24/Male/UK. Wait, wrong site.
3w, 1dHow does this even happen 7 comments · 98 views
9w, 22hCompliments 6 comments · 96 views
12w, 2dWork your magic, people 5 comments · 92 views
17w, 1dding 7 comments · 139 views
18w, 4dWould you like to be part of the magic? 8 comments · 156 views
19w, 4dThat was mildly enjoyable 5 comments · 97 views
19w, 4dOKAY SO STREAMING WHATEVER 3 comments · 47 views
19w, 6dSo I heard you like Harpflank and Sweets 21 comments · 166 views
19w, 6dNext question 10 comments · 85 views
20w, 2dSo it turns out I can stream now 8 comments · 95 views
Edited by R.T. Stephens (FiMFiction)
The justice has been doubled! Though the world has been saved from Nightmare Moon, Metropony remains under threat. With the Empire gone, a new wave of super-criminals has emerged to fill the vacuum of power! How will the bastion of Harmony fare in an increasingly Chaotic world?! New friends, new enemies, and new adventures await those stalwart heroes named...
HARPFLANK AND SWEETS: SEASON 2, EPISODE 11 - HAVE A BAD DAY? MAKE SOMEONE PAY!
Lyra downed the last of her drink and slammed her hoof on the bar.
“Berry! Need another one over here!”
The plum-coated earth pony scowled at her, slinging the mug of cider she had already prepared along the metal surface of the counter.
“Would it kill you to ask politely once in a while?”
Lyra waved her forehoof dismissively, bringing the mug to her lips with the other. Berry Punch half-heartedly wiped a glass with a rag that could, at a stretch, be considered “clean,” and cast a discerning glance around her establishment.
Though officially and unimaginatively named “HQ Lounge,” it had become affectionately known amongst its clientele as “The Element of Barmony,” frequented as it was by the six ponies at the top of M.A.R.E’s loose hierarchy. Besides Lyra, a group of soldiers, several medical ponies, and an ExTech researcher gently nodding off into his drink occupied the comfortable chairs that Berry had insisted she be allowed to furnish the place with.
“If I’m going to run the place where the saviours of the city go to unwind,” she had said when approached in secret by a M.A.R.E. recruiter, “they’re going to be able to unwind.”
She felt no small pride at having been chosen by the organisation and secretly believed herself one of its most vital members. She had seen things in her time at HQ, heard the stories the Elements would sometimes tell the grunts when the lights were turned down, the cider was wordlessly replaced with... stronger beverages, and the salt started flowing. But no matter what the ponies of M.A.R.E. went through, no matter what terrors threatened the city... Berry would be waiting, mug on hoof and ready to listen.
Frowning at the unexpected introspection, she strolled over to where Lyra was nursing her drink and looking irritable. Berry pulled up the stool she kept below the bar for situations like this and sat down opposite Lyra, crossing her forelegs.
“All right, lay it on me. Why the long face?”
Lyra sighed, resting her chin on a hoof.
“Ah, it’s nothing.”
Berry gave her a look that every pony in M.A.R.E. had learned to recognise, a look that said she knew you wanted to talk and wasn’t going to leave until you did.
“Oh, fine. I’m just... bored.”
Berry blinked. This wasn’t what she was expecting.
“Bored? You’re moping around in my bar like somepony died because you’re bored?”
Lyra sat up straighter, trying to articulate her feelings.
“I don’t mean bored bored, I mean... bored. Nothing’s happening!”
Berry continued to stare.
“Ugh, you wouldn’t understand.”
Lyra gave her a flat look before sighing and taking another swig.
“Okay, this is going to sound weird, but...”
Berry leaned forward slightly, despite herself. She had sworn that, no matter how much she cared for the ponies she served, she would maintain a certain level of professional detachment. She’d go mad otherwise. But what could possibly be bugging Harpflank herself? What could possibly be getting the city’s greatest defender down?
“I kinda wish something would attack the city.”
There was a brief silence.
“Yeah, that does sound weird.”
