As the group stepped through the castle doors, the scene was somewhat unexpected. Unexpected in that Canterlot looked, for the most part, completely normal. With Discord free, the ponies had expected that he would’ve started messing with everything, turning buildings upside down, making night and day switch wildly. However, things seemed as normal as ever.
Well, save for the Koopas, Goombas, and various other members of Bowser’s forces wandering around.
“Look at them all…” Fluttershy said. “How in Equestria are we going to get past them all?”
Mario gave a reassuring thumbs up, a gesture that seemed to tell Fluttershy that he was completely confident that this wouldn’t be a problem. Fluttershy nodded, and everyone moved forward, easily fighting their way through Bowser’s lower grunts.
It didn’t take much effort for them to bust through the forces surrounding the castle, and the city itself seemed to be devoid of soldiers. However, the streets were somewhat bare of normal citizens as well. Only a few ponies seemed to be out and about, and they seemed somewhat distressed.
“Perhaps we should talk to some of these ponies,” Rarity suggested. “It seems like they could use some reassuring words.”
The group approached a unicorn colt, with a blue mane and white coat. As he saw them approaching, he suddenly began to smile. “Why, if it isn’t Miss Rarity and her friends! And a pair of new faces!”
“Hello Fancypants,” Rarity said, dipping her head in greeting. “It’s quite a pleasure to see you again.”
“I agree, though I wish it could have been during happier times,” Fancypants said. ”Did you see those ships that suddenly appeared overhead? They practically filled the skies, and all manner of beasts came pouring out of them! And just as quickly, they vanished! I’ve never seen anything like it!”
Mario started uttering a stream of Italian-sounding gibberish, though Fancypants seemed to understand what he was saying.
“Mushroom Kingdom, you say?” Fancypants said. “Bowser Koopa? Why in the world would he come here?”
“Because Princess Peach, the ruler of the Mushroom Kingdom, was visiting on diplomatic business,” Twilight explained. “Bowser stormed the castle and kidnapped Peach, Celestia, and Luna. Mario, Luigi, and my friends and I are going to track him down and rescue them.”
“Oh, how marvelous!” Fancypants said. “I wish you all the best of luck! Though, if you’re going to be travelling, there’s something you may want to see…” Fancypants lead them all over to a platform which overlooked Equestria from Canterlot. Everyone looked over the side, and gasped.
It seemed that Equestria hadn’t been entirely spared of Discord’s touch. The regions of the kingdom all seemed to have been scrambled about, stretched, squashed, and generally changed around. The most prominent, though, was the Everfree Forest, which had swelled drastically. It seemed to form a circle, and right in the center, was unmistakably Ponyville.
“He’s changed everything!” Twilight said. “Discord’s completely changed Equestria!”
“It was the darnedest thing,” Fancypants said. “I looked out over the kingdom once the ships appeared, to see if there were any more incoming, and everything seemed so different! No doubt these two events are related. Well, I’d advise that you all prepare yourselves before venturing onward, things seem dangerous out there. Most shops closed once the invasion started, though, quite peculiarly, the one shop that always seems to be closed suddenly opened!”
Fancypants gestured over to the square, where most of the doors seemed to be closed to the public. However, one stand stood in the middle, and behind the counter was a purple pony with cloud-like, purple and white hair. She wore a propeller beanie on her head, and her eyes were swirling spirals. She smiled as the group approached.
“Hi!” She said cheerfully. “Welcome to Screwball’s Emporium! How can I help you?”
“Uh… Screwball?” Rainbow Dash said.
“That’s me!” She said. “…I think. Hold on a sec.” She suddenly ducked down behind the counter, and a fountain of objects erupted upward as she rummaged through them. She finally got what she was looking for, a spoon, and she stared at her inverted reflection in it. “…Yep! That’s me!” Screwball said proudly, tossing the spoon behind her.
“If you don’t mind me asking,” Twilight said. “Why open your store now?”
“Look around!” Screwball replied. “Everyone else is closed! That means that anyone that wants to buy something has to come to me! Pretty clever, huh?”
“I… guess…” Twilight said. She and Mario exchanged looks, and the portly plumber stepped forward, requesting a few items.
A moment later, they had obtained some supplies for their journey. With a wave goodbye to Screwball and Fancypants, they proceeded through Canterlot. As they got closer to the city limits, they were forced to fight through some more of Bowser’s underlings, but they proved to be a simple challenge for the Mario Brothers.
“Alright,” Twilight said, as they came to the city gate. “If I remember correctly from that glimpse we got, there should be a mountain path leading down to the Everfree Forest. Once we get there, all we have to do is reach the center of it, and we’ll be in Ponyville. Now come on, time’s a wasting!”
The eight of them moved to go through the gate, but they all stopped as a voice sounded out behind them.
Everyone turned around, and standing behind them was an azure unicorn with a silvery blue mane and tail. She wore an iconic purple wizard’s hat and cloak, both decorated with stars, and a smug grin.
“Trixie?” Twilight said. “What are you doing here?”
“That’s the Great and Powerful Trixie to you!” She snapped. “And the Great and Powerful Trixie has some unfinished business with you!”