By Charcoal Quill
“…Sincerely, your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle.” With ruthless efficiency, Twilight rolled the letter up and stowed it in her saddlebag, then checked another item off her list. “There! Item twelve complete.”
Spike popped his head into the room. “You want me to send that letter for you, Twilight?”
Twilight shook her head. “That won’t be necessary. We are about to have tea with the Princesses, after all. I’ll deliver the report in person.”
“Okay, then,” Spike said, stepping into the room.
Twilight looked back down at her checklist, then read the next step aloud. "Let's see... 'Item thirteen: pack essential gear (see Sub-Checklist B)'." She paled, looking around frantically. "Oh no... What did I do with Sub-Checklist B!? I don't see it here anywhere!"
"I’ve got it." Spike held up another scroll. "But you don't need to worry about it. I've just finished packing everything on the list."
Twilight beamed. "Great! Thanks, Spike, you’re a lifesaver.” She glanced at her primary checklist again. “By the way, where’s the snapdragon oolong tea? I promised Princess Celestia I’d bring her some more...”
“Kitchen cupboard, third shelf from the top, behind the Old Grey,” Spike recited.
Twilight nodded, then rushed to the kitchen. As she rummaged through the cupboard, she smiled to herself. This is why you're my Number One assistant, Spike... she thought.
“Chariot’s here, Twilight!” Spike called out.
Case in point: helpful as always. “Thanks!” Twilight replied. As she glanced at her list, she permitted herself a small smile. She’d been worried that she’d be behind on her schedule, but here she was, almost done, and not a moment too soon! If there weren’t any more distractions, then Twilight would easily be on time to –
Inwardly, Twilight groaned. It wasn’t that she didn’t like Pinkie Pie – in fact, she was one of Twilight’s closest friends – but now was not the time.
“Pinkie, I’m sorry, but whatever it is will have to wait,” Twilight said. “I need to leave for Canterlot shortly.”
“I know that!” Pinkie replied brightly. “That’s what I’m here to talk to you about.”
Twilight paused before answering. “Alright, but make it quick.”
“Can I come with you?” Pinkie asked. “I’ve been wanting to go to Canterlot for a really really really long time now, and since you’re going too, this is the perfect opportunity!”
Twilight turned to Pinkie, eyebrows raised. “Why do you want to go to Canterlot?” she said. “I mean, you probably aren’t in the mood for just sitting and chatting with the Princesses, so what will you be doing there?”
Pinkie hesitated before responding. “Oh, you know… things...” she replied, looking away. “...stuff.”
Twilight glanced at the clock, then shrugged. “…Whatever,” she grumbled. “So long as you’re already packed…” She turned away. “Spike, are you ready?”
“Yes! Coming, Twilight!” Spike entered the room, carrying a bulging saddlebag. He slung it onto Twilight’s back, then left the library.
Twilight slipped a couple of books off the library shelves, letting them hover near her. “Just a bit of light reading for the trip…” she muttered to herself. She checked off the last box on her list, then turned to the door. “Alright! We’re all ready to go. Let’s hit the road.”
“Great! And when we’re done with that, we’ll go to Canterlot!” Pinkie said cheerfully.
Twilight sighed. It was going to be a long trip.
“Ah, my most faithful student, Twilight Sparkle. It’s been far too long.” Standing at the entrance to the Royal Palace, Princess Celestia gazed warmly at her star pupil. “You look well, all things considered… You’ve never enjoyed travel much, if I recall correctly.”
Twilight smiled wearily. “I’m just glad that I didn’t take the train,” she said, shooting a quick glance at Pinkie. “Anyway, it’s good to see you too, Princess.” She frowned. “Although it hasn’t been too long, has it?”
Celestia chuckled. "I suppose not, but lately, there's usually been..." She hesitated. "...excitement."
Twilight snorted. "Well, that's one way of putting it. Think we can get through the day without parasprites or changelings or who-knows-what-else this time?"
"I certainly hope so," Celestia replied, smiling. She turned to Spike. “I’m glad that you’ve also come along, Spike.”
Spike shrugged. “Hey, it’s good to see you too. Tea parties aren’t my usual gig, but it’s good to get out of the library once in a while.” He paused, sniffed the air, then licked his lips. “Hey, are those quartz scones I smell?”
“Of course,” Celestia said. “I had the cooks bake those for you specifically.”
Spike rubbed his hands together. “Thanks, Princess! You’re the best.”
Celestia chuckled. “You’re quite welcome, Spike.” She glanced to Pinkie. “…And… Pinkie Pie? I wasn’t aware that you were coming, but it’s a welcome surprise.”
Pinkie grinned exuberantly. “Gee, thanks, Celly!”
Twilight’s eye twitched at the nickname. She glanced over to the Princess, but luckily, Celestia didn’t seem to have taken offense.
“Actually, though,” Pinkie continued, “I’m just stopping by for a sec. I’ve got somewhere else that I need to go while I’m in Canterlot.”
Celestia smiled warmly. “Oh? Somepony is in dire need of a surprise party, I presume.”
“Sort of,” Pinkie said. “Well, I gotta go now! Bye!”
Twilight watched, eyebrow raised, as Pinkie dashed away. “Gee, she sure doesn’t waste time, does she?”