Lyra sighed again.
“You see? I told you, you wouldn’t understand.”
She waved her hooves vaguely in the air.
“It’s like... when I’m fighting, or training, or fending off whoever decides they’re a super-villain today... my life has meaning, you know? I’ve got something to do. I mean, there’s always music, but that’s who I am, not what I do... do you know what I mean?”
Berry nodded sagely. She didn’t know what Lyra meant, but she nodded sagely anyway.
“But it’s been weeks since anything even looked at us threateningly! Even the Crusaders have been quiet! The Crusaders! Which is good and all, but... you know? Say what you like about Trixie, she was punctual. Always knew when she was coming.”
Berry closed her eyes in thought. Lyra went back to her cider, doodling little pictures in the foam.
After a minute, Berry opened her eyes again and pointed an authoritative hoof at Lyra.
“You need a hobby.”
Lyra stopped tracing a surprisingly detailed outline of herself punching a Lunatron and raised an eyebrow.
“A what now?”
Berry leaned forward, increasingly sure of her suggestion.
“A hobby. You need something to do, to dedicate yourself to. I’d have said your harp, but that’s obviously not something you do for just passing the time. And Celestia knows there's not much to do in the base. So find something else.”
Lyra’s expression turned pensive, a hint of interest gleaming in her eyes.
“Something else... Yeah. Yeah, that could work! I have been getting too wrapped in my job. Maybe I could-”
She was interrupted by the Lounge’s door slamming open, causing the relaxing ponies to start and spill their drinks. Bon-Bon galloped into the room, eyes scanning the room wildly. With a triumphant cry, muffled by the leaflet she held in her mouth, she spotted Lyra and rushed over, leaping over several tables in her haste and eliciting protesting grumbles of protest from the ponies whose drinks she nearly scattered.
She came to a halt at the bar, panting. Dropping the leaflet on the bar, she sat down eagerly.
“Lyra, you have to see this! You’ll never guess who’s coming to Metropony! I can’t believe...”
She trailed off as she realised that Lyra had leapt from her stool and taken a combat stance, and Berry Punch was halfway to pointing a rather large gun across the bar. There was a moment of silence as the two parties stared at one another, Lyra and Berry’s narrowed eyes meeting Bon-Bon’s embarrassed glance. Bon-Bon laughed nervously.
“Took you by surprise?”
Lyra settled back into her seat and Berry stowed her weapon, shaking her head. Bon-Bon quickly regained her enthusiasm and pushed the leaflet over to Lyra, eyes wide with excitement.
“Look, look! Iron Will is hosting a seminar! Later today! Can you believe it?!”
Lyra picked up the gaudy leaflet and inspected it curiously. Dominating the cover was a picture of a blue minotaur, two ponies tall, flexing his biceps while giving two thumbs-up and flanked by two ponies wearing confident expressions. Lyra flicked through the leaflet, frowning.
“So, what? He’s a... motivational speaker?”
Bon-Bon gave Lyra a look she knew well. It was the look she would dispense when Lyra said things like, “Hoity who?” or, “Which one is Spitfire again?”
After letting the look sink in, Bon-Bon launched into her explanation.
“Iron Will is the most successful act in Equestrian history! He’s done sell-out self-help shows all over the world, and they’re supposed to be amazing. There’s all kinds of rumours about him! Like, he’s so inspirational, he once got a rock and a tree to start a relationship! They say he’s so successful they had to invent new numbers just to accommodate his bank balance.”
Lyra, taking no small pleasure in returning the act that Bon-Bon had performed so many times, stuffed a hoof into Bon-Bon’s mouth.
“You’re gushing, BB.”
Bon-Bon slapped Lyra’s hoof aside lightly and frowned.
“I am not gushing. I do not gush. I am... expressing my enthusiasm.”
Her eyes lit up again.
“So, anyway, he’s in town today, performing at the Hedge Maze, and we have to go.”
Lyra glanced at Berry, who shrugged as if to say “You’re the one who was bored,” and smiled.
