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WednesdayScratching My Head13 comments · 76 views
I just read a critique of My Roommate is a Vampire, and one of the commenters mentioned that they thought Octavia was out of character in the story.
Is that possible? Can Octavia be out of character? I mean, as long as it's consistent within the story?
18 comments · 107 views
As I’ve said before, I’m a very slow consumer of media. You know that song you’re sick of? I’ve probably never heard it. Your favorite video game? I probably haven’t played it. All those movies at the Oscars? I’ve never seen any of them. I tend to live in my own brain because I’m too poor (cheap) to afford easy access to these things, and I don’t have the motivation to figure out torrents and the like.
What happens because of this is that I see just a few movies a year, and they tend to be older. Something my wife and I can pick up at the store on sale. A few weeks ago, she picked up Frozen and Brave. I watched both last night, and kinda wished I hadn’t by the end of things.
Brave was firmly okay. Not great, but not actively bad. I was caught a little off-guard by the thrust of the film. I was fully on board up until the bearification, and from that point on, the film became a baffling series of weird decisions by the characters.
One of the things this movie does that I detest is that it highjacks Merida’s character for the sake of convenient plot. When meeting with the witch, she makes sure to give her a very vague idea of what she wants. The movie tries to set this up with earlier snippets of dialogue, but I don’t buy it at all. Merida is a headstrong teenage girl who knows exactly what is bothering her: She doesn’t want to get married. Yes, I know it’s deeper than that, but the marriage is the primary concern. But she doesn’t ask the witch to make is so that she doesn’t have to get married. She asks her for the very broad “I want a spell that will change my mom. That will change my fate.”
This does not sound to me like natural phrasing. It feels like the script’s author is trying to be clever about things. Contrast this with the wish Geppetto is granted at the beginning of Pinocchio. Geppetto is a lonely man, and when granted a wish, he knows exactly what he wants. He doesn’t ask for something vague. He wants his creation to be a real boy, not for his creation “to experience life.” Aladdin doesn’t as the genie to “change my life somehow.” He wishes to be a prince. Ursula tempts Ariel by saying she can transform her into a human, not that she could give her something the prince might like. She’s very direct about it.
So when Merida meets a weird stranger in the woods, doesn’t worry at all that the witch might not have the best intentions or if she even knows what she’s doing, then gives her an obviously vague set of instructions, it makes me roll my eyes. It’s established early on that Merida is at least somewhat enamored with magic, but come on. With that kind of set up, you either make me question the writers of the character herself. Either the writer is being lazy or the character is kind of dumb. I don’t like either of those options. It think it would have been better to introduce the witch a little earlier. Merida could have heard her offer and refused, then caved when things were looking bad for her. It would have felt a lot more natural to me than just taking the word of some bizarre stranger that she just met all of a sudden.
The mother is shockingly okay with becoming a bear. I mean, she’s obviously concerned, but they kind of play it mostly like, “Gosh! Isn’t this very awkward?” rather than “Holy shit, my daughter just completely ruined my life!” Not that I wanted it to fully swing in that direction, but it felt odd to me.
Then when it’s found out that they have two days, they basically spend the first one bonding. That’s nice and all, but, um, your… your mom’s a bear, Merida. Like, she’s going to be permanently a bear really soon. Some urgency in the solving the bear problem would be nice.
This film also has a pet peeve of mine going on: People not listening to extremely shocking news. Merida tells her father repeated that the bear is her mother. She’s in a room in the castle… with a bear… that is not mauling her… telling her father that it is her enchanted mother… and he never stops and says, “Wait, what?” I know that they said he doesn’t believe in magic, but that’s just defying any level of rational curiosity.
My last real gripe with the film is the mending the tapestry thing. The idea of that is fine, but why on earth would they try and get back into the castle? Have Merida go in and get it. They can mend it outside! Have the boys sneak it out! Yes, I know they were bearified at the time, but Merida didn’t know that. Not that it impeded them in any way. Tell a guard to go and get it. She’s still the princess. Anything other than “Let’s drag a huge bear through a castle filled with people that like to kill bears.”
Besides story structure, there was a lot to like about the film. The voice acting was top notch. Character design was appealing. The humor was generally good. I loved Merida’s hair, especially when she was a little girl. I was deeply enchanted by the way she said, “I missed” right at the beginning of the story.
Overall, I liked this film, but I liked it less than I expected. I was completely caught off guard by the bear thing. I was expecting a heroic journey kind of thing. I don’t really mind that they went in another direction, but it was surprising. My quibbles with the movie are more based in details than the overall plot.
If you haven’t seen this film, I think it’s worth checking out, but it isn’t Pixar’s best.
On the other hand, I thought Frozen was actively bad. It seems like this movie needs a director’s cut or something, because there seemed to be whole swatches of information missing. The trolls just, um, keep Kristoff? And no one cares? Anna never gets to see her sister, and her parents don’t have some kind of rationale for that? How does Anna know where Elsa is when she flees the city? How did the snowman get into the castle to free Anna? Just on and on. I kept watching and thinking, “Wait, how…?”
I didn’t particularly care for any of the songs except for Let It Go. I just found the music in the whole thing to be generally lackluster.
Lots and lots of plothole and contrivance in Frozen. Way too many to just wave off as “Well, no film is perfect.” For example, Elsa wants solitude and can control ice in cold to such a degree that she can make a pretty fantastic castle up on a mountain. A castle with a huge friggin’ door that everyone can come in through. All the people that she doesn’t want to see. Just a parade of people coming through those doors…
Or, um, isn’t there a regent or a chancellor or something in the kingdom? The parents died pretty early on, and it’s pretty obvious that the girls weren’t running things, so why is control giving to some random dude that showed up all of a sudden. Granted, he’s apparently a prince from some neighboring place, so I guess he has cred(?), but that’s just a bizarre thing for everyone else to accept.
But mostly I felt like Frozen was a collection of good scenes that weren’t held together very well. Watching any scene by itself, I’m sure I’d like it, but it rarely felt to me that one scene was a logical progression from the one before it.
Also on display here was some writer contrivance that I can’t stand. For example, Kristoff and Anna show up to meet the trolls, and this whole scene is a nightmare to me, but what I gritted my teeth at is that the trolls are in rock mode when they show up and stay that was for no good reason other to allow Olaf and Anna to have a joke-y scene where Kristoff is talking to rocks. Exactly why are they just standing stock still and not responding? I don’t know, I have no good explanation other than “Well, it wouldn’t be funny if they didn’t.” Then we get into a song about marriage that doesn’t really serve any purpose.
Now, I’ve always said that I don’t mind if a story meanders off from the main plot for a while, and I stick by that, but the caveat is that it must be entertaining. Douglas Adams is the master of that, in my opinion. He can write things that are basically totally irrelevant to the plot of the story, but are wildly fun to read about. Probably a quarter of the Hitchhiker books are useless errata, but we love them for it.
That’s the problem here for me. We go off on this marriage song and dance, but it didn’t entertain me at all. That’s just a personal opinion, of course. Given this movie’s success, I’m probably in the minority about that scene, but it was like nails on a chalkboard to me.
I could go on and on about the storytelling problems in that movie, but I’m sure you get the gist of it by now. There is a school of writing where the author moves the plot along by what seems to be the first thing that comes to mind. In MLP terms, this is kind of what Merriweather Williams seems to do. Bats! relentlessly moves forward, ignoring much better, completely obvious solutions. Frozen suffers from this, though it’s considerably better than Bats! Much, much better. However, I still got the feeling that someone would say, “But why didn’t the parents have some explanation as to why their eldest daughter is a recluse” and the room would go quiet for a moment, then someone would finally say, “Oh, whatever. It’s just a kid’s movie.”
And if you don’t think that happens, think again. I have a friend that works for Hasbro, and he has lots of stories about execs using the “Whatever, it’s just for kids” line. Tangentially related to that is his many stories he has about how dumb they think that kids are. Lots of decisions and discussions where he has to argue not to assume kids don’t understand a single thing.
