that Twilight Sparkle even had a brother, but now was not the time to be reading letters from family! She couldn’t believe this. Princess Celestia hadn’t sent a letter to Twilight when it was clear that something major was going on? What in Equestria could have distracted her from sending a simple letter? All the chariots in Canterlot had just flown out, by Celestia, and Rainbow Dash was going to make the egghead listen to her tell her what the Princess should have done already. She stomped a hoof down on the library’s hardwood floor and demanded the unicorn’s attention with a sharp bark of, “Twilight!”
Twilight turned to Rainbow Dash with annoyance, just about to start reading the letter. “What’s this about, Rainbow?” Rainbow Dash facehoofed. She didn’t have time for this.
“It looks like the entire Royal Guard is mobilizing!” she answered. “I saw more chariots than I even thought existed in Canterlot flying out of there, and it looked like one of them was on its way here.”
A knocking sound came from the door. Rainbow Dash sighed in resignation. “Told ya.”
“Rainbow Dash, you’re exaggerating,” Twilight said confidently. “If something major was happening involving Ponyville, I’m sure Princess Celestia would have sent letters to both me and the mayor.” She turned towards the door. “The library’s open, so come on in. Knocking’s a little unnecessary at the moment.”
A white pegasus stallion opened the door. He was wearing the golden armour of the Royal Guards and wearing a stern expression on his face. “Miss Twilight Sparkle, Miss Rainbow Dash, I’ve been ordered to bring you, Spike, and the other Bearers of the Elements of Harmony to Princess Celestia and Princess Luna.”
“Captain Cloudhammer,” Twilight said, surprised at the appearance of the Pegasus. “Um, of course we’ll come, but whatever for? Is there a problem with Discord?”
“That’s not for me to say,” he answered her. “My orders are to bring the Bearers of the Elements of Harmony to the Princesses so that they can explain the situation to you personally. Now, if you will kindly bring Spike with you, we can be on our way as soon as your friends arrive.”
Rainbow Dash shared a look with Twilight, the thought I knew it, going through her skull.
On the road between Ponyville and Canterlot, a lone mare sat and watched the sky. Her violet eyes stared as chariots raced through the sky towards settlements in all corners of Equestria. This certainly was not a sight she had laid eyes on every day; the odd chariot flying overhead here or there was not particularly uncommon for her, but the sheer volume of pegasus-drawn golden chariots were enough to even give the Great and Powerful Trixie pause.
The showpony with an azure coat and pale cornflower blue mane got to her hooves again after another minute of watching the skies and resumed her walk to the capital. Trixie had definitely seen better days. Her purple, star-studded cloak was frayed and patched in a couple of places, and her coat and mane could have used a decent brushing. She’d never been able to replace her hat or her cart after that Ursa Minor had smashed them when she’d last been in Ponyville.
“Canterlot will be better than Blazerborough,” she said confidently, remembering why she was on the road. “Canterlot is definitely a place where a pony like Trixie can find work. Blazerborough is too small to offer Trixie more than a warm bed for a few nights.” She continued forward and ignored the growling of her stomach, though a minute later she did root into her cloak for a moment with her magic and produce a small blue pouch tied at the top with a piece of string. Trixie stopped and took the pouch into her hooves, untying the string at the top with her magic.
She sighed and retied the string after looking into the pouch for a few seconds. The pouch whisked back into its place under her cloak in the azure mare’s magic’s light purple grasp. “Canterlot had better be better than Blazerborough, Manehattan, Trottingham, and Clopland.” Her voice wavered slightly while she spoke. Recognizing the sign of weakness, Trixie quickly glanced around to make sure that nopony had overheard her. When her spot check revealed no ponies on the road at all, she breathed easier and set off again at a trot.
Canterlot was her best bet at the moment. There was no way that she could return to Ponyville, not after the fiasco that had happened there last time, and she couldn’t be sure that the ponies of the bumpkin town would be very hospitable to a pony that had inadvertently caused an Ursa to crankily rampage through their home. With a little luck, charm, and her talents at her disposal, Trixie would be able to earn enough bits to get a new cloak, hat, and eat well for a while; maybe even treat herself to a day at the spa and afford a new wagon.
Fortunately, though, the walk right now was pleasant. The sun was shining in the sky, only a few wispy cirrus clouds high in the atmosphere above her. The leaves on the trees Trixie passed by were a vibrant green, the grass and flowers smelled wonderful even from where she trotted on the road, and a few robins were singing back and forth to one another within the range of her hearing. It was a beautiful mid-morning to travel the roads of Equestria.
Trixie’s ears twitched as a twig snapped somewhere off the road to her right, and a tree exploded in a flurry of wings as a whole flight of sparrows took off from their roosts. The unicorn turned her gaze towards the source of the sound, suddenly fearful that anypony who was there was stalking her and had overheard her. “Trixie knows that you are there,” she declared. “Do you not know that you are standing before the Great and Powerful Trixie? Show yourself!”
There was no response.
Trixie waited a few seconds longer, and then haughtily turned her nose up and resumed her trot. So what if somepony was there? She probably hadn’t overheard Trixie’s quiet murmurs, reflecting the poor financial straight she found herself in at the moment, and even if she had, she didn’t have the pride to come forward and admit that she was there. Regardless, Trixie would be on her way towards better prospects long before that pony could come out from behind the…
Her trot ceased abruptly as a black shadow wiggled its way out of the grass and onto the road in front of her. Trixie looked around in surprise. She had never seen a creature that could produce a shadow like that on the ground, or for one to be so dark when the sun was so brightly shining above. She controlled her surprise when the shadow on the ground came out of it to stand before her, its bulbous head with two antennae wiggling slightly as it looked at her.
Trixie looked down on it disdainfully. “So you’re what was spying on the Great and Powerful Trixie just now? Hmph! You’re not even a pony, and are hardly worthy of Trixie’s time and decent conversation. Away with you! The Great and Powerful Trixie has important business to attend to in Canterlot, and you are in her way.”
The black creature that had arisen from its own shadow did not budge, only continued to look at her with its piercing yellow eyes.
The way it was looking at her unnerved the azure unicorn for a moment, but she’d stood her ground in front of an Ursa Minor even if she had been completely incapable of defeating it; this little cockroach would be of little effort to remove from her path. “Very well,” Trixie said, “if you refuse to acknowledge the magical powers of Trixie and cease impeding her, then Trixie shall demonstrate for you.” Her horn glowed violet, and she picked up the Shadow with her magic and set it down six hooves to the right of the road. It continued to stare at her from its new location, and Trixie gave only a tiny nod at it before hurrying on her way. There had been no need for her to get overly fancy with her magic; the creature obviously wasn’t intelligent enough to…
It was in front of her again.
Trixie balked and glanced back at where she’d just placed it, only to realize that that one was still where she’d left it, twenty hooves behind her. She growled, and picked this second one up with her magic and placed it on the opposite side of the road. Her gait fell into a canter. One of those black creatures was enough to spook anypony, but two of them? It didn’t matter that they were smaller than Trixie; they made her afraid in a way that the Ursa Minor never had.
A third and a fourth rose up on the road in front of her.
The unicorn veered away from the road to avoid them, now quickening into a full gallop and then returning to the road. She’d always enjoyed audiences, but audiences full of smiling, laughing, and hoofing ponies, not whatever these black things were. Trixie spared a glance behind her and saw that there were more than four shadows on the ground following her, and they were keeping pace!