“Why the hay not?”
“You weren’t kidding when you said he was popular...”
Metropony Convention Centre, popularly known as “The Hedge Maze” thanks to its naturalistic stylings and arcane layout, was packed. Lyra and Bon-Bon stared at the thousands-strong crowd that filled the entrance hall, awed by the milling throng. Everywhere they looked were ponies buying merchandise, chatting excitedly, and shuffling impatiently, while scruffy goat attendants distributed snacks and drinks. Lyra eagerly grabbed a few, addressing Bon-Bon through a mouthful of canapé.
“Sho... Thish guy ish preddy...” Noting Bon-Bon’s disapproving gaze, she rolled her eyes and swallowed. “So, this guy is pretty upmarket, huh? This waiting room might as well be a pre-party.”
Bon-Bon nodded excitedly, eyeing the merchandise booths. Lyra followed her gaze and laughed.
“You are such a sucker for fame.”
Bon-Bon huffed, puffing out her cheeks in a childish pout as she always did when Lyra managed to put her on the receiving end of the jokes for once. Even as she did so, however, she was nonchalantly strolling towards the nearest stand, where a dishevelled-looking goat wearing a headset was passing out mugs, saddlebags, lifting weights, magazines, anvils... If it could conceivably have the face of a minotaur painted on it, they apparently sold it.
Lyra chewed thoughtfully on her latest snackquisition and casually scanned the room for interesting faces. A pink-maned pegasus caught her eye briefly, but she was quickly swallowed by the crowd and Lyra’s gaze moved idly on. She couldn’t deny that she was enjoying herself. Just being in a new place, doing something she didn’t do every day, was strangely liberating. She hadn’t realised how deep the rut she had been falling into was. The day she found being in a queue exciting was a day she had never thought would come.
“Hey, BB, when does it actually sta-” She cut herself off with a snort of laughter that sprayed a nearby stallion with a fine mist of moist crumbs. He cringed in disgust and turned to leave, walking face-first into the source of Lyra’s amusement as he went.
A pile of Iron Will merchandise, just higher than a pony, seemed to have developed life and begun moving about the room. The pink-and-blue mane protruding from the gap between a bag of hats and a mug the size of Lyra’s head betrayed its true form, however. The ambulatory merch made its way to the gasping Lyra’s side and asked, indignantly,
“What? Too much?”
Lyra’s answer was drowned out by the Hedge Maze’s PA system, renowned for being “loud enough to stun a dragon and deep enough to shake it awake.”
“All guests, please move to the auditorium.”
Bon-Bon instantly dropped her load, holding her hooves to her mouth and making a sound that could only be described as “Eee!” Lyra burst out laughing again, and the two friends joined the flow of the crowd, eagerly awaiting what was to come.
"IRON IS WILL IS MY NAME...
The vast crowd, tens of thousands strong and crammed into an indoor arena that could only just hold them, yelled back as one.
“TRAINING PONIES IS YOUR GAME!”
A screaming rock tune blasted from the enormous speakers, competing with the roar of the crowd for one of the loudest things Lyra had ever heard. Jets of flame and streaming fireworks ringed the stage and into the noise and light leapt a large blue figure, bursting from the curtain and sliding to the edge of the stage on its knees, arms spread wide. As the fire died down and the stage became clearly visible again, the minotaur raised his microphone to his mouth and roared,
He was greeted by an even louder cheer than before, and the stomping of hooves made the entire building shake. Lyra nudged Bon-Bon and, speaking directly into her ear to be heard over the roar of the crowd, shouted,
“This guy is pretty awesome!”
Iron Will stood up. He was... big, and not just physically. His voice seemed to fill the room even without the aid of the pounding speakers, and his every movement was filled with a violent energy. His body practically thrummed with power, and the stage trembled with every step of his hooves.
The cheering died down. Anticipation hung thickly in the air. Something stirred within Lyra, an urgent need that clamoured for her attention. She pushed it to the back of her mind and tried to focus on the show.