Back to Frozen. It’s not all bad. The character designs were nice. The animation was pretty good, though at certain points it had this kind of bizarre stop motion feel. I happen to love stop motion, so I was good with that, but it was a little strange to get that stuttering effect all of a sudden. I kept wondering if my blu-ray copy was messed up somehow. It felt very Rankin Bass at times. And like I said, the individual scenes themselves often were satisfying to watch.
Overall, I just can’t recommend Frozen. I enjoy lots of flawed movies, but this one just had too many of the things that specifically irritate me. It’s a smash-hit, though, so my opinion should be taken with a huge grain of salt. I’m definitely not the target audience, it would seem.
1w, 1dShut Up, Brain!8 comments · 61 views
It's really annoying when you have what should be a passing idea that becomes a permanent, insistent idea. I was talking with Steel Resolve the other day, and he was lamenting the dearth of Fluttershy/Rarity romance stories. Mostly joking, I told him that I'm going to write him one some day, and that it would suck, but I'd write it for him all the same.
Strange thing is, I can't quit thinking about it!
Now let's break down why this is ridiculous:
1) I don't have any freakin' time. Seriously, I just semi-retired because I can't get three seconds together to write.
2) Fluttershy is not a favorite of mine. I don't particularly care for writing her.
3) I've tried to write romance several times. It's never really come together, besides what I write with Steel. I'm going to have to give him most of the credit on that one.
4) Every idea that I have for it is miserably sad.
All of this points to it being a horrible idea, but my mind is fixated on it for some reason. I should probably just bang out a chapter so that I can look at it and say, "Oh, yeah. That's bad. Let's throw that in a drawer where no one will see it again."
But it's something about challenge. I have all these great ideas that I think people will like and that I know I'll enjoy writing, but they aren't as challenging as writing a miserable romance about a character that I don't like in a genre that is my weakest. So my interest is all piqued. It crowds out all the thoughts that I need, and I find my imagination playing out scenes of a story I don't want to be working on.
Why, brain? Why?!
1w, 5dIt's My Cheeri-versary!26 comments · 133 views
2w, 1dStory Recommendation #32 comments · 57 views
Wow. It's been a long time since I've read a story that I liked well enough to recommend. Yeesh.
So let's discuss Spring is Dumb by HoofbitingActionOverload. As is the case with these things, I'm going to try to avoid spoilers, but what is below this might contain them. Consider yourself warned! Warned, I say!
This is a romantic comedy, and romance really isn't my genre. I like the idea of it, but I find most stories to be generally overwrought, and no category has more offenders in that department than romance. And that's precisely what makes this story nice. The romance in it felt very natural to me.
Less natural was the comedy. Now don't get me wrong. This story is funny enough to get a couple of actual laughs out of me. I almost never actually laugh out loud. It's more of a mental registry that something is, indeed, funny. My mind makes a little mental checkmark, but it doesn't usually translate into a smile or a chuckle. This story did a time or two, and for that, I applaud it.
However, that didn't stop it from feeling like it was clubbing me on the head with the premise from time to time. There is a certain repetition that is going on in the story for comedic effect, but there is a fine line between 'still funny' and 'getting old.' Toward the middle of the story, I was starting to get pretty tired of the schtick, but the great thing is that the story also mostly does away with it at that point, too. Not quite quickly enough for me, but I'm prickly and easily irritated, so for most readers, it will probably be right in the sweet spot.
One thing that I really liked here is that this is a comedy with romantic elements, and that really lets the romance at the end have greater impact. It sets up the conclusion well, then delivers because you're ready for that change of pace. I think the instinct on it was good.
Occasionally, the narrative voicing falls off track, but it's a rare problem. Once or twice, HBAO has Rainbow think things that are humorous, but not really something that Rainbow would think. Then he kind of has Rainbow point that out to herself, but that's a false joke in my book. You can't have someone think about how they'd never actually think like that. But like I said, it's a nit-pick, not a recurrent thing.
I was left wondering why it was divided up into two chapters. I didn't see the need to break up the flow.
In the end, I found myself really enjoying this one. It's not perfect, but who knows more about Not Perfect fics than me? Eh? Eh?!
No one, that's who.
But the comedy hit its marks quite a bit of the time, and the romance was heartwarming. That seems like a win in my book.
The horseshoe made a precise parabolic arc as it traveled toward the metal stake at the other end of the pit. Catching the pole with eerie precision, the shoe spun around it several times, then landed in the sand with a thud.
While Twilight applauded, Applejack polished a hoof against her chest. "Heh-heh! That's how it's done, sugarcube." She scooped up another shoe and held it out for Twilight. "Your turn."
Twilight tossed the shoe from hoof to hoof. "Hmmm, this is a little over a pound, I believe. Applejack, how much force would you say that you used just now?"
Applejack scratched behind her ear. "Uh…"
"We can figure this out mathematically!" Twilight began to frantically scratch equations into the dirt. Eyes alight, she stopped writing just long enough to beam at Applejack. "Oh, this is going to be so much fun!"
Rolling her eyes, Applejack put a hoof over the rapidly lengthening formula. "Don't get yourself all worked up. Just get to the line and pitch it."
Twilight bit her lip, then tentatively picked up the shoe again. "Well, okay. Here goes." She focused on the metal stake some thirty feet away. Swallowing hard, Twilight made a quick calculation and hurled the shoe into the air.
"Well, uh… that was a... a mighty fine try," Applejack said in a strained voice, which, to Twilight, sounded suspiciously like a mare that was trying not to laugh. The shoe had landed roughly four feet in front of the furiously blushing unicorn, who kicked a pile of loose sand at it.
"It's your 'no magic' rule!" Twilight said with a hoofstomp. "It would be like you trying to throw these horseshoes with your back legs instead of your front! It just feels all wrong!"
Applejack slammed her back hoof down on a nearby horseshoe and sent it spinning into the air. With a fluid grace that Twilight had so often envied, Applejack kicked out with her other leg and hit the spinning shoe. It sailed over the pit and landed on top of her first. While the metal pole chimed softly, Applejack grinned and cocked her eyebrow. "Like that?"
"Okay, maybe that was a bad example," Twilight said as she glared at the quivering pole, "but what I'm trying to say is that I use magic for most things. I'm at a severe disadvantage!" Twilight dropped her eyes to the sand and rubbed a hoof against her foreleg.
Applejack's expression softened, and she threw a leg around Twilight's shoulders. "Okay, I get it. It's a big piece of who you are," she said, drawing Twilight close with a little squeeze, "but you can't rely on magic for everythin'. Some things just gotta be done the old-fashioned way." Applejack thrust Twilight's second shoe into her hooves and pointed at the far pit. "So here's the new rule: you can use your magic to pitch the shoe, but you can't just, you know, float it over there and whatnot."
"That's very fair of you, Applejack," Twilight said with a relieved grin. Her magic aura shimmered around the shoe, and she lifted it into the air. With a rare display of competitiveness, Twilight quickly trotted to the line. "Now we'll see who throws the best horseshoes in Equestria!"
"Pitches," Applejack said.
Twilight hesitated for a moment, her brow furrowing. "Huh?"
"You don't throw horseshoes. You pitch 'em."
Twilight gave Applejack a wink, then sighted the distant stake through the hovering tines. "Pitches, then." With a small grunt, Twilight gathered her will and hurled the shoe.
Both ponies gasped when it cleared the pit and disappeared off into the sky. Twilight's rear legs gave way, and she sat down hard in the soft sand. Her mouth worked wordlessly as she glanced back and forth between Applejack and the spot on the horizon that had last held the shoe.
Applejack pulled her hat down low, hiding her eyes, then collapsed into a fit of laughter. "Well—hah, hah! I reckon—hah—you sure did show us all—hee-hee—who pitches 'em best 'round these parts!" she said while clutching her sides and rolling in the lush grass.
"Applejack! Hey, Applejack!" Apple Bloom's sweet voice echoed down at them as she burst out of a nearby barn. "Big Mac says to remind you that Mrs. Cake's comin' to pick them apples up today!" Twilight could hear Apple Bloom's large bow flapping in the light breeze while she ran to meet them, but the little filly pulled up short when she saw the unicorn's frown.
