Okay, some weatherpony in Cloudsdale’s getting sent to the moon. It’s snowing again in Edmonton.
(Shire Folk holds up a wooden sign with the word ‘Disclaimer’ painted in black letters on it. Vicious wood-eating moth-bears descend upon the sign and devour it.)
Pinkie Pie’s party was in full swing in the ballroom of Canterlot Castle. Riku had to admit that he had been impressed when he’d first laid eyes on all the decorations that were hung on every surface within the pillared room. Crystal bowls of punch sat on a table right next to an array of delicious desserts, and a gramophone (a gramophone!) was playing music. Pinkie had done a lot of work in a very short amount of time to get everything ready.
He had been impressed by all the confetti, streamers, and balloons that were decorating the ballroom, since it had only been an hour and a half since the party pony had left their group before they’d departed the dungeons. Riku’s attitude, however, changed to terror when Rarity told him about Pinkie Pie’s party cannon. The thought of a cannon that could almost instantly decorate a room into a kid’s birthday party pad was both awe-inspiring and horrifying. If she could come up with something like that when she put her mind to it, what else could the earth pony do?
Regardless, Riku relegated himself to official wallflower, standing on his hind legs and leaning against the back of a pillar while crossing his forehooves in front of his body, and watched the proceedings going on. He really hated being a pony right now; it ruined his pose. Sora was having a conversation with Rainbow Dash, and from what Riku was able to overhear he was telling her more about his adventures in greater detail. Kairi and Rei had both really gotten into the swing of things and Kairi was playing ‘pin the tail on the pony’ with Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, Rarity, and Applejack; while Rei was having a ball playing with Spike and his pet phoenix hatchling, Peewee. Twilight Sparkle, unsurprisingly, was solemnly standing only a short distance away from Riku. She had appeared to half-heartedly take part in the celebrations for a while, but for the past ten minutes she had been as anti-social as he the entire party.
And Riku had a shrewd suspicion as to why.
Dropping onto all four hooves, he casually strolled over to the lavender unicorn. “Something on your mind?” he asked. Twilight glanced up at him in surprise for a moment before nodding her head.
“Yes, actually,” she answered. “This is all just so much to absorb. I’m somepony who’s supposed to uphold the flow of all magic in existence? Not only that, I’m also supposed to be a bearer of a magical weapon that can open up any lock and unlock the power dwelling in my heart? Do you realize how crazy all this sounds?” Riku chuckled slightly.
“Yeah, I do,” he answered amiably. “Welcome to the madness.” Twilight put her knee close to her mouth, trying to cover up her giggle.
“Well, when Pinkie Pie’s one of your friends, you get used to a bit of madness after a while,” she said.
Riku nodded. “I noticed. She really has a party cannon?”
Twilight glanced at the object. “Yep, it’s real. She also has this thing that she calls her ‘Pinkie Sense’. Whenever her body spasms uncontrollably in a certain way, it means that something’s about to happen. When her tail twitches, it means that something’s going to fall; if her ears flop, eyes flutter, and then knees twitch, it means to beware of opening doors; whereas an ear flop, knee twitch, eye flutter means we’re about to have a beautiful rainbow in the sky.”
“Uh-huh.” He hoped his skepticism was beyond heavily laced.
“Yeah, I thought so too,” Twilight agreed, “but it’s true. There’s no logical way of understanding it, and I’ve tested and experimented on her but, whatever it is, she’s got it.” She pawed at the ground with a hoof and looked at her friends partying. “Riku, this Guardian thing means that I’ll have to leave Equestria when you’ve taken care of the Heartless, doesn’t it?”
He sighed a little. No sense in sugar-coating it. “Yes.”
“Will I ever be coming back?”
“Most likely,” he replied. “It might take a while, but I’m sure you’ll be able to if you want to.”
Twilight nodded her head, and then turned to face Riku directly. He turned his head slightly in response, his aqua eyes meeting her violet ones. “I understand that Rei had a dream that told all of you to go around gathering the Guardians of Magic, but what I don’t know is why it appears to be so important. Why do you guys need me and Trixie? We’ve been living completely unaware of our importance to all of magic, and the ignorance hasn’t bothered us before.”
Riku answered carefully, his voice dropping into a lower register. “We’re not the only ones who are looking.”