The minotaur strode back and forth across the stage, voice booming both from and over the speakers.
“I wanna hear you stomp if you’re tired of being a pushover!”
The crowd complied, whooping and screaming along. Lyra snorted with laughter yet again as Bon-Bon cheered with the rest of them. Inside, however, the urge was growing stronger.
“Stomp if you’re tired of being a doormat!”
The cheer was even louder this time, almost physically. Greater even than the roar of the crowd, however, was the desperate need that Lyra could no longer ignore.
“BB! I gotta go, uh, go! I’ll be back in a minute!”
Bon-Bon, unable to hear her over the din and too absorbed in Iron Will’s spectacle to notice her leave, continued to wave her hooves in the air in a manner that suggested that she just didn’t care. Lyra smiled and shrugged, pleased to see her oh-so-focused friend let herself go. She began squeezing her way along the row, a litany of “Oops, sorry, ‘scuse me, pardon, whoa, easy there...” following her as she trod on more hooves and kicked more shins than she could readily count.
The entrance hall was eerily quiet when Lyra cantered back from her excursion. The facilities had been located a frankly inconvenient distance from the arena proper and it had taken her almost half an hour of not watching the show to get there and back, to her great irritation. Slowing to a trot, she cast a quick glance about the large room.
The counters and merchandise stalls were all empty, devoid of even the Hedge Maze staff and Iron Will’s legion of goat roadies. The only sound was the dull boom of the show filtering through the thick walls of the auditorium.
Where was everypony? Shouldn’t there be - her hardly-encyclopaedic knowledge of the running of convention centres failed her - cleaners? Ponies to let in latecomers? Security? Anything.
Just as she was ready to shrug the mystery off and head back inside she realised that there was somepony in the room with her, standing by the auditorium’s main door with their hoof raised uncertainly. As she trotted closer, she recognised the yellow-coated, pink-maned pegasus that had caught her eye before the show.
“Hey! Where’d everypony go?”
At the sound of her voice, the pegasus simultaneously whirled to face her and squeaked in fright, tossing her mane over her face in an effort to hide. Slightly taken aback by the excessive reaction, Lyra closed the distance between them slowly.
“Uh... are you okay?”
The pegasus peeked out from behind her hair, a single wide eye greeting Lyra cautiously.
“Oh, um, I’m sorry. I-I’m fine. You just, um, frightened me.”
Lyra cocked her head back toward the empty room.
“Any idea where everypony went?”
The pegasus shook her head and shuffled her hooves. Every movement was hesitant, careful, as if Lyra was a bomb she was terrified of setting off.
“Um, no. I arrived late and nopony was here, so I, um...”
She looked back at the door and gulped. Lyra rolled her eyes.
“Don’t tell me you were scared of going through the door.”
The pegasus flinched slightly at her accusation and, after a moment’s internal struggle, nodded in shame.
“I thought if I came in late, everypony would... look at me...”
She shuddered, as if the very thought was anathema. Lyra laughed, and the pegasus looked up in surprise.
“Believe me, you got nothing to worry about. There’s one hay of a show going on in there; nopony’s gonna notice a pony as quiet as you walking in!”
Smiling at the joke and blushing at its accuracy, the pegasus brushed her mane away from her face - a gesture that Lyra later realised was a kind of acceptance, a removing of armour. This was one shy pony.
Lyra gripped the door’s handle with her magic and prepared to enter, but something compelled her to stay. The pegasus was still hanging back, looking around the empty hall nervously and twitching whenever particularly loud cheer erupted from the adjacent room. Lyra looked back at her for a moment, then let her magic fade. She trotted back to the pegasus’ side and prodded her in the shoulder, stifling a laugh when she jumped and squeaked again.
“So, come on, what’s your name?”
The pegasus looked down as she responded, her voice barely audible.
Lyra blinked. Surely she wasn’t that shy.
“I’m sorry, what was that?”
The pegasus kicked at the ground gently with her hoof.