Apple Bloom's questioning gaze traveled back and forth between the pair while Applejack struggled back to her hooves. "Uh, what's goin' on, Sis?"
"Oh, I'm just teachin' Twilight here the ins 'n' outs of horseshoes. She's, uh… She's got quite a pitch." Applejack covered her mouth with a hoof but couldn't quite contain some of the residual sniggers.
Twilight sighed and hung her head.
"Never you mind, Twilight." Applejack patted friend's back. "All you need is some practice. It ain't like I was born that good at horseshoes. Why, when I was a filly, Big Mac used to win every game we played!"
Apple Bloom squinted up at her sister. "Applejack, Big Mac still wins every game you play!"
"Hey! Who asked you?" Applejack scooped up Apple Bloom and rubbed her hoof playfully into her little sister's head.
"No! Argh! Lemme go!" Apple Bloom shrieked. Soon, they were both laughing so hard that it was all Applejack could do to keep her sister from escaping. After a few more rubs, she finally allowed Apple Bloom to wiggle free.
"Thanks for remindin' me, Sis. Oh, look at you." Quick as lightning, Applejack nabbed her wiggling sister again and straightened her battered bow. "I plumb forgot about Mrs. Cake. Could I get you to give me a hoof, Twilight?"
"Of course,"Twilight replied. She turned to follow Apple Bloom to the barn, but Applejack jumped in front of them and towered menacingly before her sister.
Apple Bloom took a cautious step backward. "Uh…"
"But first, do you think you can escape—" Applejack rose onto her hind legs and pawed at the air with claw-like swipes "—the dragon's tail?"
Apple Bloom's eyes gleamed. "Can I? That dragon ain't caught me once!" Twilight couldn't suppress a grin as Applejack spun this way and that. The quick turns sent her tail whipping around and around, and Apple Bloom deftly jumped over each swipe while laughing hysterically. Soon, both were taking turns giggling and panting.
"Come on, y'all," Applejack said, still sucking in huge breaths. "Let's get over to the storehouse and meet Mrs. Cake."
"That'll be forty bits, ma'am," Applejack said while counting out the succulent fruit that Mrs. Cake had chosen, "and I'll throw in this basket of apples, too. They're a little on the ripe side, so if they don't get used soon, they're just gonna go to waste."
"Oh, thank you so much, Applejam," Mrs. Cake replied, gazing out the window toward town. Without pulling her eyes from the distant Ponyville skyline, she retrieved a small bag from her pack. Applejack's left eyebrow inched its way up her forehead as Mrs. Cake missed the counter several times before finally managing to drop the bag in front of her. The bag landed awkwardly, and its contents spilled across the counter with a soft hiss.
Applejack frowned at the counter, then cleared her throat. "Uh, Mrs. Cake, I'm afraid I can't take this as payment."
For a moment, Mrs. Cake stared down at the small pile of festive, multi-colored sprinkles that was slowly spreading from her bag, then tapped herself on the forehead with with the tip of her hoof. "Oh, Applejack, I'm so sorry. It's just that my mind is on the Summer's End Festival. Carrot and I have still have so much to do." Mrs. Cake bit her lower lip and trembled. "So very much... "
In a burst of startling speed, Mrs. Cake lunged forward and leaned over the counter, pulling at her mane with both front hooves. "You have to help me! I'm at my wit's end!"
"Whoa, there. Of course we'll help you out!" Applejack threw out a restraining hoof in an attempt to keep Mrs. Cake from ripping any more of her mane out.
Twilight magically scooped the sprinkles back into the bag and placed it into Mrs. Cake's pack. "What's happened, Mrs. Cake?" Twilight gently rubbed the baker's back in what she hoped was a soothing manner.
Mrs. Cake closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths before continuing. "As you know, Princess Celestia has chosen Ponyville to host the Summer's End Festival this year. The princess herself asked if Sugarcube Corner could provide the desserts. Carrot and I have put off the preparations for as long as we can."
Her ears drooping, Mrs. Cake poked at the hard-packed dirt floor of the storehouse with a hoof. "You girls have a lot of adventures, and… well, that gets Pinkie out of the shop for a while." Mrs. Cake snapped her head back up so suddenly that both Applejack and Twilight jumped. The baker's eyes filled with tears. "But I guess you've had a quiet week!"
Twilight shot Applejack a mystified glance and received a shrug in return. "I-I don't get it." She dipped her head down to look into Mrs. Cake's downcast eyes. "You can't bake because we aren't off fighting dragons or parasprites or something?"
Mrs. Cake blinked back the tears and blushed while trying to avoid Twilight's probing gaze. "No. I can't bake because Pinkie will eat it all!" Still rubbing the baker's back, Twilight stumbled when Mrs. Cake suddenly broke into a trotting pace in front of the storehouse counter. "On a normal day, I could make some extras. They'd hold Pinkie over, but I don't have any additional time with an order this large! Every cupcake is important! I can't even lose one!"
When Mrs. Cake fetched a lace handkerchief from her pack, Applejack took it from her shaking hoof and gently dabbed at the mare's eyes. "Aw, shucks, Mrs. Cake. Everythin's gonna come out okay. Just tell Pinkie to cool it for a while. It ain't gonna do her no harm to hold off on stuffin' her face for today."
"You have no idea what goes on at Sugarcube Corner." Mrs. Cake hooked Twilight and Applejack around their necks and dragged them in close. The baker's wildly darting eyes were so wide that Twilight could count out the capillaries. "No idea! Pinkie means well, but she doesn't have any control. I don't even know if she realizes that she's eating the food we bake. I've had her solemnly swear to me that she won't touch anything while eating the biggest, most important cake on the table. It's a battlefield!"
Mrs. Cake released the two ponies and ran to the large double door to stare out toward Ponyville once more. "She's probably eating right now! I'm sure of it! Right now, she has her head in the sugar!" Mrs. Cake rounded suddenly on Applejack and Twilight, who were both still rubbing their somewhat sore necks. "Do you hear me?! She's eating all the sugar!" Twilight and Applejack both moved to comfort the distraught mare as she collapsed into sobs.
Twilight leaned in and cupped her hoof around Applejack's ear. "We have to do something! The festival's tonight!"
Wrapping her strong legs around Mrs. Cake, Applejack hauled her back to her hooves. "Aw, don't cry. I reckon we can help you out. Gettin' Pinkie outta your mane for a few hours shouldn't be too hard," Applejack loaded one of Mrs. Cake's boxes of supplies into her nearby wagon. "We'll get her outta the shop, and y'all can have some peace while you whip up all them yummy treats."
Mrs. Cake wiped her streaming eyes, then attempted to mold her hair back into place. "Oh, I'm so sorry, girls. What you must think of me," she said after sniffling out the last few tears. "Anyway, I can't thank you enough. You have no idea how much this means to us!"
The bell over the door in Sugarcube Corner tinkled merrily when the three ponies entered. All around them, succulent pies and delicious cakes beckoned from the tidy display cases. After all the time that Twilight had spent in Ponyville, she always thought that she must have sampled everything, but each visit still brought delectable surprises. Twilight and Applejack stopped to take it all in, just as they had done countless times in the past, and they grinned at each other when both of their stomachs growled.
Mr. Cake stood, fidgeting, beside the batwing doors that led into the meticulously maintained kitchen. "It's awfully quiet in there," he said while gnawing at his hoof, "and with Pinkie, well, that's usually a bad sign."
Trotting up, Mrs. Cake gave him a quick peck. "What's she doing, sugar-bun?"
Mr. Cake dropped his eyes to the floor with a sigh. "I'm afraid to even look."
Applejack bumped Twilight with her hip, then nodded toward the kitchen. "We better get a move on. No sense drawin' it out when these two got so much work to do. The sooner we get Pinkie outta here, the sooner Ponyville can eat!"
When Twilight cleared her throat, the Cakes looked up in unison. "Don't worry about a thing. We're on the case!" She motioned for Applejack to follow, then made her way through the doors into the spotless kitchen. She'd always admired this room. It appealed to her sense of organization. Everything here was in its proper place.