“Quite true.” Celestia chuckled. “I think we would do well to follow her example in that regard. After all, the sooner we move along, the more time we’ll have together.” Her eyes lit up. “That reminds me... Luna has been eager to see you again, Twilight.”
“Really?” asked Twilight, smiling. “Let’s not keep her waiting any longer, then.”
Side by side, the two ponies entered the palace. Spike moved to follow them, but paused, looking back. “I wonder what Pinkie’s doing…”
As it turns out, Princess Celestia had been partially correct in her assumption. It was true that Pinkie Pie was there to throw a surprise party.
But not, technically speaking, for somepony.
Pinkie looked around at her handiwork. She’d outdone herself, all things considered. It had been somewhat short-notice, so she’d had to leave her party cannon behind, but she’d managed to throw together a proper soiree. There were balloons, and streamers, and refreshments, and music, and games.
“So, do you like it?” Pinkie asked, addressing the guest of honor.
There was no response. The statue of Discord was still and lifeless, a stony expression pain and horror frozen on his face. The party hat perched precariously on his head did little to lighten the mood.
Pinkie regarded the silent statue. “You’re probably surprised that I’m doing this for you,” she eventually surmised. “You know, after all that you had done to Equestria, and to my friends?”
Pinkie took this as affirmation. “We-ell, I’d been thinking. You remember Rainbow Dash’s old friend Gilda, right?” After a pause, she giggled. “Oh, what am I saying? Of course you wouldn’t!” She shrugged. “Anyway, Gilda was Dashie’s friend when the two of them were younger.”
Pinkie sat down with a sigh. “Well, one day, Gilda decided to visit Dash again,” she said, eyes narrowing. “But while Gilda was really nice to Rainbow, she was a big meanie-pants to everyone else! Even to Fluttershy… Can you believe it?” She shook her head sadly.
“Anyway, I thought that maybe a party would improve her mood. So I threw one! But Dashie sorta set up a lot of pranks, and Gilda ran into every single one. Gilda got really angry and yelled at me, ‘cause she thought it was my fault! Then Dash stopped Gilda, who got even angrier and ran away.”
Discord seemed unmoved by the tale.
Pinkie took a breath before continuing. “Well, anyway, I’d been thinking about that lately, and I thought maybe the reason you were acting like such a meanie-pants too is because you also needed a party! In fact, you probably need one more than anypony else. You did say that being encased in stone is awfully lonely…” She gestured to the party around the two of them. “So I thought I’d cheer you up.”
Discord’s horrified expression remained unchanged.
“Oh, don’t worry!” Pinkie assured him. “This party is one hundred percent prank-free!”
“…So… Now what?” Pinkie glanced over at the refreshments. “Would you like something to drink?”
Discord looked a tad reproachful.
“No, you’re right. Sorry,” Pinkie said. “It’s not like you can drink anything, since you’re stone, now.”
“A game, maybe? Charades? You go first.”
Discord made no move.
Pinkie grimaced. “Oh, right. Stone.”
There was a long, awkward pause.
Pinkie stared at her hooves. “Um…” She cleared her throat. “So, I brought you a friend!” She darted away, only to return a split second later.
Now Pinkie had with her a small stack of rocks. Another party hat sat on the highest stone.
“This is Rocky,” Pinkie said. “I figured you two could keep each other company! After all, you have a lot in common…”
Discord did not seem amused. Neither did Rocky.
“…You know, being…” Pinkie continued awkwardly. “…being stone. I would’ve brought Tom, too, but I didn’t think that he’d fit on the chariot.”
Pinkie looked at her front left ankle, which was conspicuously timepiece-free, and grinned fervently. “Gee, look at the time! I’ll let you two get right to it. I gotta go now, bye!”
And with that, she was gone, leaving only a still, silent party among the sculpture gardens.
Just as Twilight Sparkle exited the palace, Spike in tow, Pinkie approached the pair. “Hi, Twilight! Hi, Spike!”
Twilight looked up. “Oh, hi, Pinkie. You’re finished with… whatever it is you were doing?”
“Yep!” Pinkie replied. “How did your tea with the Princesses go?”
“Oh, it was quite nice,” Twilight said. “Celestia and I were able to catch up on everything from the past couple of months…” She directed a mild glare towards Spike. “…while Spike here challenged Luna to a drinking game.”
Spike shrugged. “Hey, Luna had lots of fun, and it wasn’t like we were drinking alcohol or anything. It was just tea! What was the problem?”
“It was distracting,” Twilight grumbled. “It’s kind of hard to discuss much of anything with the Princess if – and this is just one example, mind you – every time I say the word ‘friend’ or ‘friendship’, the other Princess loudly declares, ‘friendship is magic!’ and takes a drink.”
Pinkie grinned. “That does sound fun! And that was just one example? I’ll have to take a look at that game some time, Spike!”
Twilight winced. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea...”
“Well, I’ve got the list right here,” Spike said, holding out a scroll.
Pinkie deftly grabbed the scroll and unrolled it in one swift motion. Then she began reading. “Gee, these are great! Ooh, look at this one... ‘Take a drink whenever Twilight acts soppy towards Celestia’?” She giggled. “You and Luna must’ve been swigging that tea like nopony’s business!”