Lyra gave her a flat stare. The pegasus, perhaps sensing that Lyra was not one for wasting time, coughed and raised the volume.
“I-I’m Fluttershy. It’s, um, very nice to meet you.”
“Yeah, it’s a pleasure. Name’s Lyra.”
Lyra opened and shut her mouth a few times as she tried to work out how to proceed. She felt oddly protective of this demure and unassuming pony. She was obviously cripplingly shy, and it took no guesswork to see why she was attending (or, at least, attempting to attend) a world-famous self-help seminar. She shrugged mentally.
“So, you’re pretty shy, huh?”
Fluttershy’s stared at her wide-eyed for a moment, shocked by her bluntness, then smiled wanly.
“Um, yes. My friend told me about Iron Will’s shows and, well, I thou-”
“Wait, wait, wait. Did you say your name was Fluttershy?”
Fluttershy stuttered at the interruption, fumbling her response.
“Uh, um, yes? M-My parents said I was named for the park...”
Lyra’s eyes widened in surprise, then she cried out in triumph, sending Fluttershy several surprised steps backwards.
“I knew it! I knew I’d seen you somewhere before! The Princess’ drawings!”
She gasped as wonderful realisation gripped her.
“Oooh, BB is going to flip when she finds out I found the second Element without her!”
Her little prancing dance of victory was cut short by the pegasus in question’s quiet voice.
“Um, I’m sorry, but... What are you talking about? I’m just a pony.”
Lyra trotted over to her and clapped a hoof across her shoulders, grinning in her face. Fluttershy shrank back at Lyra’s effusive space-invasion.
“Oh, you’re more than just a pony, Fluttershy. You’re one of the most important ponies ever born.” She swept her hoof skywards to emphasise her words.
Lyra let her go and headed back toward the door, horn glowing as she took hold of the handle.
“I’m just gonna grab BB, then we can get out of-”
“GET OUT OF THE WAY!”
A booming bellow burst from the auditorium the exact moment that Lyra opened the door. She heard Fluttershy gasp just as she turned her head to witness Iron Will bearing down on her at full lumbering speed, chased by what seemed like the entire crowd - a wave of bodies ready to smash against them.
“What in the-Oof!”
The wind was knocked from her lungs as Iron Will collided with her, throwing her across the room. She managed to twist in the air and land on her hooves, stumbling into Fluttershy as she attempted to regain her balance. The pegasus shrieked in surprise as she and Lyra tumbled to the floor in a heap.
The floor rumbled with the pounding hooves of the crowd, and in a single fluid motion Iron Will skidded to halt, span on his hooves and slammed the door closed. Muscles bulging in his enormous arms, he tore a thick metal beam from a sculpture donated by Apple Family Inc., jammed one end through the wall, twisted it across the door and hammered the other end home, creating a makeshift bar. There was a terrifying slam as the ponies on the other side impacted with the hastily-secured door, then an insistent banging as they tried to force their way through.
The panting minotaur turned to face Lyra and Fluttershy, still tangled on the floor, and gave them an exhausted double thumbs-up, gasping an introduction.
“Hey there! Iron Will’s... my name... training ponies... is my game!”
Blowing strands of Fluttershy’s mane from her face, Lyra disentangled herself from the dazed pegasus, glaring at Iron Will.
“What do you think you’re doing?! Look at you, you could’ve killed me!”
Iron Will scratched behind his horns sheepishly, a surprisingly awkward gesture for the hulking creature.
“Oh. Uh, sorry ‘bout that. Iron Will had to make a quick getaway. They’re going crazy in there!”
Even as he spoke, the thumping at the door continued. Lyra eyed it nervously.
“What is wrong with them?”
The minotaur shrugged.
“I don’t know! I’d just finished outlining the process, fired up the video, and pow! There’s a horde of ponies running me down! You ever seen a minotaur try to fight twenty thousand ponies? You’re lucky Iron Will came through the door!”
“So... everypony just went crazy at once?”
Fluttershy, who had by now picked herself up, padded to Lyra’s side, imperceptibly leaning away from the looming figure of Iron Will.