Everything except for Pinkie Pie, who sat, still as a statue, with her eyes locked on the bakery's back door. Applejack waved her hoof in front of Pinkie's eyes while Twilight examined the door and tried to puzzle out what had her friend so captivated. After several minutes of pointed throat-clearing, Twilight finally threw her hooves into the air. "Pinkie, what in the wide, wide world of Equestria are you doing?"
Pinkie blinked several times before finally focusing on her friends. "Oh, hey guys! When did you get here?" Pinkie beamed at them briefly before turning back. "Wanna help me keep watch?" she said, leaning into the task.
Applejack plopped down next to Pinkie. Scratching her head, she alternated between staring at her friend and the door. "Okay, I give up. What are you watchin', exactly?"
A slow grin stretched across Pinkie's face. "When I woke up this morning, I had a thought! Well, it was more of a dream! So I—"
"Wait a minute." Twilight's forehead wrinkled as she tried to follow Pinkie's twisting logic. "You had a dream after you woke up?"
Pinkie's grin somehow expanded, and she gave the door an extra-hard stare. "Well, yeah! I was so excited to be awake for another new day that I bounded out of bed, and when I bounded, I hit my head on the ceiling. Then I took another quick nap. That's when I had my thought, or dream, or thream!" Pinkie rapidly bounced in place without taking her eyes from the door. "It happens most mornings!"
Twilight blinked a few times, working it out in her head. "So you usually hit your head first thing getting out of bed?" She craned her neck to nonchalantly scan Pinkie's scalp for visible bruises or abrasions.
"Yup!" Pinkie replied merrily. "My ceiling's full of holes."
Applejack cupped Twilight's ear with her hoof. "Actually, that explains a lot."
Twilight nodded slowly.
"So, anyway, I thought to myself, 'Pinkie, why don't birds ever fly east for the winter?' and I decided to come ask Mrs. Cake if she knew, 'cause she likes birds, but she'd left already. Mr. Cake said he didn't know either, plus he was busy playing that game where he barricades the kitchen and I gotta get through all his obstacles. I love that one! But when I did, something about this door caught my eye, or... or my teeth, I guess. They're all itchy, and you know what that means!"
Applejack scratched behind her ear. "Uh... maybe you could remind us?"
Pinkie shot to her hooves, and her tail straightened into a quivering line as she forcefully pointed toward the door with her nose. "It means something big is gonna happen with this door today. I just know it! In fact, I can almost taste it!"
Applejack tapped the door with the back of one hoof while pinching the bridge of her nose with the other. "It's just a door. Come on. Twilight and I are, uh, goin' to see Fluttershy." Pinkie's concentration didn't seem to waver, but she did rotate her ears toward Applejack, who broke into a wide smile. "Yup, off to see Fluttershy, and we want you to come with us. Then you can ask her about the birds! Ain't nopony better at knowin' animals than Fluttershy."
"That's a great idea!" Twilight clapped her hooves. "It'll be so educational!"
Pinkie frowned and waved them off with a hoof. "Nah, you girls go ahead. I want to see how things pan out with this door."
Applejack's smile faltered. "Now see here, Pinkie. We ain't gonna let you spend a beautiful summer day inside starin' at doors. Come on now." Applejack stepped in front of Pinkie and tried to cover her eyes with a hoof.
"How…?" Twilight's mouth fell open. Pinkie's neck seemed to stretch impossibly as she maneuvered her head this way and that to see the door. Twilight wondered for the hundredth time if Pinkie didn't have some unicorn blood in her family tree while Applejack attempted use her hat on Pinkie as a blinder. After Pinkie pushed the hat away for the third time, Applejack gave Twilight a helpless shrug.
"There's no way I'm taking my eyes off this door!" Pinkie's whole body quivered with enthusiasm. "Something exciting's gonna happen, and I'm gonna be here to see it!"
Twilight and Applejack shared a glance and nodded to each other. "Pinkie Pie, this is for your own good." Together, they put their heads against Pinkie's barrel and pushed, but started at the sounds of their hooves scraping across the wooden floor. They were walking in place and hadn't budged Pinkie an inch.
Applejack leaned in close to Twilight. "Alright, looks like we're gonna have to do this the hard way. When I count to three, we tackle her and get her on outta here."
Twilight rubbed a hoof inside her ear where Applejack's breath had tickled her, then nodded. "Got it." When Applejack retreated a few steps, Twilight followed just behind. Tackling ponies wasn't exactly her specialty, and she did her best to copy Applejack's form.
"One... Two… Three!"
The pair leapt, but at the last moment, Pinkie rotated the back half of her body toward them. With a surprised cry, they rebounded off of her springy, curly tail and landed in a heap in the corner. Twilight and Applejack stared at each other and sighed.
"Well, that went well," Applejack said as she helped Twilight back to her hooves. "What do we do now? We gotta get Pinkie to forget about that door!"
Twilight frowned and tapped her hoof on the kitchen's well-worn floor for a few moments. Applejack was just opening her mouth when a slow smile stretched across the unicorn's face. "Maybe not! I mean, she isn't destroying the kitchen in a desperate cupcake hunt, is she?" Twilight paced back and forth while her idea took shape. "If we leave her in this… what is this, exactly? A trance?"
"Well, whatever it is, it seems the pies and pastries here are safe as long as Pinkie is occupied with that door." Twilight pulled Applejack in close and whispered, "I have an idea. Just go with it."
Twilight trotted over to Pinkie, where she made a show of examining her own hooves for dirt or rocks. "So that's the plan then, Pinkie?" she said in a light, conversational tone. "You're just going to watch the door no matter what?"
"Yup, though it's really more of an obsession at this point," Pinkie replied. It had been so long since Pinkie had blinked that Twilight could feel her own eyes drying out in sympathy.
"Well, I guess Applejack and I will just have to keep you company." Twilight concentrated for a moment. Shimmering, purple energy erupted from her horn, then enveloped the baker's rear door. "We'll just—"
With a loud crack, the door pulled free from the wall, jamb and all.
Twilight blanched and bit her lip, her eyes darting between the swinging doors that led into Sugarcube Corner's customer counter and Pinkie. Did the Cakes hear that? Oh, why do I always use too much force?
Applejack removed her hat and twisted it in her hooves repeatedly while she surveyed the ragged hole. "Twilight, you busted up their wall!"
"I know, I know!" Twilight hissed back. "I was rushing! But we can fix this later!" Twilight and Applejack trotted to the hole and peeked outside where a few ponies had stopped to find out what was going on. "It'll make the kitchen a bit draftier, but at least the Cakes can get started when we get Pinkie out of here." Twilight nodded her head repeatedly toward the hole while she spoke.
Applejack tore her eyes from the gaping hole and cleared her throat. "Pinkie, if you reckon this door is important, then, uh, your obsession's our obsession. We can't let you face this one alone." She jammed her hat back on the wrong way around before quickly correcting it. Her hooves were still shaking, but she motioned for Twilight to get going.
Twilight tried to ignore the curious gazes of passersby while she carefully threading the door through the hole and backed out onto the street. Pinkie trotted after her, staying as close to the door as she could manage.
"Wait, where are you going with that?" Mr. Cake, who had just poked his head into the kitchen, reached out after them with a trembling hoof.
"No time to explain!" Applejack shouted back over her shoulder. "Don't worry! We'll fix this right up when we get back!"
Twilight walked beside Pinkie and steered the door along the street while Applejack trotted a few lengths ahead to clear the way. The unicorn found herself shaking her head at Pinkie, who still had her eyes stubbornly locked on the door, muttering, "Anytime now. Aaaaaaaany time."
Even catching a glimpse of Pinkie's red, swollen eyes made Twilight's itch terribly. She's going to hurt herself! Using her magic as a ladle, she scooped a few drops of water from Ponyville's creek and slowly dripped them into Pinkie's irritated eyes.
Ahead, Applejack added a casual spring into her step when nearby ponies stopped their errands to stare at the strange trio marching by. She tipped her hat to the nearest gawker. "Howdy, Daisy. Nice day, ain't it?"