Trixie puffed and turned her eyes up towards Canterlot. She wasn’t in shape to be running any sorts of marathons, and her stomach rumbled again to remind her how empty it was, but she just had to reach Canterlot, she had too. So intent was her concentration on running that she didn’t notice the Shadow that appeared in front of her, and she charged right into it. The impact staggered her weakened limbs and Trixie’s impact with the road crushed the air out of her lungs, while the Shadow she’d trampled looked dazed as it lay on its back upon the ground.
The azure unicorn tried to take a step to get back onto her hooves, and tried and failed to suppress a cry of pain. She must have strained a muscle in her leg when she’d suddenly collided with the creature, and now her legs wouldn’t support her run for sure. Already there was a light sheen of sweat on her coat. The injured unicorn watched as the creatures surrounded her in a ring. She counted eight of them altogether now, slowly inching towards her with claws outstretched and ready to pounce.
Her fear vanished underneath a cloud of anger. She snarled as her azure horn became surrounded by a violet glow. “All Trixie had been trying to do was get to Canterlot so that she could begin anew, but since you all seem so eager to see the magic of the Great and Powerful Trixie, I can do nothing but oblige you!”
Trixie’s horn shone brightly while the lines of a circular glyph bearing her cutie mark of a magic wand and crescent moon within illuminated the ground beneath her body. “Prepare to be awestruck by the magic of Trixie!” she shouted, her horn glowing even brighter and her eyes open wide in anger. Trip her up, delay her, and frighten Trixie will they? She’d show them. She’ll create enough charged nimbus clouds to destroy all of them with their lightning, and then the black shadows would chase Trixie no more. She’d be free to travel alone and in quiet once more.
The black clouds were already forming in the sky above Trixie as she worked her magic. They swirled together, forms of condensed obsidian water vapor with particles vibrating against one another as each individual cloud formed. Number three, number four, number five, number six…
Trixie let out a gasp of pain as one of the eight from behind her leapt forward and scratched at her flank with a claw. The sixth cloud dissipated just after it had finished forming as Trixie’s concentration broke from the sudden injury. Her already frayed cloak tore along the scratch, and she gasped as the pouch that contained the meagre amount of bits she still had saved up was dislodged and fell to the ground. The Shadow swiped at her again, and somehow missed, its claws cutting into the pouch and flinging it into the grass instead. Trixie glared daggers at the black creature that was eye-to-eye with her while what remained of her money fell from her broken pouch like golden drops of rain, and a lightning bolt from one of the five remaining clouds zapped the creature right in the middle of its head. The creature burst apart into wisps of darkness, and the sudden change in its form shocked Trixie back slightly. Her cloud dissolved, only one good bolt in it because she’d worked on trying to create so many.
Another came at her from behind, and Trixie leveled her gaze on it. Another one of her clouds smote it with a lightning strike, turning it into wisps much like the first one, but there were still six more of them, and she had only three clouds left. Trixie bit back another shriek of pain as the claws of a different one connected with her left shoulder, and an angry tear welled up in her eyes even as it was blasted away by a third lightning bolt. The Great and Powerful Trixie, laid low by black things three-quarters her size and surely without her talent. Trixie had thought that she’d been climbing up from having fallen to rock bottom, but to have it all taken from her again and end like this…
She let the tear fall and glared once more at the creatures darting around her prone form. “I won’t forgive you for this.” Her horn glowed bright one last time, and a blast of violet light shot out from it, spearing right through the Shadow directly in front of her. For a moment, Trixie almost thought that she saw something solid within the light, but weariness overcame her from the effort and she saw no more.
“Hey, what’s that down there?”
Twilight looked in the direction Pinkie Pie was pointing. It hadn’t taken Captain Cloudhammer and his fellow Pegasus Guards long to gather her other four best friends and assemble them on the large golden chariot Princess Celestia usually rode on. Rainbow Dash had argued initially as to why she and Fluttershy should even ride the chariot when they could already fly, but a short sentence and glare from Captain Cloudhammer silenced the usually brash pegasus pony.
Down below on the road she could make out a flash of purple light, and she thought that she could see small black dots moving around a blue and purple mass in the centre of the road. “What do you suppose that is?” Rarity asked, leaning towards Twilight and Spike.
Twilight shook her head. “I’m not sure,” she said. “Captain Cloudhammer!” she called, loud enough so the Royal Guard Captain could hear her. “What’s going on down there?”
“It isn’t your concern,” he answered her. “We are to bring the Bearers to the Princesses as quickly as possible. The Royal Guards will handle it.”
“Hey!” Rainbow Dash shouted. “What the hay’s going on? And if the Royal Guards are supposed to handle it, doesn’t that mean you guys?”
“Captain,” one of the pegasi pulling the chariot with Cloudhammer spoke up, “it’s a unicorn being attacked by those Shadows.”
“Shadows?” Applejack asked. Captain Cloudhammer ignored her and looked instead at his subordinate.
“Are you sure Lieutenant Firefly?”
“My eyes are sharp, sir. I’m not lying.” The captain seemed to dwell on this information for a second before he turned his head back towards Twilight’s group.
“Keep your hooves steady, Miss Sparkle, we’re going down!” Twilight and the others barely had time to hold on as the chariot suddenly nosedived for the unicorn on the ground. The wind whipped through her mane, and she could hear Rarity wailing about how it would take her forever to fix her mane so that she could be presentable to Princess Celestia. Peewee was shrieking excitedly while Spike tried to keep him close. Twilight looked back at the baby dragon and was horrified to see him being left behind by the chariot.
“Spike!” Her horn glowed with magenta light and she quickly caught both him and the phoenix hatchling with her magic. The pair quickened in their descent with her help, and a second later they were hanging on for dear life with the screaming ponies, except for Pinkie.
“Woohoo!” crowed the pink earth pony, reared up on her hind legs with her hooves in the air. She looked like she was having the time of her life.
“Pinkie, what are you doing?” Applejack yelled. “How are you still standing?”
“Applejack! Put your hooves in the air like this! It’s incredible! Weeee—EE!” The chariot suddenly jerked up as Captain Cloudhammer and his pegasi righted themselves not two hooves up from the ground and touched down. Before Twilight could even adjust to the change in g-forces that assaulted her body, the Pegasus Royal Guards had already unhitched themselves from the chariots and were galloping the short distance to the unicorn.
Rarity leaned over the edge of the chariot, her white face looking somewhat green. “Rainbow Dash, please never ask them to do something like that again.”
“I don’t know what your problem is, Rarity, but what the hay are those black things?” Twilight blinked stars out of her eyes and turned her gaze away from her friends and towards the unicorn. She couldn’t help but gasp. She couldn’t ever remember reading anything that had a description like the five creatures Cloudhammer’s pegasi were currently engaged with. They lashed out at the Royal Guards with clawed fingers and waddled or hopped on overlarge feet. One pegasus turned and kicked at one, only for his hooves to strike nothing as the black creature sank into the ground and took the shape of its own shadow.
“What are these things?” she asked aloud.
“I don’t know Twilight,” Fluttershy commented, “but I’ve certainly never seen anything like them before.”
“They are kinda funny looking, though,” Pinkie Pie said. Captain Cloudhammer kicked one full in its face with both his rear hooves, and the creature simply vanished! Twilight shook her head, eyes wide in bewilderment.
In no book I’ve read was there ever a mention of a creature that turned into nothing when it was hit! That’s impossible!