“Maybe they, um, didn’t like the show?”
Both she and Lyra flinched from Iron Will’s bark of laughter.
“Didn’t like the show? Didn’t like the show? Didn’t you read the flyer? If you’re not one-hundred percent satisfied, you. Pay. Nothing!”
He punctuated his words with theatrical shadow boxing, punching the air with gusto.
“There’s no way somepony wouldn’t like the show. Never happened, never will!”
Lyra shook her head and turned to leave.
“Yeah, yeah, whatever you say, big guy. Come on, we gotta see what we can find out.”
“Whoa whoa whoa.” Iron Will held up his hands, as if dropping something distasteful. “Iron Will isn’t looking for trouble. Iron Will didn’t get up today planning to get lynched!”
Lyra frowned and turned back, walking up to Iron Will and prodding him in the chest accusingly.
“You know what I didn’t get up today planning for? Coming to a show I’ve never even heard of, getting lost in some stupid convention centre for half the event, and coming back to find that an entire crowd, which includes my best friend, has simultaneously flipped and the one probably responsible isn’t going to lift a hoof to help!” She glanced at his hands. “Finger, whatever. The point is, I’m going to find out what’s going on and put a stop to it because that’s my job. And you’re going to help me do it, or I’m gonna show you what a bad day really is.”
With a final “Yeesh,” she spun on her heels and stalked away, heading for the door she had entered from on her return from the little mare’s room. Iron Will stood stunned for a moment, before turning to Fluttershy and jabbing a thumb in Lyra’s direction.
“Is she always like that?”
Fluttershy looked after the muttering Lyra.
“Um, we only just met. But... probably, yes.”
Lyra peeked around the corner, exposing as little of herself as possible. Fluttershy joined her, head poking out beneath Lyra’s, followed by Iron Will’s above. The three quickly withdrew as one of the patrolling ponies at the other end of the leaf-muraled corridor casually glanced in their direction.
“Patrolling” was perhaps the wrong word. The roving packs they had encountered and subsequently avoided had all seemed to be doing nothing more than taking a leisurely stroll about the Hedge Maze, appreciating the decor and chatting about how much they’d enjoyed the show. At no point had they exhibited the ferocity that had marked their pursuit of Iron Will.
As the group passed them by, Lyra whispered the question to Iron Will that she had already whispered a dozen times.
“Are you sure they weren’t just ticked about your show?”
The crouching minotaur gritted his teeth as he answered.
“Yes! Iron Will never leaves an audience unsatisfied! That’s a guarantee!”
Lyra bit her lip. Though she would never admit it, she grew more worried with every corner they turned. As much as she ribbed Iron Will, she had seen the faces of the crowd clearly as they chased him... She suppressed a shudder and wished Bon-Bon were with them. Bon-Bon would know what to do, how to solve this mystery.
Lyra shook herself free of her reverie and turned to Fluttershy.
“Um, I think we should move... I think I hear hoofbeats.”
Lyra strained her ears and, sure enough, heard the unmistakable sound of approaching ponies from the way they had come. With a nod and a wave, she ushered her companions along the corridor recently vacated by the previous group, mind racing as she followed. These ponies were everywhere, the Hedge Maze was... well, a maze, and they had no destination beyond “find out what’s going on.” Soon, very soon, they were going to be discovered, and she had no idea what would happen when they were.
At that precise moment, she heard Iron Will bellow.
“Hey! You with the teeth!”
Wincing as the minotaur’s cry shook the walls around them, Lyra span and galloped to his side past the cowering Fluttershy. She reared as high as she could, planting her forehooves on his chest in a futile attempt to reach eye-level.
“What are you doing?!”
Iron Will pointed down the corridor, where a thick-haired form was vanishing around the next corner with a terrified bleat.
“That was one of my goats! They ran off when the crowd went crazy; maybe he knows something!”
“That’s great and all, but did it occur to you that we are trying to be quiet?! What if somepony heard you, shouting like that?!”