Daisy's eyebrows knitted together, and she glanced from the door to Applejack and back again. "So nice that you decided to take your door for a walk?"
Nearby, Lily shifted her groceries into her saddlebags and pointed at the door. "Yeah. What are you doing?"
Applejack's eyes darted back and forth, and bead of sweat slid down her brow. "Um..."
Twilight's smile was a little too wide when she caught up to Applejack. "We're, uh, in a… parade! Yup, a parade for Summer's End—" She put a hoof on Applejack's rump and gently prodded her into motion again "—and we have to keep moving!" Applejack and Twilight quickened their pace while Lily and Daisy traded bewildered glances.
"Thanks for stopping by!" Pinkie called back just before the trio turned a corner. "I'll tell Mr. and Mrs. Cake that you two were in!"
Twilight crested the hill outside the town's limits and breathed a sigh of relief. From here, she could see Fluttershy's cottage, and the road seemed mercifully free of curious ponies. They'd somehow managed to run into Time Turner, Mayor Mare, and Sassaflash on their way here, and she was running out of excuses.
"Did you hear them ponies?" Applejack threw a frown back toward Ponyville. "Land sake, you'd think they'd never seen a door before."
Falling back onto her haunches, Twilight wiped away the light layer of sweat that had beaded on her brow. "I know, but at least they didn't snap Pinkie out of… well, whatever you'd call this." She gave Pinkie a few gentle pokes. Generally, her friend would have at least let out a giggling snort, but besides casually pushing Twilight's hoof away, Pinkie didn't seem to notice at all.
Applejack rolled her eyes. "I'd call it about the most ridiculous thing I've been involved in for a mighty long time."
Twilight nodded and climbed back to her hooves, and then paused. "What was that?" she asked. Her eyes slowly scanned the nearby Everfree Forest's treeline.
"What was what, Twi?" Applejack squinted in the general direction that Twilight was facing. "I don't see nothin'."
"I... just thought I heard something. Like... like wings flapping." Twilight hefted the door into the air again, then checked the road one more time. "It was probably just geese. Looks like it's all clear from here! Let's get to Fluttershy's while nopony's around."
Fluttershy was sitting on her stoop, eyes locked on her front door, and picking absently at a few blades of grass when her friends trotted up. "Hi," she sighed in a melancholy voice.
Twilight shot a questioning glance to Applejack, who shrugged one shoulder in return. "Fluttershy, please don't tell me that you're staring at your door," Twilight said after a lengthy silence.
"Yes." Fluttershy hung her head. "I've been staring at it for most of the morning."
Twilight threw her hooves up over her head. "What is going on today? Why is everypony staring at doors?"
When Fluttershy finally turned, Twilight could see the tracks of dried tears matting the fur under her eyes. "Well, you see, I want to go in this door, but I can't." Fluttershy picked off the last blade of grass and twisted it absently between her hooves. "I was at the river this morning leading the ducks through guided meditation." Fluttershy threw the grass away and pointed to the door. "When I got back, this was here."
Twilight's face flushed a deep purple. A familiar horseshoe was embedded deeply in Fluttershy's doorframe. Beside her, Applejack put a hoof over her mouth to stifle her welling laughter.
Rising up onto her hind legs, Fluttershy yanked at the shoe. "I've tried tugging and crying, pulling and crying, prying and crying, and just plain crying, but nothing has worked." She released the shoe and slowly trudged off into her yard. "Maybe I'll just move in with the chickens."
"For pony's sake, if you needed help, why didn't you just ask somepony?" Applejack said as she trotted after Fluttershy and steered her back to the house. She offered Fluttershy a wink. "We'll get that door open in a jiffy!"
Fluttershy's ears perked up, and she spread her wings wide. "Oh, could you? That would be wonderful!" She lightly placed a hoof on Applejack's chest before snatching it away and taking a small step back. As Fluttershy retreated behind her silky curtain of hair, her eye darted between Twilight and Applejack before finally resting on the ground. "If that's not too much trouble, that is. I can see that you're walking your door. I don't want to be a bother."
"You're no bother at all!" Pinkie said. "We love all of our customers here at Sugarcube Corner!"
Fluttershy leapt into the air and hovered a few inches above ground. "Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry, Pinkie! I didn't even notice you there." She dropped down to embrace her friend before pulling up short. "Wait, did you say—?"
Twilight frantically waved at her to quit talking while Applejack slapped a hoof over Fluttershy's mouth and whispered a brief explanation into her ear.
"Oh, I see." Fluttershy studied the floating door before turning to smile warmly at Twilight. "That was very clever."
Applejack rolled her eyes. "Oh, it was somethin' all right. Now let's get this darn horseshoe outta the way." She adjusted her hat to sit more squarely on her head before squinting at the shoe. "All right, here goes."
Clamping down on the horseshoe with her teeth, Applejack used all four of her strong legs to push against the house. With a muffled growl, Applejack yanked again and again, and her muscles bunched and trembled with the strain.
"Wow," Twilight said as she shared a wistful glance with Fluttershy. "Do you ever wonder what it would be like?"
Fluttershy reached out with a hoof, nearly touching Applejack's corded leg muscle before pulling away. "All the time," she finally said with a slight blush. "I wish I were stronger… in lots of ways."
"Confounded horseshoe!" Applejack collapsed back onto her haunches. She sucked in huge lungfuls of air and stared daggers at the horseshoe while a fretting Fluttershy gently fanned her with a wing. The shoe hadn't budged at all. Applejack mopped her brow, then turned to Twilight. "Hey there, Equestria's Best Pitcher. Think you can unpitch this shoe outta the door?"
Her face burning, Twilight leaned Sugarcube Corner's door against Fluttershy's house and settled into a wide-legged stance. Focusing, she magically pulled at the horseshoe for several seconds. Beads of sweat erupted from her brow as she willed the stubborn shoe to move.
Fluttershy gasped, then nudged Applejack and pointed towards Twilight's hooves. They were leaving furrows in the ground as Twilight dragged herself forward against the unyielding shoe. After several long moments, Twilight broke the spell and wiped the streaming sweat from her face with one muddy hoof. "I think… we're going to have… to do it together."
"Alright, together then," Applejack rolled her shoulders. and Fluttershy winced as each of the joints gave a loud pop. "Fluttershy, can you get a good hold on my tail? Twilight, when we get tuggin' on it nice and hard, see if your magic can pop it out."
"Absolutely!" Twilight replied. It was her mistake in the first place that had locked Fluttershy out of her own home. She was determined to do whatever it took to fix the situation.
Once again, Applejack locked her teeth onto the iron horseshoe and glanced at Fluttershy, who carefully twined her hooves into her friend's strong tail. Flapping for extra power, she swallowed hard and pulled. "T-tell me if I'm hurting you, Applejack," she said while her friend strained against the shoe again.
"I 'an 'eel it 'iggle," Applejack grunted from around the iron. "'Ull!"
Twilight's magic aura flared, and she focused as clearly as she could on the mental image of the horseshoe pulling free from the door. Okay, just enough force to—aah!
The horseshoe rocketed away from Fluttershy's cottage, dragging the three friends with it. Twilight hadn't considered how much the shoe might have loosened in the prior attempts, and it had pulled free so quickly that Twilight hadn't had time to slow its momentum. Her teeth rattled as Applejack and Fluttershy slammed into her. Crying out, they all tumbled into the nearby bushes. Twilight was still trying to shake off the effect of the impact when she noticed muffled mumbles coming from beneath her.
"I'm so sorry, Applejack!" Twilight took Applejack's hoof and helped her friend stand again. "What did you say?"
Applejack scooped up her battered hat and worked to correct its crumpled form. "I said I'm a mite tired of endin' up in a heap today."
"Sorry!" Twilight said again while offering a hoof to a woozy Fluttershy. For a moment, she marveled at how light the pegasus was and wondered what it would feel like to have hollow bones.