Twilight took a step back, the severity of his voice scaring her. “Wha—what do you mean?”
“I mean that there’s someone else who’s also looking for the Keepers of the Art.” Twilight’s eyes went back and forth as her mind apparently figured out what he meant by that.
“I—I see,” she answered. “So, either we go into danger, or we stay here and endanger ourselves and all of Equestria?” He could see the way that the lavender unicorn was shuddering at the thought.
Riku gave her a small smile and placed a hoof on her shoulder. “Don’t worry,” he told her kindly. “You go into danger in good company.”
“I’m not entirely sure of that yet,” she answered, though he noticed that she did not take his hoof off her shoulder. “Uh, hey, do you think you could come with me for a bit? There are a few ponies in Canterlot I want to talk with about this, and it might be helpful if one of you were there with me to answer any questions I can’t.”
Riku removed his hoof from her shoulder and nodded his head. “Of course.” He glanced over at the rest of the ponies. “I don’t think they’ll really miss us much if we sneak out.” Twilight shook her head, and the two unicorns quietly made their way out of the ballroom. Two Unicorn Royal Guards stood outside of the room, and only watched silently as the pair made their way past them. “By the way,” Riku asked, “what was with all those cracks on the pillars in there? I thought that the ballroom of this castle would be totally pristine?”
To his surprise, Twilight laughed. “That was all the doing of my friends back there,” she explained. The Grand Galloping Gala turned out to not be what we expected at all.”
“Gala, huh?” Riku asked, turning his head to look back at the closed doors to the ballroom. “Do I even want to know?”
“Probably not,” Twilight admitted. “It was both the worst, and best night ever.”
“Aw, how bad could it really be?”
She looked at him. Riku wasn’t entirely sure what the look in her eyes was trying to convey, but he felt like there was a mix between amusement and cynicism. “Fluttershy raged to the animals in the gardens, Rainbow Dash accidentally destroyed all those pillars and a stylized statue of Princess Celestia while trying to impress the Wonderbolts, Pinkie Pie annoyed the hay out of most of the other guests trying to get them to party because she doesn’t know what a high society party is like, Applejack was insulted by Prince Blueblood after he’d eaten one of her pastries because it was ‘common carnival food’ and the apple cake she then made got splattered all over a pony, and Rarity was the pony that got the cake splattered on because Prince Blueblood is a total horse and no Prince Charming.”
Riku couldn’t help but laugh. “So what about you? What happened to the intrepid Twilight Sparkle that made the night so awful?”
She smiled. “I stayed next to Princess Celestia the whole night, and we were both stuck greeting guests the entire time with no time to talk to each other.”
“Wow, that sucks,” Riku noted.
“That is, until we were able to escape to the scene of the chaos, flee the Gala, and meet up at Donut Joe’s with Spike for donuts. Talking to everypony else about how awful our nights were really helped. Then Princess Celestia came to join us and told us that, in her opinion, the Grand Galloping Gala is always awful. She said she was glad that we would be attending because she had hoped we could liven things up a bit.”
Riku glanced around with a smirk on his face, searching for the princess. He didn’t dare say it out loud in front of the alicorn’s faithful student, but he definitely came to the conclusion that Celestia was a troll or at the very least a lively prankster. “Well, going by your description, ‘liven things up a bit’ is quite the understatement. You six were sponsored party crashers.” Twilight giggled.
“You know what, I think we were.”
“A ballroom blitz,” Riku added.
“I’m not really sure what you mean by that, but I guess so.”
Riku snorted and rolled his eyes. “It’s a song by a group called Sweet. You’ll probably end up hearing it at some point while you’re with us.”
“I see,” she answered. Riku contemplated countering for a moment with the correction of ‘you’ll hear’, but decided against it. The pair exited the castle’s interior and came into a courtyard with a path that would lead away from the castle and into Canterlot proper. Riku blinked a couple of times as his eyes adjusted to the mid-afternoon sun reflecting off of the many white spires and buildings of the city below the castle.
“Where are we going anyway?” he asked.
Twilight blushed a little and looked away from him. “Just…my parents’ house…”
“I knew it.”