A tap on her shoulder made her drop back to all fours, and Fluttershy crept into view.
“I think they already did...”
The sound of approaching hooves had magnified, no longer the steady clip-clop of leisurely trotting. Lyra could make out three, maybe four, galloping ponies behind them. She ran a hoof through her mane in frustration before waving Fluttershy and Iron Will on again.
“Okay, let’s get that goat. It’s our only lead!”
The hooves behind them grew louder as they ran, and just before they reached the corner the goat had disappeared behind, Lyra threw a backwards glance over her shoulder. She wished she hadn’t.
Three ponies - cream, magenta and pink - were charging after them, heads lowered and teeth bared in vicious snarls. There was nothing of the carefree attitude she had seen in the patrol’s eyes; only a cold aggression that bordered on... hatred. As she inadvertently met the eye of the cream pony leading the charge, it cried out in rage.
“Try to get away, and we’ll make you pay!”
Iron Will slowed, a look of confusion darting across his bullish features.
“Hey, that sounds like one of my sloga-”
“That’s fascinating, now keep running!”
As Lyra dashed past him, the minotaur shook his head thoughtfully. Noting Fluttershy was falling behind, he hoisted her bodily under one arm (eliciting a surprised squeak) and ran after Lyra.
“...Where’d he go?”
After losing the pack of ponies through a combination of Lyra’s quick-thinking and Iron Will’s unique affinity for taking shortcuts through walls, their pursuit of the goat had led them to a ornate door with playful frescoes carved into its wooden surface. Upon bursting through it, they had found themselves in one of the arena’s Boxes. The small, glass-walled room was filled with plush seats, fine carpet, and a buffet that Lyra, having had to run for hours on nothing more than nibbles, could barely bring herself to look at.
It was also furnished with a distinct absence of goat. Lyra trotted in, Iron Will following curiously as Fluttershy peeked out from behind him. It was immediately clear that the room was empty.
“We were right behind him! We heard this door close! He has to be in here!”
As Lyra ranted, Fluttershy had cautiously stepped up the window and looked down into the arena proper.
Though many of the crowd had left the arena - no doubt ambling the convention centre in their strange way - there were still several thousand ponies occupying seats. To a pony, their eyes were fixated on the enormous screen that dominated the stage. The screen itself showed a presumably hypothetical Iron Will at the head of a boardroom being applauded as he presented some no-doubt greatly self-assured graph, giving his trademark double thumbs-up and saying “If they make you frown, just talk ‘em down!”
As she watched, her lips began to move in time with Iron Will’s.
“If they make you frown, just talk ‘em down...”
The scene changed to the guru, for some reason, being scolded by a minotaur couple dressed like a stereotypical family. The discussion quickly turned in his favour and he strolled out the house, his ‘parents’ looking apologetically through the window as the thumbs came up again.
“Trying to keep you inside? Just push ‘em aside!”
“Trying to keep you inside... just push-”
Lyra called from the other side of room, where she and Iron Will had been hunting for secret passages in a vain hope that the goat knew something they didn’t. Fluttershy whirled around and fluttered angrily a few feet into the air, teeth bared and eyes flashing.
“What? I was trying to watch, you arroga-” She gasped as she heard herself and brought her hooves to her mouth in shock. “Oh my goodness! I’m so sorry!”
Lyra carefully walked toward her.
“Whoa, you ok? What was that?”
Fluttershy shook her head in response, eyes wide with self-recrimination.
“I-I don’t know! I was just watching the video and then, when I heard you... I was so angry!”
Iron Will plodded over, picking his teeth after having investigated the buffet to his satisfaction. He glanced into the auditorium.
“Boy, I really put on a good sprea- Hey! Someone’s cut up my movie!”
Lyra turned to look, but Fluttershy quickly grabbed her shoulder and shook her head.
“I, um, don’t think you should watch it!”
Iron Will was fuming.
“They’ve totally ruined it! Now it’s just a list of slogans! There’s a lot more to the Iron Will Method than a bunch of rhymes!”