"Oh, thank you so much!" Fluttershy blew her tangled mane out of her eyes. "Now I can finally go inside and tell Angel about the nice bush that I visited today."
Twilight trotted ahead while working to pull free several stubborn twigs from her mane. "Let me get the door for you, Fluttershy. To tell you the truth, it's really my fault that you couldn't get in your house in the first place. You see, Applejack and I were throwing horseshoes—"
"Pitchin'," Applejack said with a frown.
Twilight rolled her eyes. "Pitching horseshoes, then. Anyway, I—oof!" Twilight opened the door and started inside, only to run directly into a stone wall. Eyes spinning from the sudden impact, Twilight ricocheted off and wobbled uncertainly.
Pinkie stomped a hoof. "Twilight! Nopony's going through the door! Something special's gonna to come out of it, and it can't do it with you in the way making funny faces!"
"Oh, let me help you." Fluttershy put a leg around her friend and guided her toward the house. "It will probably be better if we go through my door. Not that yours isn't lovely, but mine goes inside."
Applejack threw up a silencing hoof, then cocked an ear to the horizon. "Hey, does anypony else hear a ruckus?" Falling silent, Twilight and Fluttershy swiveled their ears to follow Applejack's. Twilight was trying to decide if it sounded like quacking when a powerful roar caused them all to jump.
Fluttershy's hooves flew to her face. "Oh my goodness! The ducks! Something is after the ducks!" The pegasus launched herself into the air and rushed to the riverbank.
"Fluttershy! Wait for us!" Applejack charged after her. Grabbing the door, Twilight followed, with Pinkie bouncing alongside.
"You know, I've never really taken the time to fully appreciate how big Sugarcube Corner is." Pinkie grinned broadly while she bounced along, adding a little kick of her hooves at the apex of each leap. "This place feels humongous! Hee-hee! 'Humongous.' That word is funnerific!"
Twilight shook her head and wondered exactly what it would be like to operate on Pinkie's level. We really should spend more time with her. If Discord ever manages to free himself from that statue again, his chaos won't even faze us.
Pounding around the path's final turn, Twilight gasped, then skidded to a stop. Ahead, Fluttershy was trying to distract a small dragon while Applejack ran back and forth along the shore and kicked whatever rocks she could find at the creature. Several ducks quacked non-stop as they flew a distressed patrol nearby. Twilight winced at the sunlight glinting off of the beast's talons. They looked strong and sharp, and at the moment they were tightly closed over several eggs. The creature tracked Fluttershy on her next pass, and Twilight screamed when her friend narrowly dodged its scorpion-like tail.
You brute! You are not taking those eggs!" Fluttershy darted back and forth as she searched for an opening, then with a large gulp, she accelerated toward the razor-sharp talons.
Twilight covered her mouth to stifle another scream. She could see tears of fright streaming behind Fluttershy while she looked for an opening, but her face was resolute. Twilight knew her friend would protect the woodland creatures with her life, if necessary.
Applejack tore across the sandy riverbank, keeping one eye squarely focused on her imperiled friend and searching for ammunition with the other. "Watch out, Shy!"
Just managing to dip under the stinging tail, Fluttershy yelped as several strands of her mane were ripped out by the tail's jagged barbs. "Um, would you consider just giving me those eggs and maybe flying someplace far away?" She quailed when the beast snarled and revealed several rows of jagged fangs. Fluttershy tried to bank away from the creature's snapping jaws, but it lunged far too quickly.
Twilight felt her heart drop. Even at this distance, she could clearly see Fluttershy's terrified expression reflected in the beast's furious eyes. Eyes! Gasping, she pointed to the monster's face. "Applejack! The eyes! Go for the eyes!"
"You got it, Twi!" With the same uncanny accuracy she'd shown on the farm, Applejack launched one blinding rock, and then another. The dragon roared in pain and arched its sinuous neck away from the rapid-fire barrage Applejack was sending its way. Twilight held her breath when Fluttershy used the distraction to dive in and snatch the eggs from the loosened talons.
Applejack desperately scanned the shore for more rocks. "What in tarnation is that thing?"
"It's a wyvern, and that tail is full of poison!" Twilight cried back. She gasped as the beast blinked away the pain and reoriented on the nearest target. "Fluttershy, look out!"
The wyvern snarled and launched itself after Fluttershy, who was doing her best to get to the marshy reeds that the ducks nested in. Glancing over her shoulder, Fluttershy let out a terrified squeak and flapped harder, but the wyvern was quickly closing the distance. It arched its tail over its back for a lethal strike.
"No!" Twilight instinctively fired the door into the space in between the two and gritted her teeth when the beast slammed into it. While the wyvern shook its head vigorously, Twilight wiped her brow. "Thank Celest—oh no!"
Whistling a merry tune, Pinkie Pie bounded over Twilight's head and straight toward the wyvern.
The monster shook itself one last time, then roared at the floating door. Even several yards away, the furious shrieking had enough power to blow back Twilight's mane. The wyvern sank its claws deeply into the wooden door, then suddenly banked away.
"Pink—aaah!" Twilight was caught so off guard that the wyvern ripped the door from her control. She cried out helplessly after the wyvern as it labored through an unsteady flight toward the Everfree Forest. Pinkie Pie bounced along behind it, keeping as close to the door as she could manage.
Applejack pulled up alongside Twilight. "What the hay? Why'd it take the door?"
"I don't know, but we have to get it back! That thing could take Pinkie anywhere!" The pair pounded after the wyvern, and Twilight called back over her shoulder, "Fluttershy, come on! We have to save Pinkie Pie!"
The pegasus's wide, fear-filled eyes poked up over the reeds. "Oh no! The wyvern got her?"
Twilight willed her legs to move more quickly, but she was already failing to match Applejack's powerful strides. "Well, sort of. It took the door, and Pinkie went with it. Why would a wyvern do that?"
"Wyverns aren't very bright, but they are greedy. They're a type of dragon, you know." Fluttershy angled her wings to swoop in alongside the laboring unicorn. "It probably just saw that you had something and wanted it for itself."
"Well, we've gotta get it back," Applejack said with a glance back at them over her shoulder, "or Pinkie may get more than she bargained for comin' outta that door!"
The ponies raced after the wyvern and prayed that it wouldn't take an interest in Pinkie Pie bouncing joyfully behind it. Twilight's mind whirled as she struggled to remember everything she could about the reptilian monster. She was missing something vital, but the memory seemed to flit just out of reach.
"Come on, y'all! We can't let it get away!" Applejack called from a few lengths ahead. Lathered sweat dripped from her barrel. "Y'all gotta give it all you got!"
Fluttershy grimaced and flapped her trembling wings harder. Twilight could sympathize. Neither of them was a tremendous athlete, and Applejack and the wyvern were pulling away from them.
"We're lucky," Fluttershy said, pausing between words to try and catch her breath. "That door is keeping the wyvern from flying too fast."
Twilight shook her head briskly in an attempt to keep the sweat that was running down her face from getting into her eyes. She couldn't afford to be hindered. "If we were lucky," Twilight said between huge gulps of air, "it wouldn't have taken the door in the first place!"
The forest opened, and the path ascended a rocky hill. The wyvern pumped its leathery wings above them, and jagged splinters from the door littered the ground below it. Close behind, Pinkie was already most of the way up the path. Twilight and Fluttershy exchanged a bewildered glance when Pinkie's voice floated merrily down to them.
Oh, the candy and cakes,
And the pies that I bake,
I think they are all delish!
But I mostly depend,
On time with my friends,
To experience my bliss!
The songs that they sing me,
The joy that they bring me,
When we are all together!
Are worth more than the eats,
The yummy, sweet treats,
I hope they stay forever!
Twilight rolled her eyes. She couldn't decide whether she was touched or exasperated by Pinkie's ridiculousness, but she did know that she was tiring badly. The wyvern was almost out of sight, and it would be a few minutes before they could possibly get all the way up the hill. A few minutes Pinkie couldn't afford. "Fluttershy, see if you can keep them in sight! Try to distract the wyvern!"
"M-m-me?" Fluttershy's wings skipped a beat, and she nearly hit the ground before recovering. Straining to gain altitude, she regarded Twilight with wide eyes.