“What was that just now?” she asked. “What are these things? What’s going on?”
“We’ll handle these!” Captain Cloudhammer yelled at her. “Miss Sparkle, you and your friends see to our friend here.”
“Uh, right,” said Applejack. She leapt out of the chariot. “Come on everypony!” The cowpony led the charge right past the Royal Guards, and was the first to gasp when they arrived at the unconscious unicorn. Twilight nosed past her and ignored Rainbow Dash’s groan and facehoof. She’d only seen this particular unicorn once when she’d come to Ponyville, but there was no way Twilight Sparkle could mistake that cloak, coat, mane, and cutie-mark.
“Trixie,” she gasped softly. Twilight glanced back. “Captain Cloudhammer, she needs help right away!”
The pegasus grunted as he reared onto his hind legs and flapped his wings hard, pushing back the last Shadow in front of him with a gust of wind. One of his other pegasi caught it in the back with a nicely-timed kick, and the being vanished in that inexplicable wisp of smoke. Cloudhammer and his team ran at a canter to Twilight’s position, and with a nod he agreed with Celestia’s protégé. “It’s not part of our mandated mission, but protecting the ponies of Equestria is still our first duty. Firefly, Quickbeam, load her onto the chariot, and be gentle about it. Miss Dash, Miss Fluttershy, I’m afraid you’ll have to fly alongside us this time.”
Fluttershy meekly nodded her head and took a step back from the captain, intimidated by his stern demeanour and reputation as a Royal Guard from the moment she’d laid eyes on him.
“Twilight, are you sure about this?” Rarity asked. “Think of all the trouble she caused us.”
Twilight glared at her friend with admonishing eyes. “Rarity, she’s injured! Trixie may have been bragging and lied about defeating an Ursa, but it was Snips and Snails who brought it into Ponyville; and in case you forgot, she still tried her best to beat it and protect Ponyville.”
“Ah know yer still upset about her turning yer mane green Rarity,” Applejack said, “but Ah’m with Twi on this one. Sure she may have been a bit of a stick in the mud, but she’s hurtin’ pretty bad now, and what kinda ponies would we be if we just left her here?”
“Thank you Applejack,” Twilight said gratefully, noticing that Rarity was nodding a little. Her eyes flicked to Trixie’s sleeping form and then back to the ground at her hooves.
“I suppose you’re right, Applejack,” she said. “But if she insults my mane again, I cannot promise that I will restrain myself.”
“Good enough,” Applejack agreed, grinning at the unicorn.
“Miss Sparkle,” Captain Cloudhammer’s iron voice cut into them once again. “We must move on. We’ve already lost time dealing with these creatures.”
“What are they anyway?” Rainbow Dash asked. The captain shook his head.
“We’re not entirely sure ourselves,” he answered, “but we do know that they’re dangerous and threatening Equestria. It is their appearance that has warranted the summoning of the Bearers of the Elements of Harmony and, as I have made clear before, it is my duty to get you to Celestia.”
“Yes, of course,” Twilight agreed before he could pressure them again. “Let’s go everypony. Hopefully Princess Celestia will be able to clear all of this up.”
“Sora-nii-chan! Wake up! Wake up!”
Seriously, wake up, said a voice inside of his head, sounding as if it were barely restraining laughter. You’re not going to believe this!
Sora groaned and blearily opened his eyes before shutting them immediately. He recognized that he was having a splitting headache. Shut up Roxas, he retorted. I’m not in the mood right now.
Suit yourself, chortled his Nobody.
Another shove struck Sora’s shoulder and the voice of his younger sister continued in its persistence in telling him to get up. Sora rubbed a hoof to his face. “Alright I’m—”
The thought startling him completely awake, Sora snapped his eyes open and tried his best to ignore the pounding in his head, a pounding he duly noticed was slowly getting weaker. He noticed that the thing he’d rubbed into his face wasn’t a hand as he’d first thought, but was indeed a horse’s hoof, with a coat of brown fur. In front of his cerulean eyes stood a little filly with a light cyan coat and a mane of banana-yellow with twin streaks of vanilla running through it. Her tail curled out behind her, its colour only that of the yellow atop her head. On her cheeks by her violet eyes were a trio of darkened freckles, and a rounded horn was sticking out from the top of her head. Against her flank was the image of a very unique skeleton key that he immediately recognized as Thunderbell, and on her back was a strap that held up two small, white, rectangular saddlebags, each bag with her Keyblade’s image printed on it.
Sora shook his head twice to clear it quickly before he sat up and stared at his little sister. “Rei, you’re a little unicorn!” The filly giggled and bounced up and down on her hooves.
“I know! Isn’t it great! Look! Riku and Kairi are ponies too!”
Sora frowned as Roxas began laughing from within his head…heart…wherever. “Now Rei, we aren’t ponies. We’re horses, and you’re a unicorn foal.”
“Onii-chan, you’ve got wings like Pegasus,” Rei countered, completely ignoring what he’d just said.
“I’ve got what?” he asked, quickly craning his neck around to examine his side. Sure enough, there they were, just in front of a tattoo of the Kingdom Key he’d somehow gotten on his flank. Just behind his wings he saw bags almost exactly like Rei’s, except bigger and with the Kingdom Key on them. Now that he knew that his wings existed, he was sure that he could even feel them. With a thought he extended his wings out and examined the feathers on them. They sure looked and felt real enough to him, though they did look a little small in proportion to his body…
“Never seen that before,” he mumbled quietly. Pegasus’ wings were much bigger than his were, and he also figured that Pegasus himself was also much bigger than he was at the moment. If anything, he’d shrunk at least a foot in height. Sora groaned. Oh, please don’t tell me that I’m not a horse. Please, please don’t tell me that I’m a pony.
Okay, then I won’t tell you.
Sora sighed, unfolded his wings, and decided that it was time enough to take in the surroundings before Rei or Roxas distracted him again. The floor was mostly grey stone, though there was a pile of straw in the corner that Sora guessed was for sleeping on. Three walls were stone, and one look at the other made it clear that the four of them were stuck in a cell; the black iron bars were a dead giveaway. Outside were two ponies dressed in golden armour with plumed helmets. Both were unicorns, and one was a bright yellow while the other unicorn was white as snow; both unicorns were standing so still they could have been statues. Riku and Kairi were nearby, Sora only able to tell that that’s who they were by the colours of their manes and Kairi’s hat. Riku had become a fierce turquoise unicorn stallion, his short silver mane still sweeping down to partially cover his closed eyes, and Kairi had turned into a winged horse like Sora had, except that her coat was light pink and her red mane and tail had been divided into cherry and strawberry underneath the girl’s raspberry beret. On Riku’s flank resided the image of Way to the Dawn, while on Kairi’s he could see Destiny’s Embrace. Both had white saddlebags like his and Rei’s, each bearing the mark of the tattoos on their flanks.
Roxas chuckled in Sora’s mind. Heh, checking out your girlfriend are you? Planning on getting freaky as winged horses?
Sora rolled his eyes and snorted. If you’ve got any weird and freaky form fetishes you want to do with Naminé, that’s your own damn problem that can wait until we’ve figured out how to somehow give you both bodies of your own. Kairi and I aren’t going to fulfill any of your sick scenarios. Roxas just laughed.
You know I was joking right? I know you two would never do anything like that, at least, not until you’ve reached that level of intimacy normally, that is.