Sora turned away from his conversation with Rainbow Dash (after having just finished instructing her on the finer points of pirate accents) to find the owner of the nearby voice. An older pony was standing nearby, and looking at him with a somewhat smug mug. His coat and horn were mauve, his mane white and gold, and sparklingly intelligent eyes were observing Sora from over a bushy white beard. Sora almost took a step back. Ponies could have beards?
This world had achieved a new level of awesome to infuse its cuteness smoothie with.
“Knew what?” he asked.
“Uh, mind filling us in on who you are old timer?” Rainbow Dash asked. “We were kinda in the middle of a conversation here.”
“Hm…” the old unicorn replied, peering at Sora’s side. It took the Keyblade Master a second to realize that he was looking at his (blech) cutie mark. “So,” he began again with surprising energy, “how is that young rascal Yen Sid doing? Still getting into loads of mischief? I wouldn’t be surprised.”
Sora felt his jaw drop rather than do it consciously. How in the…? Roxas spluttered inside his mind. This guy knows Master Yen Sid! HOW DOES HE—?
“B-buh…wha?” Sora questioned incoherently. His ears had to be malfunctioning, or he was having a heart attack; he wasn’t sure which just yet. He thought he’d just heard this unicorn call Master Yen Sid a young rascal. Sora shook his head and punched his jaw back into its proper place with a hoof. “I’m sorry. There must be wax in my ears, because I thought I heard you say that you know Master Yen Sid.”
The unicorn smiled mischievously at him. “Of course I know him. He apprenticed under me.”
And now our jaws have been dislocated.
The pink pegasus jumped ten feet in the air at the abruptness of Sora’s shout and the Oathkeeper appeared in her mouth reflexively. “What ish it, Shora?” she asked when back on the floor again.
Sora whirled around to face her, and pointed a hoof at the elder unicorn. “This pony taught Master Yen Sid!” The Oathkeeper disappeared from Kairi’s mouth and she yelped in surprise. A short gallop later, she was right beside Sora and staring at the unicorn in awe.
“Who are you?” she asked.
“Coltinster, Headmaster of Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns,” he answered. Coltinster bowed in front of them, startling both pegasi for a moment. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Wielders of the Keyblade. I must say, I haven’t seen one of your kind since the fall of Myth Drannor.”
“Say what?” Rainbow Dash asked. “You know about the Keyblade thingy these guys have?”
“Of course,” Coltinster answered. “If you think I haven’t seen many things in my fifty winters, then you’re even younger than that filly over there.”
Sora and Kairi glanced at one another. Sora frowned. “Did you say, ‘fifty winters’? Master Yen Sid really looks a lot older than that.”
“Hm…really? I thought he would only be around thirty by now.”
Sora, Kairi, and Rainbow Dash all glanced at one another. “Are you sure you’re fifty?” the blue pegasus of the trio asked.
“Give or take a few years,” Coltinster answered, “but enough about me. If you’d like to know more, just mention ‘Shadowdale’ to Yen Sid. Now, what are your names?” he asked, looking specifically at Sora and Kairi as he said it.
“I’m Sora, this is Kairi, and the filly over there is my little sister, Rei.”
“I take it that you were all human before you arrived here,” Coltinster remarked. Sora noted that the way he said it made it much more a statement than a question. When he cocked his head to the side inquiringly, Coltinster continued. “If you had been something different, it’s likely that Equestria itself might have allowed you to keep your form. No matter, no matter, so you’re pegasi now, hmm? How does it feel to be unable to use magic?”
Kairi’s eyes widened. “We can’t use magic?”
“Of course not! Only unicorns and alicorns can actually use magic in Equestria. The magic of pegasi and earth ponies are simply inherent abilities, such as the ability of pegasi to move clouds and create weather effects, or an earth pony’s connection to the earth that helps crops grow faster and ripen quicker.”
“We can’t use magic!?” Kairi repeated. Sora could practically feel her panic setting in as she raised a hoof in front of her face. “Fire!”
No fireball began to crackle merrily above her hoof.
“Thunder! Water! Aero! Sing now the hymn of the phoenix, the eternal fires of heaven and—OW! Sora! What was that for?”
Sora snorted impatiently and lowered his hoof after whacking his girlfriend on the back of the head with it. “Kairi, if not even our simplest spells are working, what makes you think that Skyfyre would work?”
Kairi continued rubbing the back of her head and pouted. “I’m sorry, but I was panicking. You know how much I use both magic and the Keyblade when fighting.”