Twilight immediately turned crimson, then swiped the list away from Pinkie. “I... I don’t act soppy towards the Princess!” she sputtered. “And Spike, where did you get this, anyway?!”
Spike just shrugged.
“It’s okay, Twilight,” Pinkie said, nudging her playfully. “Everypony thinks it’s cute the way you act around Celestia.”
“Cute?” Twilight growled. After a moment, she sighed. “You know what, forget it. The less that is said about this, ever, the better. Shall we go home now?”
By the time that the three of them returned to Ponyville, the Moon had already risen over the horizon. As the chariot touched down in front of the library, Spike yawned.
“At last,” he said. “Now I can finally go to bed.” He hopped off the chariot and headed for the library door.
As the two mares stepped off, Twilight turned to address the pegasi drawing the chariot. “Thanks again, sirs.”
The chariot-pullers nodded to her, then took off.
“Well, Twilight, thanks for letting me come with you!” Pinkie said. “See you tomorrow!”
“Of course,” replied Twilight. “Good night.”
Pinkie watched Twilight head inside, then turned around and headed towards Sugarcube Corner. As she walked (or rather, bounced, as was her custom), she thought.
Well, that went… okay. It went okay, Pinkie concluded. Not one of the best parties that I’ve hosted, but really, what can I expect? I was the only one there who wasn’t made of stone!
After a moment, she sighed. Logic aside, it didn’t sit well with Pinkie that she couldn’t get inanimate objects to party hard.
At least not without going crazy again…
Pinkie shuddered, and dismissed the thought. Hey, so one party didn’t go too well! So what? I’ve got plenty of friends here in Ponyville that love my parties anyhow. So what if a few dumb ol’ rocks can’t appreciate it?
As she slipped through the back door of Sugarcube Corner, Pinkie smiled. Well, whether or not Discord liked the party, I’m sure he got the message. No hard feelings and all that. And more importantly, now that I’ve gotten that over with, I can get back to the best parties, here with the bestest friends in the whole wide world!
Pinkie entered her room and climbed into bed. As she snuggled under the covers, Gummy climbed onto the bed and curled up on top of the blankets.
As she drifted off to sleep, Pinkie smiled. After the events of today, one less thing was bothering her, which made zero things in total. Now I can just go to sleep and not have to worry about it ever again…
“Au contraire, Pinkie Pie!”
Pinkie sat up with a jolt. “Wha? Who?”
“Oh, you don’t remember? You can’t even guess? I’m hurt, Miss Pie. Deeply and truly hurt.”
That voice sounds so familiar… Pinkie blinked a couple of times. After a moment, she looked around, until her eyes fell on–
“Discord!” Pinkie exclaimed. “What are you doing here?!”
Discord floated over to Pinkie Pie, his amused smirk widening. “Oh, don’t fret, my dear,” he said, patting her on the head. “I’m not free from my stone prison, if that’s what you’re wondering–”
Pinkie blinked. “Oh, I hadn’t even thought of that! I just wanna know why you’re in my dream.”
Discord’s eyes widened. “Oh? You already know that this is a dream… Okay, I can work with this.” He stroked his beard for a moment before continuing. “In that case, Pinkie, let me elucidate. This isn’t your dream, any more than it is anyone else’s. The subliminal mind of every being links to this place, and it is where I now reside. Pinkie Pie, I welcome you to…” He directed a grand, sweeping gesture to their surroundings. “…the Collective Unconscious!”
Pinkie looked around. The pair them were simply floating in an empty void, colored and patterned like old parchment.
“It’s kinda… boring,” she said eventually.
Discord grinned. “I couldn’t agree more. Let’s change things up a bit, shall we?” He snapped his fingers, and suddenly the two of them were sitting in a bar.
Discord turned to the barkeep, an ivory-colored stallion. “Two glasses of your finest chocolate milk, if you would be so kind,” he said.
The pony grunted in acknowledgement and poured them their drinks.
“Thanks,” Discord said, then downed the contents of one of the glasses in a single gulp. He plunked the empty glass on the table. “Keep ‘em coming.”
The bartender snorted, but complied.
Pinkie took the other glass, and sipped at her chocolate milk. “So, Discord. Why am I here, instead of in my normal dreams?” she asked. “You didn’t say yet.” Her eyes lit up. “Oh! Unless it’s a guessing game?”
“No need for that,” Discord said. He slurped down another glass of chocolate milk. “I’m here to talk, of course. Specifically to thank you.”
Pinkie beamed. “You liked my party?”
Discord smiled back. “I loved it! It would have been better, had I not been, you know, turned to stone. …And had it not been your fault, not that I’m holding a grudge against you or anything.” He waved a claw dismissively. “But it’s the thought that counts, and it’s that I appreciate.”
“Really?” Pinkie said.
“Of course!” Discord said. “Why, that party was the high point of the social season, at least as far as I’m concerned. I might not have been able to do...” As he paused, he gulped down another glass. “...well, anything, but it was better than what I usually do.”
Pinkie cocked her head inquisitively. “Oh? and what’s that?”