Sora just gave a mental nod and didn’t feel the compulsion to answer. He and Kairi were comfortable with where their relationship was at, and neither was placing pressure on the other to take it further at the moment. The brown pegasus with a wild mane of spiked chocolate hair walked slowly up to the still sleeping female and nudged her with his nose. “Hey, Kairi, wake up.”
She groaned in her sleep and he nudged her again. Kairi batted his face away with a hoof. “Stop it Sora, that wet cloth is cold.” He snorted slightly in a chuckle, and Kairi’s attempts to ward him off ceased abruptly as she felt the hot air come out of his flaring nostrils and strike her cheek. She opened her bright indigo eyes, and stared at Sora for a few seconds in bewilderment.
“Kairi! Look!” Rei said excitedly, bounding beside her big brother. “We’ve been turned into ponies!” The redhead just glanced between Sora and Rei in astonishment for a few seconds, her mouth open wide.
Sora looked at her in concern. She’d never quite acted this way when they’d transformed before. Okay, she was a little like this in the Pride Lands, but that was because it was the first time they’d turned into quadrupeds.
No, Roxas reminded him, it wasn’t because you guys had four legs, it was because she thought we were… he left his sentence hanging, and Sora remembered. He almost sighed.
A HUGE smile came onto Kairi’s face as she jumped onto her rear hooves and picked up Rei in her forehooves. “Soo cute!” she exclaimed, giggling like a little girl. “Rei! You’re a teensy-weensy cute little unicorn!”
“And you’re a really pretty pegasus, Kairi,” answered Rei, smiling just as wide as the pink-coated pony.
“And you’re just adorable, Sora,” Kairi added, giving her boyfriend a warm smile.
He would have dearly loved to deny her, just this once; to frown and scowl and turn it around, but that smile of hers melted him. And besides, it wasn’t as if she and Rei weren’t cute either. Kairi dropped back down onto all four hooves, surprisingly having had very good balance for the short period of time in which she’d reared up, and looked around. “Hey, where’s Riku?”
“Over here,” said the voice of the other male of their group, “trying to come to terms with this catastrophe.” Sora turned to look at his best friend, who was now standing on his feet and glaring at his hooves.
“What catastrophe?” Kairi asked simply, giddy like a kid at Christmas with everyone having been turned into equines. “You make a good-looking unicorn, Riku.”
He glowered at her, his voice dropping into a deeper level of cynicism. “I’m a unicorn? Great. I thought it was bad enough that I’m blue, but I’m a girly unicorn too? Zeus, strike me down now, please.”
“But you look so amazing Riku!” Rei burst out. The silver-maned unicorn snorted.
Sora sighed. “Come on Riku. Sure, it may be one of the stranger forms I’ve been turned into, but it can’t be all that bad. I mean, hey, Kairi and I have wings right? So we should be able to fly. And look at you! Look at that horn!”
“Don’t remind me about the horn.”
“But look at how pointy and sharp it is!”
Riku paused in his retort and appeared to think about it for a second. He grinned. “Right, a horn, I’ve got a horn! Hey, Sora, can you switch out with Roxas for a second?”
“I want to head butt that guy.”
“And Riku, look,” Kairi spoke up before Sora could come to the defence of his already protesting Nobody, “you’ve got the Way to the Dawn tattooed on your flank.” Riku looked over at his side.
“Well, I don’t know why I’ve got a tattoo on, I guess my hip, but it does look pretty good,” he commented on the appearance of his red-bladed Keyblade with its bat-wing hilt and angel-wing key. He looked back at Kairi. “Better than you, though.”
At this, she blinked. “What do you mean by that?”
“You’re pink.” Kairi frowned.
“I’m what?” she growled.
“You’re pink,” Riku repeated. For the first time, Kairi looked herself over. Sora had to put a hoof in his mouth to keep himself from laughing as she started muttering to herself.
“Pink. Why did my fur have to be a light pink? I know it’s my favourite colour, but why couldn’t I have a cool looking coat of fur like scarlet or white or even royal purple or emerald? Heck, even straight black with pink stripes would be better than this. And what’s with this? Destiny’s Embrace next to my ass? Gods, why that Keyblade? No, shut up Naminé, I don’t care that it was the first one I used, it’s the girliest Keyblade ever. Why couldn’t I have the Oathkeeper instead? Is there a way to change these forms, Sora?” He shook his head. “Are you sure?”
“Kairi, I’m brown. If I could change my coat colour, I would.”
“But you’re a nice, mahogany/rust brown! You look good in that colour!”
“I was an ash-black lion cub because my clothes were black. Riku was a cream-coloured jackal, Rei was a yellow cub, and you were a pink lioness cub because of your dress. In Atlantica I have a blue dolphin tail, Riku a grey seal’s tail, Rei’s a brown otter, and you’re a pink jellyfish thing from your waist down. Then I became a yellow Mustang, Riku a black Jaguar, and Rei a teal Subaru while you were a pink Mercedes. If anything, your colouring is consistent throughout.”
“But can’t I be something other than pink just once? I wasn’t even wearing the clothes Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather made for us when we got—”
Kairi stopped, stunned into silence. Sora had growled halfway through and took a few quick steps towards her before planting his lips over hers. Rei turned her face away and raised a hoof towards her mouth, making a retching sound. Riku chuckled a little at her actions before shaking his head, and only managing to get a bit more of his silver mane into his eyes.
Sora detached himself from the kiss when he felt her resistance waver and looked her straight in the eyes. A rippling indigo sea filled his vision. “And you’re gorgeous in pink, Iri,” he whispered, “so please stop fussing about it.”
She blushed. “I guess so,” replied the girl-turned-pegasus, drawing a circle on the floor with her hoof. “I still don’t like having Destiny’s Embrace on me back there, but I guess we can’t do anything about it, now is there?”
“Not really, I don’t think,” Rei said.
“There is one thing we can make sure that someone here doesn’t do,” Riku said sternly. The other three looked at him, and Riku stomped his hoof down. “Jiminy! You are not taking pictures of me like this!”
A cricket in a black jacket with tails and a top hat popped out of Sora’s mane. Sora raised a hoof, and the Royal Chronicler jumped onto the offered appendage. “Why’s that Riku? I’ve always taken group photos after Sora and the guys have transformed.”
“It’s because I know what’s going to happen if you do,” Riku answered. He pointed a hoof accusingly at Sora and Kairi. “If you take a picture of me like this, then it’s going to end up in the hands of these two and before long it’ll get onto the web and I’ll never get another date! Ever!”
The couple laughed. “Come on Riku, you know we’d never do that,” Kairi assured him.
“But I thought you didn’t even like going on those dates,” Sora said, smirking.
“I don’t, but I won’t get any of the tolerable girls anymore like Ashe, Penelo, or Garnet; and I literally shudder to think of what Selphie would do.” Riku actually shuddered.
Sora chuckled half-heartedly. He needed to assure Riku, even though he was kidding himself. “I’m sure Selphie wouldn’t really mean to…”
“She’d blackmail me with the picture for sex,” Riku said bluntly.
Sora’s eyes opened wide and quickly searched for Rei. Fortunately, she’d apparently gotten bored of listening to the teenager talk and was trying to engage the guards outside the cell in conversation by asking them any and all questions about unicorns or ponies or if they could talk or had families or anything that came to her mind about this world and what it was like. She might as well have been talking to a wall for all the answers she got, but fortunately her mind was occupied enough that she hadn’t seemed to have caught what Riku had said. Relief flooded into Sora’s mind for a brief second before it snapped into anger. “Dude, my little sister’s right there!”