"Yes—oof!" Twilight replied with a slight stumble. Try as she might, her fatigue was slowing her pace. "Applejack and I won't make it in time!"
Fluttershy squeaked out several incomprehensible words.
Twilight swallowed hard. Pinkie had just crested the hill ahead of them and disappeared from sight. "Please, Fluttershy! The wyvern might not be very smart, but if it notices Pinkie back there, it might attack her! You said that you wished you were stronger. Well, right now, Pinkie needs you to be strong for her, and I know you can do it!"
Fluttershy squeezed her eyes closed. Her face was rigid with fear, but she nodded to Twilight. "I w-will! For Pinkie!" She pumped her tired wings with renewed vigor and rocketed up the path.
Breathing heavily, Applejack and Twilight finally made their way up the hill, only to begin furiously backpedaling when they found that their path was suddenly blocked by a towering mound of garbage. Everywhere Twilight looked, similar deposits of junk were piled into small hills on the rocky plateau, interrupted only to allow access into a small cave opposite her in the cliff face. In the middle of it all, Fluttershy flew just out of reach in an attempt to keep the wyvern's focus away from the stationary Pinkie Pie. Twilight groaned, but she took off as quickly as she could manage toward the monster. She wasn't used to long-distance galloping, and her endurance was nearly spent.
Applejack surveyed the passing garbage. "Golly! Looks like that wyvern's been takin' things for a mighty long time. I bet—hey!" Applejack did a double take, then skidded to a stop and pointed at a heap of cloth and twigs sticking out of a nearby trash pile. Her lips curled into a snarl, and she raced toward the wyvern. "Those are our old scarecrows! You thievin' varmint! It took me weeks to make new ones!"
Applejack leapt into the air and kicked at the hovering beast, who was attempting to snap its teeth into the flagging Fluttershy. Enraged, the wyvern arched its deadly tail over its back, then shot it out with lightning speed.
Only Fluttershy's terror saved her. When she saw the deadly stinger rapidly approaching, her wings glued themselves to her sides. She plummeted into the trash, screaming when the poison barb stabbed into the space just above her head. Not to be robbed of its meal, the wyvern pivoted and followed.
Applejack leapt to where Fluttershy had fallen, then took careful aim. "You like takin' my stuff, huh? Well, take this!" With her best apple-bucking kick, Applejack slammed her hooves directly into the descending wyvern's snout.
Though the impact nearly knocked Applejack from her perch, she nodded as she looked over her shoulder. The monster's snout was still quivering and had two hoofprints deeply embedded into it. A cloud of junk flew into the air when the wyvern slammed into one of its trash mounds, the door still firmly clutched in its claws.
Twilight punched her hoof into the air. "Applejack, you did it!"
A moment later, her enthusiasm melted away. The wyvern raised its head and stared at Applejack as though seeing her for the first time. Its scaly eyebrows met between its eyes for a moment before it roared.
Applejack blanched and took a few cautious steps away. "Yeah, I did it all right..."
The wyvern followed her every motion with its intense stare.
Something finally clicked into place when Twilight recalled a book that she had been reading to Spike about dragon-kind. "That's it! That's what I've been trying to remember! A wyvern becomes fixated. It only has enough room in its head for one thing at a time. It probably doesn't even remember that it's holding onto the door!" Twilight turned to Applejack, who was nervously weighing the options between running and trying to kick the wyvern again. "Keep it distracted, and I'll try to pull the door away!"
The wyvern bared its teeth and heaved itself back into the air. It climbed rapidly, then folded its wings and tucked into a dive. The blood drained from Applejack's face, and she ran in the opposite direction.
"What do I do?! What do I do?!" Applejack called out to Twilight. Her eyes darted between her friends and the glistening tip of the wyvern's stinger. The poison was dripping so close to her back hooves that she could see the ground smoking from the potent chemicals.
Twilight pointed to the fissure. "Run for the cave! I'll try to grab the door away while it's chasing you!"
"All right, but I sure hope you know what you're doin', sugarcube!" Applejack stuck her tongue out at the beast. "Come on, you big, ugly lizard! Can't you even catch one little pony?" she jeered as she cut around a tight corner and angled for the narrow cave opening.
Twilight's magic enveloped the door, and she gripped it as firmly as she could. However, rather than snatching the door from the wyvern, she let out a surprised cry. She'd been wrenched off of her hooves, and now she was being dragged roughly along behind it. "Fluttershy, help me!" she croaked after coughing out a mouthful of dirt.
Keeping one fearful eye on the wyvern, Fluttershy flew in and scooped up Twilight's tail, then reversed direction, straining to halt Twilight's momentum.
Beads of sweat poured down Twilight's face, but the monster's grip was iron. "I-I can't do it! I'm losing my—no!"
Twilight's magical tether on the door snapped. Fluttershy and Twilight, now free from the wyvern's incessant pull, flew backward and tumbled into a pile of debris. Now free itself, the wyvern barreled past Applejack and into the cave. The door that the creature had been holding wedged itself into the fissure's opening, where Applejack slammed into it at full speed. She bounced off with an explosive grunt, then sat down and stared off into the distance with a shocked, vacant expression.
"Granny Smith, I think that apple cider is a mite strong," she said in a faint, faraway voice.
"Oh, Applejack! Are you alright?" Fluttershy flew over, shaking bits of garbage out of her mane. She ran her hooves gently over Applejack's forehead to check for swelling. "You hit that door awfully hard!"
Applejack shook her head briskly and blinked several times before finally focusing on Twilight. "Huh? D-did we do it?"
"Did we do what? I thought you guys were helping me keep watch!" Pinkie bounced up and gave the door an extra hard stare. "I mean, I'm ready for anything, but what if I had looked away for even a second? I might have missed something important!" Pinkie tried to press her face directly against the door before Fluttershy pulled her away.
Applejack rolled her eyes slowly toward Twilight. "Please remind me to send Mrs. Cake to Rarity next time she needs help."
Twilight sniggered while she pried at the jamb. It was wedged tightly into the rock opening. "What are we going to do now? How will we get this out of here without alerting the wyvern?"
The earth beneath their hooves trembled when the wyvern roared somewhere deep inside the fissure. Fluttershy hit the ground and covered her eyes with her hooves. "I d-don't think that's going to be our problem, Twilight." Trembling, she inched backwards away from the cave.
Applejack snatched Pinkie's tail in her mouth and willed speed into her aching legs. Twilight followed a step behind. Seconds later, the door banged into the cliff's face, and the wyvern erupted from the fissure. It blinked momentarily in the bright light before spying the fleeing ponies and letting out another deafening scream. With a snarl, it arched its tail over its back and dove after them.
"See?" Pinkie said, clapping her hooves. "See? I told you that something amazing was going to come out of that door and it's a big, scary monster!" Her eyes widened as she bumped along behind Applejack. "There's a big, scary monster in Sugarcube Corner! RUUUUUUUUUUUU—hey!" Pinkie scanned the scenery whizzing by, then put her hooves on her hips. "What did you guys do to Sugarcube Corner? Also, RUUUUUUUUUUUUUN!"
The friends poured on as much speed as they could muster, but the furious wyvern dropped down in front of them. Their only path back to the Everfree Forest was now blocked several tons of snarling dragon. The ponies skidded to a halt as the wyvern hypnotically swayed its lethal tail slowly from side to side above its head.
"The tail!" Twilight said, an idea forming. "Applejack! Dragon's tail!"
Applejack nodded and surged forward, only to leap away just before the wyvern's deadly stinger buried itself in the ground at her hooves. Overhead, Fluttershy screamed.
Twilight tried to block out all the images of dire consequences from her mind. "Keep it up, Applejack! I just need a little bit of time! Pinkie! Fluttershy! Help me find something to catch the wyvern's attention!" Pinkie and Fluttershy followed closely behind her, bewildered. "Something small and shiny! Something like a horseshoe!"
The ponies fanned out to search, sparing glances in Applejack's direction when they could. Their friend was using all of her rodeo skills to stay just ahead of the beast's deadly sting.