“Why, watch the grass grow, of course!” Discord chuckled. “Let me tell you, after several months of that, anything’s a relief. And that party? Why, that was... It was just the perfect distraction!” In a flash of light, a party hat appeared on Discord’s head. He put a noisemaker to his lips and blew into it, making a tinny noise, then grinned. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
“Well, I’m happy that you’re happy!” Pinkie said. She took another swallow of her chocolate milk, content in the knowledge that she’d delivered yet another spark of joy to a person in need.
Discord stiffened for a moment, then sighed. “Actually,” he said, slumping slightly, “Perhaps ‘happy’ is a bit of an overstatement.” He swigged down another glass. “Mind if I vent for a little while?”
“No, not at all,” Pinkie replied. After all, even though this wasn’t as exciting as her usual dreams, it was still quite interesting. And she was getting free chocolate milk, too.
“Thanks, Pinkie! I’m glad to have a sympathetic ear.” Discord emptied his glass, and then peered at it. After a moment of thought, he drank the glass itself, too.
The bartender grunted disapprovingly.
“Put it on my tab,” Discord said. “Anyway, where was I?”
“Not quite happy?” Pinkie prompted. “The party, maybe?”
Discord nodded. “Oh, right! Really, Pinkie, your party meant a lot to me. You know, no one’s ever done that for me before.”
Something in his demeanor seemed a little... off. Pinkie looked down at the bar table. There were a lot more empty glasses there than she had first thought.
Discord continued between swallows of chocolate milk. “You know, it can get awfully lonely being me. Not just being stone, either. Even when I’m free and can do whatever I want… It’s just… well…” He paused, blinking slowly. After a moment, his eyes lit up. “Ah! I know. You really enjoy throwing parties, right?”
Pinkie nodded. “Uh-huh,” she said, watching as Discord drained yet another glass.
“I really like causing chaos,” Discord said. “See what I mean? Even though nobody else appreciates what I do, whenever I make a mix up a really great batch of entropy, I just get the warm fuzzies. And I can’t help but laugh! You, if anyone, should appreciate a good laugh.”
Pinkie nodded again, noting that the table was starting to fill with empty glasses at an alarming rate. “Uh, maybe you should stop drinking so much of that–”
“And I work so hard at it, too!” Discord interrupted. “I mean, you know what it was like when I’d just gotten free again, and I was just getting started! You should’ve seen the plans I had for trout...”
“Trout?” Pinkie repeated.
“Yes, trout,” Discord said. “It would’ve blown you away! Metaphorically speaking, of course,” he added quickly, then downed another swig of chocolate milk. “But anyway, the real great thing about chaos is that it never gets old! There’s always room for infinite variety. Pinkie Pie, do you know how many types of chaos there are?”
Pinkie frowned thoughtfully. “No.”
Discord grinned. “Neither do I! Chaos comes in all sorts of flavors, and I haven’t even named half of the ones I do know! Why, a mere six hours after my return, I’d unleashed entropy upon Canterlot, turmoil upon Manehattan, bedlam upon Fillydelphia, pandemonium upon Ferrington, tumult upon Appleoosa, upheaval upon Cloudsdale, and my personal favorite – topsy-turviness – upon Ponyville. And that doesn’t even include the many types of nameless chaos that I’d wreaked upon all of the smaller towns.” He quickly drained another glass.
“Gee, uh...” Pinkie paused, unsure of how to respond. “...that’s a lot of chaos.”
“And all of it unique!” Discord added. “You’d think that everypony would find some chaos that they’d like! But nopony seems to like any of it! I mean, I mean,” he slurred, waving a hand, “Poof! Cotton candy clouds. Poof! Chocolate rain. Poof! Shattered psyches of an entire town. But does anypony enjoy it? No!” Discord’s voice shifted into a near-exact copy of Celestia’s. “‘Oh, Discord’s up and about again, is he? Why don’t you six take the Elements of Harmony and turn him to stone again, will you?’ It never fails. I mean, why? All I’m doing is destroying the status quo!” At that, he slumped over, sobbing into his chocolate milk.
“Uh…” Pinkie blinked. She hadn’t been prepared for this.
As she stared at Discord, Pinkie resolved to cheer him up. Sure, he’s done some really mean things, she thought, but he’s so sad! I have to do something...
Pinkie edged over to Discord and patted him reassuringly. “There, there…” she said. “I liked those things you did! Well, except for the whole ‘shattered psyches’ thing, anyway. But the rest of it was really nice!”
Discord sniffled pitifully. “You… you really mean it?”
“Of course!” Pinkie said. “I mean, chocolate rain! Chocolate. Rain!” She giggled. “C’mon, who can top that? And the soap roads were fun, too.”
After a moment, Discord smiled. “Thank you, Pinkie Pie. That means a lot to me.”
“Aw, you’re welcome!” Pinkie giggled, nudging the draconequus playfully. “I’m glad I could help. It’s no fun to see somepony else not having fun!”
Discord opened his mouth to reply, but apparently thought better of it. After a pause, he straightened up. “Well, leave it to the Element of Laughter to cheer up even ‘meanie-pants’ Discord.” He chuckled. “I know I’ve told you this before, but your Element is easily my favorite. For that matter, you’re my favorite out of you and your friends, too.” He raised another glass to his lips, but this time sipped thoughtfully at it.