Riku winced. “Right, sorry Sora. That was totally my bad.” Sora sighed. He started to move his leg, and Jiminy hopped back onto Sora’s head.
“It’s okay.” He glanced back at Rei, then came closer to Riku and began to whisper. Kairi entered into the pony huddle as well so that she could hear what Sora was saying. “But would Selphie seriously do that? I thought she was hung up on Tidus?” He glanced at Kairi.
“She is and she isn’t,” the beret-wearing girl—pegasus—whispered, “but know that I’m breaking pinky promises with Selphie not to share this, so if she finds out that I’m telling you two…you’ve been warned.” She placed an empty hoof in front of the other two.
Sora and Riku placed hooves on top of Kairi’s, and together they said, “I solemnly swear to abide by the code of tell-not-again, to never tell anyone besides these friends holding my hand what we are about to tell.” They bopped their hooves down and up before breaking them apart. “Jiminy, that goes for you too,” Sora said. The cricket nodded in agreement.
“Okay,” Kairi whispered at the end of their ritual, “So she does like Tidus, but she also likes you, Riku. Or, rather…” she blushed, “she’s heard blitzball locker room stories about how big your…uh…” she glanced over at Rei; the filly was still oblivious to their talking.
“Oh…” Riku deadpanned. He looked down and away. Suddenly, the circle was very awkward. Sora pawed at the stone floor with a hoof.
“So anyway,” Kairi started anew, “yes, I think that if she were to get a picture of you as a unicorn right now, she probably would blackmail you into having s—having a fun night together with her,” she corrected herself quickly. Kairi took one more look at her boyfriend, Riku, Rei, and then the ponies guarding the outside of their cell. An annoyed expression came onto her face. “How did we get here anyway, or in this cell? And where is here for that matter?”
“Oh that’s an easy one!” a bubbly voice announced suddenly from outside the cell. Sora whipped around, Riku and Kairi scarcely a half-second behind, and they saw a bubble-gum pink pony standing outside of their cell. She had a poofy, frizzled mane of bright pink hair that crested over her head, cheery blue eyes, and three balloons tattooed onto her flank. Sora wondered if every pony in this world had a tattoo right there, and if every one of them could talk too.
“You’re in the dungeons of Canterlot Castle in Canterlot!” the pink pony exclaimed. She looked around excitedly. “Are you guys excited about that? I know I’m excited. I’ve never seen the dungeons before. They’re all so dark and gloomy and creepy and dungeony! Aren’t they the best dungeons you’ve ever seen? All nice and clean, even if they are dark and gloomy and dungeony. Hey, you know what this needs? My friends and I should get thrown into the dungeon too, and then we can all have a big ‘Rebels Breaking the Law and Sticking it to the Princesses in the Dungeon Party’! Wouldn’t that be absolutely amazing?”
Sora wasn’t entirely sure how to react to this crazy pony, but Rei gasped and cantered the few feet towards her big brother. “Sora-nii-chan! That sounds really fun! Can we do it? Can we? Can we?”
Yeah, can we have a Stick-It-To-The-Man party? Roxas asked, sounding for all the world like an over-excited kid. Kairi and Riku were both grinning deviously at Sora, Kairi even nudging him a little. They loved watching him squirm whenever Rei asked for something like this.
“Uh, well, Rei, you know we don’t really have time,” he said, not looking his kid sister in the eye. “We need to figure out how we got here, get out of this place, and try to find a way back to the King.”
The pink pony gasped loudly, and her face grew even brighter in excitement. “The King? I’ve never heard of a king before! Equestria’s been ruled by the princesses for ages and ages and ages! Are you from another pony country then? Are you secret agent ponies who were captured spying on Princess Luna with a mysterious unicorn on a midnight stroll together? Wait, I know! You’re really ninjas, sent to assassinate Princess Celestia and Princess Luna and got beat up by the guards long before you ever saw them! Though why you would bring a little filly along with you to assassinate the princesses is beyond me; shame on you for dragging her into your nefarious plans!”
“Wait, what?” Sora, Riku, and Kairi all asked at once, stunned being the understatement of the century. “No,” Riku said firmly. “We’re not ninjas or spies or people sent by the paparazzi to get the goods on your princesses. In fact, we don’t even know who your princesses are or even what Equestria is.”
“Sora, princesses!” Rei exclaimed. “Could we meet the princesses?” He made the mistake of looking into her eyes. Dang it! Her pouting was even cuter when she was this little cyan unicorn foal. Rei could sense the defeat in his resultant smile and cheered.
Kairi rubbed her head against Sora’s neck. “You’re cute when you cave like that.” Sora sighed, but the smile on his face stayed.
“It also helps that he’s a total sap,” Riku chuckled.
“And a lazy bum,” added Kairi. Sora just shook his head. Equestria, huh? Obviously they must be on another world, but how did they get…
Sora stomped a hoof down on the stone. “Mortimer. That’s how we got here. That device he shot us with, it must have sent us here! But how did he get it?”
“Professor Ludwig von Drake did say that his combination portal gun and muffin maker got stolen,” Rei answered him.
“Yes, but by Pete,” Riku reminded the filly, “not Mortimer.”
Kairi glanced over her shoulder worriedly, as if she was scared that something might suddenly appear there. “So, is that our proof? Does that mean that the Horned King really did beat Maleficent?”
“Even if he did, there’s no way that Maleficent’s gone for good,” Sora assured her, although he wasn’t sure why it would be a good thing for Maleficent not to be gone. “That old hag’s just too stubborn to call it quits.” The hairs on the back of his neck prickled and he looked back at the pink pony outside of their cell. She was staring at them as if she’d never seen them before, and was completely stock-still. Something about that was just plain creepy; even the guards were getting fidgety, and they hadn’t moved or spoken a word during her exhausting dialogue.
“Hey, miss interrogator, why so quiet all of a sudden?” Kairi asked politely.
“You…you said ‘people’, not ‘ponies’,” she mumbled. “People...” She gasped loudly. “YOU GUYS ARE HUMAN!?”
Ow, my bleeding ears!
Sora winced and refrained from mentally smacking his Nobody on the back of the head, if only because her screech had brought that headache of his back for a moment. He opened his mouth to try and talk to her, but she was jittering around with her legs moving like hummingbird wings. “HUMAN! HUMAN! HU-HU-HUMAN!” She gasped, her smile returning and spreading the entire length of her face from one ear to the other. “Hey, my friend Lyra would love to meet you guys! I know, we can all have one big ‘humans turned into ponies’ meet and greet party in Ponyville once you get out of the slammer.”
“But we don’t even know what we’re doing in this cell in the first place!” Riku told her.
“I’ve got to admit, it’s the first time I’ve woken up already captured on a new world before,” Sora muttered to Kairi. “Every other time I at least had two minutes before the bad guys came by and gloated at us. But I’ve never seen a bad guy like this before.”
“I’m not even sure she is a bad guy, onii-chan,” Rei said, shuffling over to her brother. The faint clopping of hooves coming down the corridor was staring to echo over to his ears. “She seems real nice. A little kooky, but nice.”
The pink pony turned her head and shouted. “Hey! Twilight! Looky-looky! Don’t tell anypony, but these ponies here, they’re not ponies, they’re humans.”