Sora sighed. “Well, at least we know this now and didn’t discover it in a fight.” The words had hardly left his mouth before he started wanting to kick himself. He could feel Roxas mentally doing the same.
Could you be any dumber?
“Open mouth, insert foot. Open mouth, insert foot. Open mouth, insert foot,” he grumbled to himself. A few seconds passed and Sora looked up and around. Heartless had yet to appear. All was still well. “Woo-hoo! And Murphy’s Law has been disproven.”
And… Roxas drawled in anticipation, wait for it…Heartless! Sora glanced around. There was still no sign of the denizens of darkness. Huh, I guess you really did disprove Murphy’s Law.
He looked down at Rei as she trotted towards him. “What is it Rei?”
“Um, well, do you think I could go visit Trixie?” she asked. “I think she might be a little lonely, being all by herself in the hospital part of the castle while the rest of us are here.” Sora smiled at her and rubbed her blonde mane with a hoof. Rei shied away slightly at the gesture, but laughed through it all the same.
“Go ahead,” he agreed. “I think she might like that.”
Rei beamed. “Thank you onii-chan!” Rainbow Dash snorted as the filly galloped off.
“Obviously you don’t know The Great and Powerful Trixie,” she disagreed. “I doubt she’d really be happy to see a little filly right now.”
“You don’t know that Rainbow Dash,” Kairi told the other pegasus. “Besides, wasn’t she a performer? Wouldn’t she like having the attention of a kid?”
Applejack came over to their group. “Ah don’t know Kairi,” she said. “Trixie wasn’t too fond of Snips and Snails being her adoring fans.”
Coltinster began stroking his beard with a hoof. “Pardon my asking,” he broke in again, “but what brings Keyblade Wielders to Equestria?”
“We’re gathering the Guardians of Magic,” Sora answered simply, “but you might know them as the Keepers of the Art.” Coltinster’s eyes widened. The pony’s face suddenly dropped into a serious expression.
“For what reason?” His voice was flat, but his eyes burned. He advanced slowly when Sora and Kairi did not immediately answer, and his voice rose just as slowly as his steps; the tone grew out of deadpan towards borderline malice. “I hope it isn’t for using them in order to locate or summon powerful artefacts of magic from days long past that are better left forgotten, or to clear out the sacred halls of those long dead to plunder their secrets, or wage war on the heavens and gods themselves, because if it is, I’ll have to take measures to ensure the safety of my former student.”
Not once had he shouted, but Sora was almost quivering beneath those smouldering eyes as if the old pony had been bellowing loudly enough to put him into a coma. C’mon Sora, he pep-talked to himself, pull it together! You’ve fought Xemnas, two Titans, Cerberus, crossed blades with Sephiroth, and fought the God of the Dead. He’s just a unicorn! Man up!
Suddenly he saw Coltinster as an opponent, and he dropped his face into the serious expression he unconsciously always took on whenever Heartless reared their heads. “No,” he declared. “We’re gathering them so that someone else can’t.”
“And perhaps threaten the whole universe by having them all at your fingertips?” Coltinster pressed.
“Lay off Sora!” Kairi snapped. “We’re getting them to prevent our enemies from doing the same; guys who are using the Heartless to get what they want. There, you happy now?”
“Heartless?” Coltinster asked. “You mean the Shadows?”
A familiar dreadful sound entered Sora’s ears and he turned around. He flattened his ears and glared at the whorls of darkness that were now appearing in the room. Pinkie Pie and Spike both screamed as a Soldier appeared out of one of them, clacking in its iron-shod boots and helmet. More Soldiers popped out of the others, and two of the Heartless were a kind he hadn’t seen before. They were about twice the size of the ponies, and mostly coloured black as the mantle of the night sky. Their transparent bodies had the pinpricks of shining red stars within them, and they had the bodies of bears with unicorn horns. Dark purple spines pierced their backsides from the base of the neck to their stubby tails. Eyes of malevolent yellow shone from their heads, and the Heartless emblem was emblazoned just beneath the horn. One Draco Ursa hissed at Sora, revealing a forked tongue between rows of sharp canines.
“We mean these guys,” Sora said.
Shorter chapter, and we get a bit of a cliffhanger here, don’t we? Well, at least things are heating up in Equestria.