Pinkie blinked. “Really?” she asked. “I never would’ve guessed! After all, you were so touchy-feely with Twilight in particular that I kinda assumed… well… you know.” At that, she winked.
Discord grimaced. “Don’t say it like that. You make me sound like some unsavory sort of character.”
A less charitable pony could have replied with any number of retorts, but instead Pinkie said, “Okie Dokie Lokie.”
“Anyway,” Discord continued,” while it’s true that Twilight has a...” he paused. “…certain charm, honestly I much prefer you. You’re filled with so much happiness and joy, and you use it to make others happy, too.” He sighed. “Were I ever to have a daughter – which, by the way, is extremely unlikely – I hope she’d be a lot like you.”
“Heh, thanks, Discord!” Pinkie said, beaming. “That’s so sweet!”
But a small, nagging voice at the back of her mind reminded Pinkie that Discord, of all people, normally wasn’t sweet. The whole thing was strange.
Shut up, Pinkie thought right back. Maybe he’s turning over a new leaf, although I still don’t see what that has to do with behaving better. Maybe leaves like being turned over – Ooh! That gives me a great idea! …Wait, where was I? Oh, right.
Discord glanced around, his expression worried. After a second, Pinkie followed suit, and noticed that the bar and its surroundings were starting to fade away, the parchment pattern of the Collective Unconscious already seeping back.
“Well, I’m glad we’ve had this chat,” Discord said. “But it looks like it’s going to come to a close very soon here. Before I go, however…” He leaned in close to Pinkie and whispered conspiratorially. “I’d like to give you a little gift.”
“Really?” Pinkie asked.
“Oh, but of course!” Discord replied, sounding hurt. “I wouldn’t joke about that! After all, when you threw your party for me, you let me into your heart. It’s the reason why I can even be having this conversation with you in the first place. What kind of person would I be if I didn’t repay you?”
“But–” Pinkie began.
Discord shushed her. “No! Not a word. I insist. Let me do this one thing for you, Pinkie Pie, and then I promise that I’ll be out of your mane forever.”
Pinkie considered it. Well, what could it hurt?
“Okay,” she finally decided.
“Great!” Discord grinned wickedly, and then leaned over and “booped” Pinkie on the nose, resulting in a jolt not unlike a small electrical shock. Pinkie jumped.
Discord laughed, then bowed with a flourish. “Arrivederci, my dear!” he exclaimed, and then disappeared in a flash of light.
Then the bar faded away completely, and Pinkie moved on to a deeper slumber.
Pinkie awoke to the sun in her eyes, streaming in from the window. She stretched, yawning, and rolled out of bed. Pinkie was normally a morning pony – and a late night pony, too, for that matter – but for some reason she had a more difficult time waking up today...
Blearily, Pinkie grabbed the edge of the end table next to her bed, pulled herself up, and stared into the face of a draconequus.
Pinkie jumped back with a startled shriek. So did the draconequus.
Then Pinkie blinked, realizing what she was actually looking at. “Oh, silly me!” she said. “I’d forgotten about the mirror on my end table. That’s just my reflection!”
There was a slight pause.
“…Hold on a sec!” Pinkie exclaimed. “I’m not usually a draconequus.” Carefully, she examined her new form.
It was little wonder that Pinkie Pie hadn’t recognized herself. Technically, she still had the head of a pony – if only barely – and it was still pink, but it had been so warped and twisted that it hardly resembled Pinkie’s face at all. Instead, the face that stared back at here was almost alien – sunken features, snaggle-toothed fang, the antler of a deer next to the horn of a dragon. Even her eyes had changed to become similarly mismatched, although they had more or less retained their previous blue color. Interestingly, only her poofy mane had remained untouched.
The rest of her body, predictably, was a mismatched assembly of parts. Pinkie quickly took stock of them. A serpentine body; light brown, owl-like feathers and a matching set of talons; the paw of a white tiger; two wings, one leathery and one feathery; a dark pink, vaguely equine leg; a reptilian leg, light blue; and a green, crocodilian tail that ended in a poofy pink tuft.
“…Wow,” Pinkie said. “I look really silly!” She giggled, turning this way and that to get a better look at herself in the mirror. “Don’t you think so, Gummy?”
Gummy regarded his owner stoically for a moment, then blinked, one eye lagging behind the other. Apparently he felt that no greater response was needed.
At that moment, Pinkie heard a voice at the bedroom door. “Pinkie Pie?” Mrs. Cake called out. “Are you okay? You don’t normally stay in so late…” At that, the door opened, and she walked in.
“Oh! Good morning, Mrs. Cake!” Pinkie said. “Sorry, I guess metamorphosing kinda makes one sleep in.”
Upon seeing Pinkie, Mrs. Cake leaped back. “AAAAUGH!”
“Sorry!” Pinkie said, advancing slowly. “I didn’t mean to startle you!”
Mrs. Cake stumbled back further. “What are you doing here?! What have you done to Pinkie Pie?!”
“What?” Pinkie replied. “I… I am Pinkie Pie!”