Sora could hear a sigh, and then for whatever reason he heard Rikku say, “Pinkie, are you sure they aren’t just ponies in human costumes?”
The five of them in the cell all looked at each other. “Rikku?” Riku asked. “What’s she doing here? I thought she was still on the Highwind.”
“She is still on the Highwind,” Jiminy said, still sitting in front of Sora’s mane on the mahogany pegasus’ head. “The last I checked, she, Yuna, and Paine were all still there, anyway.”
“But there’s no way she could have followed us through the portal Mortimer shot at us,” Kairi argued, total bewilderment lacing her voice. “They weren’t anywhere—”
The pink pony gasped loudly again. “That cricket just talked!”
A soft voice spoke up in sudden excitement. “A talking cricket! Where? Oh Pinkie Pie, where is the little guy?” The next moment a new pony was standing in front of the cell. Her coat was a soft yellow, and her sweeping mane and tail were marshmallow-pink. There was a tattoo on her flank too (hers a cluster of butterflies), and wings were folded against her sides. She peered through the bars with bright blue eyes, zeroing in on the cricket atop Sora’s head.
Sora, Riku, and Kairi shared unimpressed looks. This was a world full of talking ponies, unicorns, and pegasi, and yet they were surprised by talking crickets? Rei, on the other hand, had her eyes full of awe at seeing another new pony. She was silently squeeing from the excitement, and Sora hoped that she wouldn’t faint from over-exposure to this place.
Forget faint. When we’re all done, she’ll want us, Mom, and Dad to move here with her. Sora couldn’t help but agree with that.
“Hi there,” the new pegasus said softly to Jiminy. “I’m Fluttershy. What’s your name?”
Jiminy looked a little surprised at first that there was someone here so interested in him, but his manners promptly returned to him. Coughing into his hand and lightly tapping Sora between the eyes with his umbrella, Jiminy hopped down onto a hoof that Sora raised for him and extended closer to Fluttershy. Jiminy lifted his top hat from his head and swept into a tiny bow for the cricket. “A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Madame Fluttershy. Cricket’s the name, Jiminy Cricket at your service.”
“Wow, and he’s so polite too,” Fluttershy commented to herself as Sora replaced Jiminy on the top of his head.
“That’s enough Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy,” said a different voice as more ponies came into their field of vision. The corridor outside of their cell had suddenly become very crowded as another pegasus, this one with a cyan coat and prismatic mane and tail and a tattoo that looked like Zeus’ symbol, except with a rainbow lightning bolt; two unicorns, one marshmallow-white with a beautiful purple mane and tail with a tattoo of three sparkling diamonds, and the other lavender with a purple mane and tail that held a hot-pink streak with the mark of a pink star surrounded by white ones; an orange pony with a straw mane and tail wearing a cowboy hat with apples on her flank; a baby purple dragon with green spines; and two alicorns with flowing manes wearing crowns and impressive regalia, black on the midnight-blue alicorn and gold on the much taller white one. Sora’s eyes saw the marks on the flanks of the two alicorns, the smaller one with a crescent moon and the larger one with a radiant sun, and guessed that with their crowns that these two were the princesses Pinkie Pie had mentioned. It was the white alicorn who was speaking, “It is time we questioned these ponies properly, so that we’ll know exactly who they are and if they’re connected to those creatures.”
“Sora, Sora!” Rei squealed, looking back and forth between the new arrivals and her older brother. “Look! Look! There are so many—alicorns! Alicorns! And unicorns and pegasuses and and…” her eyes rolled into the top of her head and she slumped forward. Fear seized him completely for a moment and he shouted his sister’s name, falling onto his legs to catch her.
He would have made it too, if she hadn’t suddenly been surrounded by a magenta glow and was held in place for an extra second before she gently fell onto his hooves. Sora looked up quizzically, and saw the purple unicorn’s horn glowing with the same colour as the light surrounding his sister. The glow faded, and all of Rei’s small weight now fell onto his hooves. Sora folded his legs underneath him and sat on the ground, placing Rei close to his side and wrapping a wing around her. He could feel her soft breathing touching his side, and Sora sighed.
I guess it was too much for her, he thought, chuckling slightly now that he was sure she was alright. He looked up at the alicorns who stood in front of the other ponies, and noticed that the two unicorn guards were walking away, probably at the alicorn’s request. Riku and Kairi sidled up next to Sora and slightly in front of him, adding their bodies to the protection of their youngest member and Sora, knowing that lying down was not the way he’d have preferred to be interrogated.
“Who are you?” Riku asked sharply, his voice cracking like a whip. “Why are we locked up here?”
“Forget who we are, darling,” the white unicorn said quickly, hearts in her eyes as she looked at him. “Who are you?”
Kairi smirked at Riku and whispered, “What was that about never getting a date again, Riku?”
“I said tolerable,” he hissed.
“I am Princess Celestia, co-ruler of Equestria,” the white alicorn stated, “and I would like to make one thing clear. We have detained you only because we know nothing about you, and recent events have put us into a state of caution. I do not know who you little ponies are or what your intentions are, but you arrived in a strange cloud on the heels of something we have never seen before in Equestria. Forgive me for having my guards lock you in here or not, but now is the time for answers, so I hope you will be forthcoming with them.”
“Great…” Riku muttered. “We’re about to be interrogated by a pony princess. Donald’s never going to let any of us hear the end of this one.”
“For starters,” Princess Celestia said, her eyes narrowing at Riku. “Who are you?”
“I’m Sora,” Sora began as he typically did, “this is Kairi, Riku, and my little sister Rei. This guy here is Jiminy.” Jiminy lifted his top hat again, and nodded at Princess Celestia. For the most part her face still held its stern expression, but it looked as though her eyes found the cricket somewhat charming.
“What was that cloud the four of you appeared in?” Celestia asked.
“It was a portal,” Kairi answered. “We were—”
The lavender unicorn interrupted her, her voice filled with excitement. “You know portal magic?”
The four of them glanced at each other again. Sora spoke up. “Rikku?” he asked curiously, extending his head towards the unicorn.
She shook her head in confusion. “Huh? Why are you looking at me? I thought you just said that he was Riku.” They all shook their heads.
“Sorry,” Kairi apologized for them. “This is Riku, with one ‘k’ in his name. We have another friend named Rikku, with two ‘k’s in her name, and you sound exactly like her.”
“I must admit, your names sound strange on my tongue,” the midnight alicorn told them. “Sora, Riku, Kairi, Rei, and Jiminy. They certainly aren’t like many I’ve heard before.”
“Well, what are your names?” Riku asked. “Don’t we at least get to know who all of our interrogators are?”
The white alicorn sighed. “Alright. I suppose we can tell you that much before we continue. As I’ve already said, I’m Princess Celestia. This is my younger sister, Princess Luna,” she indicated the smaller alicorn beside her, “my faithful student, Twilight Sparkle,” the lavender unicorn, “her assistant, Spike,” the little dragon, “and her friends: Rarity,” the other unicorn, “Rainbow Dash,” the blue pegasus, “Applejack,” the orange pony in the hat, “Fluttershy,” she raised a hoof, “and Pinkie Pie.” The pink pony waved exuberantly at them. “Now then,” Celestia continued, “you have also been detained because of the cutie marks you all bear. Few ponies have ever had weapons as—”
“Wait,” Riku groaned, turning to look at Way to the Dawn’s image on his body. “You mean that this tattoo here is called a ‘cutie mark’? Oh gods, my street cred is ruined forever.”