Applejack bobbed and weaved with uncanny dexterity, but each miss drove the wyvern to greater levels of fury. "I'd be mighty grateful if y'all could get a move on!" she said between ragged gasps. "I'm about spent!"
Pinkie's head poked up over a teetering pile of garbage."We're trying, but it's all dolls and socks over here!" She put a hoof to her chin. "Do you think this is where all the missing socks go? Why do we even have socks? We're ponies!"
Fluttershy flew high above them to survey as much of the junk pile as she could. "I think it's building a nest over here. It's all tree branches and bits of rope. Maybe it's just lonely and looking for a mate."
Twilight galloped around a pile of garbage beneath the pegasus. "Fluttershy, concentrate!"
"Right. Sorry!" Fluttershy banked away, laboring to gain speed again.
"Applejack!" cried the three ponies in unison. Their friend had finally slipped after a difficult series of jumps and was now lying on the helplessly on the ground. The monster slammed its clawed foot down onto her tail, effectively pinning her in place. Licking its rows of gleaming teeth, it curled its tail to strike.
"There!" Twilight pointed to a spot just behind the wyvern where a crystalline statue of a pony glinted in the sunlight. She seized the statue with her magic and maneuvered it directly into the wyvern's field of vision. "We finally found it, girls! We'll be taking this valuable treasure from this nasty, old wyvern!"
The wyvern paused and tracked the statue with its narrowed eyes. Its claws reflexively clenched, digging deep furrows in the ground only inches away from Applejack, who was desperately trying to free herself. As the claws scraped into the ground, they sheared off the end of Applejack's tail, and she rolled away. "Well, I reckon I needed a trim anyway," she muttered while sprinting away from the beast.
Several yards away, Twilight teased the wyvern. Just as the monster would reach the prize, Twilight would pull it out of reach. She waved the statue to and fro over her head and smirked at the wyvern. "We wanted this statue more than anything, and now we finally have it! Girls, I don't think that this wyvern is smart enough to get it back!" Twilight barely had time to yank the statue away when the wyvern launched itself at her and greedily snatched at its treasure. "No, no, no! This is our statue now, and we won't let you have it, will we? Fluttershy, heads up!" Twilight hurled the statue over the wyvern's head.
"What?" Caught off guard, Fluttershy dove for the statue, barely catching it before it hit the ground. She clutched the statue tightly to her chest while banking around a large pile of debris. When she allowed herself a glance over her shoulder, she let out a frightened squeak. The wyvern was suddenly very close and gaining on her.
Pinkie's hooves were a blur as she ran in place. "Ooh, Keep-Away! Me! Me! Throw it to me!" With the wyvern nearly upon her, Fluttershy dropped the statue to the Pinkie.
"Wheeee!" Pinkie leapt and snatched the statue out of the air, then somehow changed direction in mid-leap. When the wyvern shot by her, Pinkie giggled behind her hoof at it's shocked expression. The wyvern tumbled end over end, then smacked into the cliff face before pushing off toward the fleeing pony.
Pinkie bounced along the path and flipped the statue off of her head repeatedly with a nod. With each throw, the statue caught the light of the afternoon sun, and Pinkie found herself bathed in a shimmering rainbow pool. "Lookit, Twilight! Isn't it pretty? This wyvern's a hoot. Maybe I should invite him to our next party!" Waving at the rapidly approaching monster, Pinkie heaved the statue into the air one final time. "You're up, Applejack!"
The wyvern rocketed forward, but Applejack was too quick. She'd had a moment to regain her breath, and now she leapt for the statue. Her teeth closed around one of the crystal pony's legs, and she yanked it away just before the desperate creature's claws snapped closed. Applejack mumbled a quick prayer when she briefly caught her wide-eyed reflection in the claw's razor edge. She landed with a grunt and galloped around the perimeter of the junkyard, taking any course that might cause the wyvern to turn awkwardly in the air.
The raging wyvern lashed out with its tail again and again, but Applejack managed to stay just one step ahead. Ducking another strike, she swallowed hard. The wyvern's lethal poison had just dissolved a nearby pail into nothingness on a near miss. The beast snarled and snapped its tail back into position for another attempt at the agile pony.
Twilight jumped and waved her hooves over her head to get Applejack's attention. "It's got to be fully fixated by now! Throw it back to me!"
Applejack calculating the distance between them carefully, and then flipped the statue in Twilight's direction. "Incoming, Twilight! Teach this second rate dragon not to mess with ponies!"
Already on the run, Twilight snared the statue with her magic and drew it near. She could hear the tendons creak in the wyvern's wings when it wheeled sharply in midair, its eyes still locked onto the prize. With the beast descending on her, Twilight stood her ground and tried to still her quivering knees. She gave the statue one last, taunting shake, and then turned away from the wyvern's nest. "Hey, wyvern! Let me show you why I throw the best horseshoes in all of Equestria!" Twilight bellowed, then launched the statue toward the horizon with every ounce of magical strength that she could muster.
Twilight flattened against the ground and threw her hooves over her head as the wyvern barreled past her. The swirling winds of its passing wake nearly tore her mane from her head. Enraged shrieks echoed back at them, but grew steadily more faint. After several tense seconds, Twilight wiped her brow and let out an explosive sigh. "Well, girls, we—oof!"
She fell beneath the weight of her friends' collective and crushing embrace.
"Oh, Twilight! You were so brave!"
"You did it! I just knew you could! It's pitches, though. You pitch 'em."
"I still want to know why you girls invited a wyvern over!"
Twilight returned the hug, relieved that the danger was finally past. With a sigh, she extricated herself and retrieved the battered door. "Come on, girls. Let's go home."
Applejack wiped her streaming brow, then set her hammer down. "Whew! This sure is some heat! Too hot, probably." She removed her hat and fanned herself with it. Nearby, her friends were busy repairing the hole that they'd created in Sugarcube Corner's kitchen. Applejack brushed her bangs out of her eyes and stepped back to check the quality of their work.
"You know, I could just save us all some time and repair this with magic," Twilight mumbled from around a mouthful of nails.
"Maybe you're forgettin' how the hole got there in the first place?" Applejack's tone was serious, but her eyes twinkled.
"But that was different!" Twilight replied, accidentally spitting the nails out. Fluttershy skipped back as they embedded themselves in the soft dirt near her hooves. "I was in a hurry then! I wasn't concentrating properly!"
Applejack put a leg around Twilight's shoulders and gave her a little squeeze. "I'm just joshin' with you, sugarcube, but sometimes the old-fashioned way is the best one, even if it takes a little bit of time and effort."
With a sigh, Twilight gathered up her nails again and wearily lifted her hammer. They were all still exhausted from the day's adventure. Well, all of them but Pinkie Pie. Applejack chuckled as Pinkie descended on Fluttershy with a measuring tape to check the pegasus's every dimension. "Pinkie, how come you never get tuckered out?"
"Rarity says it's my diet, but—Fluttershy, hold still—but I never really got that," Pinkie replied with a shrug. "I never diet. It's pretty much cakes and pies all the time! Aha! Wingspan: one hundred and eight itty-bitty marks!"
Applejack shook her head and trotted to the center of the group. "Y'know, I reckon this door's comin' right along. Why don't we go get some of them treats from the festival before they're all gone?" While Applejack collected the tools from her friends, Fluttershy breathed a sigh of relief. Pinkie had cornered her and had been trying to get an exact measurement of the space between her eyes.
"Aww, but it's for science!" Pinkie said through snorted giggles when Applejack pried the tape measure away from her. Fluttershy rubbed the area between her eyes while Twilight grinned and shook her head.
Applejack rolled her eyes. "The science of what, exactly?" She held up her hoof when Pinkie opened her mouth. "Y'know what? Never mind. You can research it later. Right now, let's get some food before everypony eats it all! We can come back and finish this here door when it's a little cooler."
"Woohoo! A break!" Pinkie hopped from hoof to hoof rapidly for a moment before stopping to smirk at Applejack. "I'd say wyvern'd it!"