“Oh, Celestia…” Mrs. Cake swore under her breath. She stopped retreating, and then turned to fix Pinkie with a glare. “I don’t know what you’ve done to Pinkie, but if you’ve hurt her…”
Pinkie blinked. “What? No! I’m Pinkie!” she shouted, starting to panic. “Can’t you understand me? …Hey! Ouch!”
Mrs. Cake had started throwing things. “Back! Back, you fiend! You won’t hurt anypony else in my home!”
Pinkie stumbled back, then tripped backwards over her bed. She curled up into a tight ball, blinking away tears. “I’m… I’m sorry!” she cried. “I don’t know what I did, but I’m sorry!” Instinct told her she had to leave, and fast. Pinkie closed her eyes, and wished herself away.
In a flash of light, she was gone.
When Mrs. Cake burst through the library door, Twilight jumped. The unicorn’s latest experiment hit the floor with a small crash.
Twilight glanced down at the pool of liquid and shattered glass, and then looked towards her unexpected visitor. “Mrs. Cake!” she exclaimed. “You startled me. What’s going on?”
“Oh, Twilight,” Mrs. Cake moaned. “It’s simply awful! Something’s happened to Pinkie Pie!”
“What?” Twilight stiffened. “What happened?”
“Well, this morning Pinkie hadn’t woken up my husband and I, so I went to check on her,” Mrs. Cake answered. “When I opened the door to her room, Pinkie wasn’t there – and a draconequus was!”
Twilight’s eyes flashed. “Discord? He’s back?”
“N-no.” Mrs. Cake shook her head. “It wasn’t him – it was someone new.”
“For goodness’ sake, there’s another?” Twilight sighed. “Of course there is… Well, are you absolutely sure that it had done something to Pinkie?”
“Gummy was there. Pinkie Pie wasn’t. Do you think she’d voluntarily leave her pet alone in a situation like that?”
“No, I guess you’re right.” Twilight said. “A new draconequus, and Pinkie missing…” She paled. “…Oh no. Even if we put aside the fact that Pinkie could be in danger, that’s still a new Spirit of Disharmony on the loose, and one of the bearers of the Elements of Harmony is missing in action… or worse.”
“At the risk of stating the obvious, that sounds like a bad thing,” Mrs. Cake observed.
Twilight chuckled humorlessly. “That’s one way of putting it. Without all six bearers of the Elements, we can’t use them. Even if we manage to defeat this new draconequus without the help of the Elements – and I’m not sure we can – it’ll cost us. A lot.”
Mrs. Cake gulped. “…Oh dear.”
Suddenly, the very air rumbled for a moment, then the sound was replaced by heavy splattering. Both Twilight and Mrs. Cake turned to look out the window.
Outside, the sky was dark with pink clouds. Massive, chocolate-colored raindrops, each the size of a pony’s hoof, plummeted down and hit the ground with resounding splashes.
Twilight stared up at the sky with an expression of dread. “Oh no...”
“Gah! Too much!” Pinkie exclaimed. “Dumb clouds!”
A minute or two earlier, Pinkie Pie had teleported away from Sugarcube Corner, reappearing on the outskirts of Ponyville. She had been worrying about how Mrs. Cake had apparently been unable to understand or recognize her, but was sidetracked by the realization that since she was now a draconequus like Discord, she could probably do the same things that he could.
Ooh! Let’s try that out, Pinkie had thought. What could I do…? Ha! As if I didn’t know already. How about chocolate rain? How hard could that be?
As it turned out, it was incredibly easy… too easy, in fact. She hardly had to consider the possibility, and the heavens filled instantly with cotton candy and chocolate milk. Now she was trying to make it stop, with considerably less success.
“Hey!” Pinkie yelled at the sky. “I only wanted one small cloud! Stop right now!”
The uncaring heavens continued to dump its chocolaty bounty on Ponyville and the surrounding landscape.
Pinkie sat there a minute or two, shouting at the clouds, before finally giving up. “Whatever…” she grumbled. Magic is harder than Twilight makes it look, she thought gloomily.
Pinkie Pie glanced at the road she was currently hovering over. One direction led back into Ponyville, the other away from it and into parts unknown.
“Should I go back?” Pinkie mused aloud. “I mean, considering how Mrs. Cake reacted, I might cause some kind of a panic, and nopony wants that! But how else would I get back to normal? I’m sure that Twilight can figure out a way to do that…” She frowned. “Then again, will she understand me?”
Another thought occurred to her. “Besides, do I even want to turn back to normal right away? Think of all the fun I could have first…!”
Pinkie’s eyes glazed over as she thought of what she could do with her newfound power. Fun… There would be a big, big party. Balloons everywhere! And food, and all sorts of festive, colorful decorations, and really wacky things, and… and… Wait a second…
Pinkie looked up. The landscape had changed while she was thinking. Now the ground was covered in a slowly-expanding checkerboard pattern, herds of multicolored balloons floated along, laughing, cookies and cupcakes rose out of the earth to go hurtling into the upper atmosphere...
“Hey! I didn’t mean it all right away!” Pinkie Pie protested. “This is just a teensy bit too much, and…” She paused as she noticed a small clump of trees that had miraculously escaped the chaos. “Hey, those trees look kinda like big umbrellas.”