“You don’t have any street cred, Riku,” Sora sniped.
“Then what’s the team going to think if they find out about this?” he retorted.
“Simple,” Kairi answered, “you don’t tell them.”
“I need you two to pledge that too,” he ordered.
“We’re still in high school Riku,” Kairi reminded him, “we don’t even go to your university!”
Sora and Kairi both sighed tiredly. “Fine,” Sora agreed, “but not now. Princess Celestia’s giving us a funny look.” The white alicorn was indeed looking at them strangely, but now her face was far from stern; she seemed curious about what she would learn from this conversation more than anything.
“Sister,” Princess Luna said softly, “they don’t seem to be bad ponies.”
“No, they don’t,” Celestia said, “but just because they don’t seem bad doesn’t mean that they aren’t. They could still be in league with those Shadows.”
Ears perked up inside the cell. “Shadows?” Sora asked, removing his wing from Rei and standing up. “What did they look like?” Princess Celestia looked like she was about to remind him that she was doing the questioning, but the seriousness in Sora’s voice at his question held her back for a moment. Correctly interpreting her hesitation, Sora nodded to Jiminy, who quickly dove into Sora’s mane and came out a second later, bearing a book in his tiny hands. The cricket carried it down to the edge of Sora’s snout, which was now placed almost to the bars of the cell, and opened the book.
“Did they look like this?” Jiminy asked, showing the ponies a picture.
Princess Luna gasped. Her horn glowed with light, and the translucent image of a Shadow appeared on the floor beside her. “Yes, exactly like that,” she told them.
“How do you know about them?” Rainbow Dash’s abrasive voice asked, the cyan pegasus butting up against the bars. “Are you in cahoots with them? Are you spy ponies?”
“Oh no Dashie,” Pinkie Pie said with a giggle. “They already told me that they’re not.”
Princess Celestia looked between the image Luna had conjured and the picture Jiminy was showing her. They were identical. “How do you know of the Shadows?” she asked.
“They’re called Heartless,” Sora explained seriously. “That kind there is actually called a Shadow, and it’s the weakest type of Heartless.”
“Heartless?” Rarity asked. “My, what an uncouth name.”
“Well they certainly were uncouth when they were attacking Trixie, Rarity,” Applejack said.
“Heartless,” Princess Luna murmured. “What do you know about these…‘Heartless’? Just how dangerous are they?”
“A lot, and very,” Riku answered. “The Heartless were first created as experiments by a man named Xehanort, who was researching the workings of the heart. Almost all hearts have light and darkness within them, and usually the heart has a balance of them, or a little more of one than the other. When the darkness within a person’s heart consumes him or her, a Heartless is born and the darkness within them is given form. That’s what they are, creatures made of pure darkness from the hearts of all living things.”
“Wait, hearts?” Twilight Sparkle asked. “But, that’s impossible! How can the organ used for pumping blood throughout the body possibly have ‘light’ or ‘darkness’ inside of it? It just doesn’t make any sense.”
“We’re not talking about that heart,” Sora told her. “What we’re talking about is the spiritual heart. Every living, sentient thing has a heart, a body, and a soul. When the heart is overcome with darkness, it becomes a Heartless.”
“They’re mindless and instinctual,” Kairi added. “They only have one goal, and that’s to find hearts and consume them, turning them into more Heartless. Ultimately they hunger for the largest and most powerful hearts, and are always trying to find a way to get it.”
“You talk as if you know what that is,” Princess Celestia said. The three nodded.
“Kingdom Hearts,” they said together. “The heart of hearts; the heart of all worlds.”
“It’s just as powerful as you’d think,” Riku said. “The heart of all hearts, filled with light, and the Heartless and those who chase power are always after it.”
Princess Celestia nodded her head slowly. “I think that I already know the answer to this next question from your answers, but I need to make absolutely sure, how do you three know so much about these Heartless?”
“We fight them,” Kairi declared, fierce pride in her voice, as if daring Princess Celestia to contradict her.
“Then you are not the enemies we had thought you might be,” the princess said with relief. “Here, let me unlock this cell for you.”
Sora smiled and shook his head. “There’s no need for that,” he told her.
“What do you mean?” Princess Luna asked.
“Are yah trying to say that y’all actually like it in there?” Applejack wondered.
Sora just laughed. “No, but you wanted to know about these…ugh, cutie marks, right?” A bright flash of light appeared at his mouth, and suddenly his teeth were clenching an obsidian weapon that was almost as long as his body. He enjoyed the looks of surprise on their faces at the Oblivion Keyblade’s appearance in his mouth, but he sighed. Here was another form where he had to hold the Keyblade with his teeth; his neck was going to kill him for this. Striding up to the cell door, he tapped the backside of the lock with the tip of the Oblivion. The lock clicked open, and he nudged the door open with his snout. He did not exit, though.
The Oblivion disappeared from his mouth in another flash of light, and Sora, Riku, and Kairi all laughed at the stunned looks on the faces of the ponies in front of them. “That’s the Keyblade,” Riku explained. “It chooses its wielder, and can lock or unlock any lock and is able to unlock the power sleeping within its wielder’s heart. The Heartless fear the Keyblade, because it’s the only thing with the power to destroy them completely, so they swarm its wielders to eliminate their fear and steal the heart of its chosen. A Keyblade only chooses wielders with strong hearts, and Kairi, Rei, and I have Keyblades as well.”
“My, my, my,” Rarity said. “You’re full of surprises aren’t you, Riku?”
Princess Celestia appeared more stunned than impressed as she just stared at Sora. “That means that with the Keyblade, you could have unlocked the door and left anytime you liked, and you probably would have defeated my guards before they could react, too.”
“Well, yeah,” Kairi answered, smiling to herself, “but it’s not like we really would have. Sure we were annoyed and all, but we wouldn’t have busted out unless we were convinced that we were locked up in a bad guy’s dungeon, and none of you seem like bad guys.”
“We sure aren’t,” Applejack said, “but now Ah have just one question for y’all.”
“Ah couldn’t help but notice that y’all have been using a lot of words we’re a little unfamiliar with. Where yah from?”
The trio looked at each other. “Do we break world order again?” Kairi asked.
“We got turned into ponies; I don’t care anymore Kairi,” Riku deadpanned.
“It’s not like it really matters either,” Sora said. “No matter what King Triton said that one time, too much stuff’s been happening to try and keep it a secret.”
“You’re right,” Kairi said, nodding. The three turned to the gathering in front of them.
“To answer your question…Applejack, right?” Sora asked. The orange earth pony nodded her head, and he continued. “To answer your question, Riku and I are from Destiny Islands, Kairi’s the lost princess of Radiant Garden, and Jiminy is from Land of Wishes; but Jiminy’s been living in Disney Castle for the last while and Kairi’s been with Riku and me on Destiny Islands since she was five.”
“Destiny Islands? Radiant Garden? Disney Castle?” Fluttershy asked. “I’m sorry, but I’ve never heard of places like that in Equestria.”
“That’s because they aren’t from Equestria,” Princess Celestia said as the realization came to her. Coltinster had been right all along. “They’re from other worlds outside.”
“So they’re space ponies?” Pinkie asked excitedly. “Ooh, that’s even more wonderful than them being humans!”
“Nope, we’re human,” Sora apologized, “but we got turned into ponies when that portal dumped us here in Equestria.”