Pinkie sighed. “…And now they are big umbrellas. That’s it!” She threw her arms upward in aggravation. “I’ve had enough of this. I’m gonna go see Twilight right away, so she can fix all this and turn me back to normal!”
Pinkie nodded to herself. There. That was simple. Now that she knew what to do, she just had to follow through. Of course, there would be problems...
First problem: “Alright, I might scare somepony if they saw me… so I should at least find a disguise.”
After a moment of thought, Pinkie nodded. “Great! I’ve got just the thing!”
A second later, a bale of hay popped into existence right in front of her.
“Heh heh heh,” Pinkie chuckled, worming her way into the hay. “Nopony suspects the hay bale!” Satisfied with her disguise, she made her way down the road back into Ponyville.
Luckily, the majority of the chaos hadn’t yet reached Ponyville itself. The only thing that was out of the ordinary was the thick layer of cotton candy clouds and its chocolate rain.
The citizens of Ponyville, though they felt rather uneasy about the chocolaty deluge, went about their business regardless. Ever since the Nightmare Moon incident, the weirdness that seemed to find its way to Ponyville had caused most of the residents to slowly build up a resistance to the bizarre. Sure, there was the occasional worried glance upwards, and the usual spooked whisperings, but since the chocolate rain wasn’t any immediate danger, they managed to tolerate it.
After all, many reasoned, there’s nothing else that they can do about it. Sure, the chocolate rain is odd, but Twilight Sparkle and her friends will probably work out a way to fix the problem before the end of the day, just like they always do whenever something like this happens. Therefore, no need to panic... at least not yet, right?
Pinkie wound her way through the Ponyville marketplace, stealthily approaching her destination. As she neared Twilight’s library, she kept her goal in mind.
Focus, Pinkie, she told herself. The library’s just ahead. Don’t get distracted by anything in the marketplace. Not sweets, or shiny baubles, or… Wait, is that cabbage?
Forgetting herself for the moment, Pinkie snaked out of her hay bale and inspected the unattended cabbage cart. She wrinkled her nose in disgust. Who actually likes cabbage? she thought. This could be way better!
Suddenly, the cabbages were gone, replaced by warm, freshly-baked pies.
Pinkie blinked. She knew that she shouldn’t be surprised, but she was. Not again, she thought. Oh well! I’m sure that these will sell better than–
“MY CABBAGES!” A green stallion with a grey mane pushed through the crowd, only to stare dumbfounded at his transmogrified wares. He slumped down with a sob. “Oh, Celestia! Who could have done such a...” he paused.
“...Wait a minute!” The cabbage merchant whipped his head towards Pinkie. “YOU!” he snarled, pouring every ounce of hatred he could into that one syllable.
Pinkie backed up quickly, intimidated… but also puzzled. Why isn’t he happy? Nopony likes cabbages!
“Plenty of ponies like cabbages!” the merchant growled.
Pinkie considered his words. She racked her brain for the name of anypony who really enjoyed fresh cabbage, cabbage stew, anything cabbage… and came up with nothing.
The cabbage merchant faltered. “Well...” he said with less conviction, but paused.“...Well,” he continued, “cabbages are an excellent source of Vitamin C!”
More than oranges? Pinkie wondered.
The merchant stared at her for a moment. “…No,” he admitted finally.
Pinkie inspected the merchant, really noticing for the first time the sorry state he was in. The pony was emaciated and unkempt, and the cart beside him looked like it had been inexpertly repaired many times.
Pinkie’s face fell. This is what you have to live with? How sad, she thought. Does anypony truly deserve a life like this?
The cabbage merchant hung his head. “You’re right,” he murmured. “Nopony wants cabbages, and nopony wants a cabbage merchant…”
A white glow appeared at the merchant’s ragged tail, moving slowly along his body. In its wake, it left him grey and colorless, and a subtle change came over his demeanor – as if his heart had been hardened, yet broken at the same time.
“No! Nonononono!” Pinkie stammered, eyes widening. “N-no, I didn’t mean it like that at all! Stop it!”
Her efforts weren’t very effective. Soon, the merchant stood before Pinkie, fully grey and fully dejected.
Suddenly, a beige mare with a reddish-pink mane (Rose, Pinkie instantly recalled) pushed her way through the crowd and stepped towards the merchant. “Leafy? Leafy Green, are you okay?” she asked. “What happened to your cabbages?”
Leafy gave her a cold stare. “Don’t talk to me about cabbages,” he said, and then plodded away.
“Leafy, wait!” Rose called out, but it was too late. He was gone.
Rose turned a glare towards Pinkie Pie. “You...” she hissed. “Do you have any idea what you’ve just done?”
Pinkie chuckled nervously. "N-no, don't worry. I can fix it!" she insisted. "Maybe if I turn his cabbages back to normal... fix his cart..." She glanced at the cart in question.
As Pinkie stared at it, she got a sinking feeling that the cart was a lost cause. She didn’t even know where to start... Halfheartedly, she wished that the ground would swallow her up.
With a resounding crack, the ground opened up beneath the cabbage cart. A column of magma erupted forth, incinerating it.
Pinkie's jaw dropped. "What the...?"
As globs of lava rained down, ponies ran, screaming, but Rose still stood, glaring at Pinkie. “You… you monster,” she finally spat out, and then she ran off after the cabbage merchant.
Pinkie watched her go, a horrible realization dawning on her. Even though Pinkie hadn’t meant to hurt anypony, she had. Everything she touched went horribly wrong. Mrs. Cake, the outskirts of Ponyville, Leafy Green, even his cart... not to mention all the lava, of course. Although Pinkie didn’t want to admit it, she could plainly see one thing.
“…She’s right,” Pinkie said, eyes widening. “I am a monster.”
Eyes starting to tear up, Pinkie sped away from the marketplace and out of Ponyville. She had to leave, to go where nopony would ever find her. She had to go to where all the other monsters lived.
After all, what else can I do? As Pinkie flew on, she hung her head in shame. I can't go see Twilight like this! If I do... Her lip quivered.
Pinkie's eyes narrowed. No. I’m not gonna hurt her, or my other friends, or anypony else, ever again. I'll make sure of that.
Upon reaching the edge of the Everfree Forest, Pinkie Pie took one final look back at her old home. With a sigh, she turned her back to it, then slipped into the darkness of the trees.
As Twilight trotted into the marketplace, her eyes widened. She looked around at the deserted streets, the rapidly-cooling pools of lava, and the gaping fissure in the center of it all. “What happened here?”
Her question was met with oppressive silence.
“Hello?” Twilight called out. “Anypony here?” Uneasily, she glanced around for anypony who could explain the situation, but with little luck. Shopkeepers’ stalls still stood, merchandise out on display and the occasional barrel or crate nearby, but nopony was around to actually do anything with it all. It was as if everypony had simply disappeared.
Twilight shivered, images of ghost towns springing to mind. It wouldn’t have surprised her to see a tumbleweed roll along the empty street. It wouldn’t be quite so bad if it weren’t for the silence... she thought.
...Wait, was that a noise? Cocking an ear, Twilight paused. Yes, there it is again... coming from... over there...
Twilight walked over to a nearby barrel and looked inside. She blinked. “Lily? What are you doing in there?”
Lily looked back up at Twilight from the bottom of the barrel. “It was awful...” she said.
“An absolute disaster!” came Daisy’s voice from the barrel next to Lily’s.
“There was a horrible, horrible monster!”
“A snarling, shrieking beast!”
“She filled the sky with chocolate milk!”
“Snuck into the market and assailed ponies!”
“Fire and lava everywhere!”
Twilight held up a hoof. “Whoa, slow down! You said that a draconequus did… Hold on.” Her brow furrowed. “Why are there only two of you here? What happened to Rose?”
Lily’s eyes widened further. “I... I don’t know...” Cautiously, she poked her head out of the barrel. “Daisy? I-is Rose over there with you?”
“N-no... Oh!” Daisy gasped. “The draconequus must have done something to her!”
Twilight turned and trotted away, her expression troubled. Discord was evil, but he was never this destructive, she thought. If this continues, we might have to take drastic action…
As Pinkie drifted through the forest, she gloomily considered the life that awaited her. There would be no more parties, as she couldn’t get close to anypony without risking accidentally hurting them. As such, she could never see her friends again, either. Although they probably wouldn’t be able to understand her anyway, even if she did…
Pinkie sighed. Looked like a lifetime of moping about, all alone in the Everfree for however long draconequuses… draconquuii… for however long a draconequus lived.
I’ll probably go crazy, Pinkie thought. And not the fun kind of crazy, either.
Dejectedly, she looked about. She was probably deep enough into the forest that nopony would accidentally stumble upon her. Pinkie decided that this was as good a place as any to make a house for herself. Maybe out of gingerbread…? she considered.
Presently, Pinkie noticed something out of place. “Hey,” she said. “There’s already a house here!”
Pinkie’s first instinct was to run away, but instead, she paused. After a moment, she crept forward, examining the house.
On second thought, “hut” was probably a better word for the building in front of her. The hut was made of countless tree branches that had been carefully stripped of leaves and excess twigs, vaguely dome-shaped and held together by dried vines and creepers. The whole thing looked like a large, upside-down bird’s nest. There were no windows, but there was a hollowed-out log for a chimney and a large, thick piece of bark for a door.
Pinkie edged over to the door, opened it just a crack, and looked around. Nopony was home, so she slipped inside.
The one-room interior was mostly bare, but kept clean. Hardly anything of interest – or anything at all, for that matter – was there. Really, all that could be seen was a large, wooden chest, a pile of leaves that served as a makeshift bed, a small pile of books, and a small, worn picture frame that lay beside them.
Pinkie floated further into the house. She grabbed one of the books and examined its cover, which boldly proclaimed itself to be the latest in the Daring Do series.
“Huh.” Pinkie frowned thoughtfully as she examined cover after cover. “These are some of Dashie’s favorites... Wait a minute...”
Pinkie set the books down, her eyes falling on the picture frame. She reached out and picked it up.
Inside was a worn, faded photo of a pegasus filly and a young gryphon. The former was immediately recognizable – nopony else had a mane like that.
Hey! That’s Dashie, when she was younger! Pinkie’s eyes widened. So the gryphon must be–
“Hey, you! What are you doing in my house?!”
Pinkie spun around to face the newcomer. She gasped. “Gilda?!”