“Yes, the portal,” Twilight Sparkle said, shaking her head back and forth as if trying to sort out one of the thousand questions she probably had. “How were you able to work it?”
Sora smiled sheepishly. “That’s just it, we didn’t. The portal bringing us here was an accident.” Kairi sighed.
“We were fighting an enemy of ours, and an old rival of our friend King Mickey, when he pulled out a device that had been stolen from a scientist we’re acquainted with,” she said. “It was Professor Ludwig Von Drake’s Snazzy Portalmatic Muffin Maker 3000. Mortimer zapped us with the portal part of the device, and the next thing we knew we woke up here, like this.”
Rarity rushed through the open door up to Kairi and took a pink hoof of Kairi’s into two of her white ones. “Oh, you poor dear,” she said. “You must be absolutely horrified.”
Kairi smiled amusedly. “Why would I be? We’re in a world of ponies.”
“Because just look at your chapeau,” the unicorn replied. “Oh dear, that raspberry…thing on your head just clashes awfully with your wonderful scarlet mane.”
Kairi frowned. “Are you insulting my hat?”
“Come, come now dear, I have just the thing that will really highlight those eyes of yours and go with your mane back in my shop in Ponyville. There’s no need for a fashion disaster like that hideous beret to be on top of your head.”
Kairi smacked Rarity’s hoof away. “You aren’t touching my hat,” she said evenly. “It’s a symbol of my individuality and artist’s soul.”
That and Naminé would have a conniption if she got rid of it, Roxas chuckled. It’s more her hat than Kairi’s.
“Bu—but, you’re completely lacking in fabulosity,” Rarity said. “Why, a beautiful pegasus like yourself should be showing off her beauty in every way, not dousing it with a ridiculous hat like that. Why would you ever wear something so tacky?”
Kairi just smiled sweetly and turned to look coyly at Sora. “Sora, would you mind showing Rarity why I wear this hat?”
Don’t do it man!
Suck it up you baby, I’m doing it anyway.
So are you.
Sora just smiled at Roxas’ silence, and took a step towards Kairi. “And that’s when I saw her. Ooh, I saw her; she walked in through the ‘out’ door, ‘out’ door.”
“Tell me he didn’t just break into song,” Twilight grumbled.
“He did,” Riku laughed. Pinkie Pie beamed as Sora continued unabated.
“She wore a raspberry beret,
The kind you find in a second-hand store.
And if it was warm, she wouldn’t wear much more.
Raspberry beret,” he nuzzled his cheek against Kairi’s. “I think I looove her.”
“So those two are coltfriend and marefriend?” Applejack asked, looking to Riku for answers.
“We humans call them boyfriend and girlfriend, but yes.”
Rarity gulped. “Well, I guess that if your coltfriend adores it, then I really can’t say much against it, much though it does not go with your mane at all, darling.”
Kairi laughed. “Don’t worry. I know raspberry doesn’t go too well with my hair, but I like it, and it goes much better with white-blonde so there’s no way Naminé would let me get rid of it even if I wanted to.”
“Naminé?” Twilight asked. “Who’s Naminé?”
“My Nobody,” Kairi answered simply.
“What’s a Nopony?” Pinkie asked. Her question wasn’t answered right away, since a small groan now issued out of the youngest pony present. Sora craned his neck down next to where Rei was lying down.
“Hey Rei, you feeling okay now?”
Her eyes stayed closed as she opened her mouth. “I had the best dream ever, Sora-nii-chan. We were hit by the portal machine and when we woke up Riku and I were unicorns and you and Kairi were pegasuses, and there were ponies everywhere.”
“Heh, you’re not dreaming squirt,” Rainbow Dash said. “And it’s pronounced ‘pegasi’.”
Rei’s eyes flew open and she bounded onto her hooves. A huge smile took up her face. “It’s real! It’s really real!”
“Hey Sora, why is yer little sis all excited and all? Don’t yah have ponies where yer from?”
“We do,” Kairi answered instead of Sora, “but—”
Princess Celestia giggled audibly, shutting out Kairi’s impending explanation. “Now that this bright little filly’s awake again, I think this ‘interrogation’ is through. Come with me, Sora, Kairi, Riku, Rei, Jiminy. As enemies of the Heartless, I imagine you’d like to know about their presence here in Equestria, and you’d like to be out of this dinky old cell now that I count you as allies.”
“Well, that would be nice,” Sora said.
“Princess, are you sure about this?” Twilight Sparkle asked. “I mean, we’ve only just met them. What do we really know about them?”
“My dear Twilight Sparkle,” Princess Celestia replied patiently, “what did you really know about your friends when you went to find the Elements of Harmony in the Everfree Forest?” Twilight’s silence spoke more than enough for Sora to be comforted that the unicorn would tentatively trust them. In the short time since they’d met, he’d already decided that he trusted these ponies. None of them seemed evil or malicious in any way, and even though he had been confined it was only because they’d been taking precautions in turbulent times.
“Come along my little ponies,” Princess Celestia said, motioning with her head. “Let’s go and talk in a more pleasant location.”
“Ooh! Now I can throw all of you a ‘Getting-out-of-jail-on-good-behaviour-so-you-can-kick-flank-and-save-the-day’ party!” shouted Pinkie Pie. “Princess Celestia, can we use the ballroom?”
The Sun Princess glanced at her sister. “What do you think Luna? Should we host a party for our new friends here?”
“I don’t see why not,” Luna answered, “so long as it does not get too loud as to wake me from my sleep.” Pinkie Pie shouted in excitement and galloped off so quickly that a Pinkie Pie shaped dust cloud was left behind. “If you’ll forgive me, Celestia,” Luna continued, “I really should be getting to bed now. Please, do let me know when it is time to raise the moon.”
“As always, my sister,” Princess Celestia said. “You’ve done well last night and today. You’ve earned your rest.”
“I’ll rest easy, knowing that everything is in good hooves,” the midnight mare replied. She turned to the new arrivals. “It was nice meeting you, Sora, Riku, Kairi, Jiminy, Rei. If there is anything you should require, do not hesitate to ask my sister or I.” Princess Luna left then at a quick trot.
Twilight Sparkle’s horn glowed with magenta light again, and she opened the cell door further and held it there with her magic. “Well, come on everypony. Let’s get going then.” Riku, Kairi, and Rarity all walked out of the cell while Sora stayed and waited for Rei. She had frozen up again, but this time it didn’t seem like she’d been paralyzed from over-excitement.
“Rei, what is it?” he asked quietly.
“Onii-chan,” she said, staring at Twilight Sparkle. “She’s one of them.”
Sora, Riku, and Kairi all stopped and turned to look at the lavender unicorn. Twilight Sparkle looked at them strangely.
“One of what?” asked Spike the dragon, revealing at last that he could talk just as well as any of the ponies. “What’s Twilight one of?”
Sora sighed and lowered his head. He pushed Rei slightly with a hoof to get her going. “We really do have to talk then. Lead the way Princess Celestia.” She nodded her regal head in acknowledgement, and slowly the procession left the dungeons of Canterlot.
I only hope Twilight will take this as well as Zelda did, Sora thought, glancing over his shoulder.
And apparently I’ve still got it. >12 000 words written for a single chapter in little over three days. Shadow Horizons, I’m sorry that I haven’t worked on Annals of Darkness in this time. I really need to get past that King Mickey fighting the hordes of Heartless block in order to get into the meat of that battle. Perhaps I should just listen to “The Encounter” on repeat.