It was at this point that an idea struck Lyra. It was an unfamiliar sensation, as she usually let Bon-Bon do the thinking when it came to danger. She was a creature of instinct. But that was it, wasn’t it? Instinct!
“I... think I know what’s going on. You said that’s not your movie, right?”
Iron Will nodded, eyebrow raised.
“And after watching it for - what, a minute? - you almost flipped out on us.” Lyra nodded to Fluttershy, who blushed at the mention of her sudden aggression. “I think your video is causing everypony to go crazy.”
Iron Will pointed an accusatory finger at Lyra in response.
“Hey! I don’t like what you’re saying about Iron Will’s methods! Iron Will’s program is about assertiveness, about standing up for yourself! My motto’s always been ‘Anger - use it, but don’t lose it!’”
“But what if it got... I don’t know, magicked or something? What if it worked too well and they’re not crazy, just way too assertive? So assertive it makes them want to put everypony else down?”
There was a brief silence.
“We gotta stop that movie.”
“Um, why don’t we just smash it?”
Hero and minotaur looked at Fluttershy in surprise. She coughed, looking away.
“I’m just saying, it’s only a screen...”
Lyra shook her head, tapping her chin thoughtfully. All this running around and planning was getting frustrating. She just wanted to kick something, to save the day the way she saved it best.
“No. They’re already brainwashed, so we need to find whatever or whoever made the change in the first place and find out how to reverse it. Who does your backstage stuff?”
Iron Will shrugged.
“I just leave it to the goats. I think they hired independent contractor from Metropony this time, though. We’ve never done a show this big, and we needed some extra muscle.” He flexed at ‘muscle.’
“Um, excuse me.”
“Aaah, if that guy hadn’t vanished on us, we could have asked him! Why does today have to be so complicated?!”
“Hey, don’t come complaining to me! I just came here to do a show and help you ponies realise your true potential! Ain’t my fault you go crazy at some mixed-up movie!”
“Um, Lyra, there’s a-”
“It’s your fault this whole thing is happening in the first place! If you got involved beyond strutting around shouting slogans-”
“Excuse me, please!”
Lyra and Iron Will both jumped as Fluttershy’s shout filled the room. She cleared her throat and continued once the two were staring at her.
“I’ve been here before and there’s, um, a control room over the stage. That’s where they run the A/V from, so we should go there and see if anything’s changed.” She blushed and smiled sheepishly. “Um, if that’s okay with you.”
Before long the three impromptu companions were standing before the door to the control room. Their journey had been as uneventful as it had been tense. A combination of luck and the sheer size of the Hedge Maze had given them ample opportunity to avoid patrols, but the thought of what might happen if they were discovered had kept them on edge. With Lyra unable to defend herself against civilians, Iron Will unwilling to, and Fluttershy... being Fluttershy, stealth was their only option.
They took their positions according to the pattern they had developed - Lyra taking point, Iron Will ready to charge in after her in case of danger, and Fluttershy hovering near the ceiling in the hope that anypony to get past her companions would run beneath her.
“Okay. There could be anything in here, so get ready to improvise. I’m used to this sort of thing, so follow my lead, and we should be good. Clear?”
Fluttershy and Iron Will both nodded at her whisper. Lyra shifted her weight and took a deep breath.
Then she kicked the door down, leaping in and readying herself for whatever may come. As the dust kicked up from the floor of the control room cleared, Iron Will barrelled in after her, fists raised. Fluttershy peeked under the doorframe. They all stared at what the room revealed.
A huge, complicated magitechnical apparatus took up a large chunk of the surprisingly large room, humming with energy both electrical and magical and hooked via myriad of thick cables to the wide bank of dials, switches and screens that controlled the auditorium. Upwards of twenty goats trotted back and forth, technological gewgaws of every kind held in their mouths as they bustled about maintaining the machine. At Lyra’s entrance, they had frozen in fear, several stiffening entirely and falling to the ground.
But the most surprising thing was what lay behind the apparatus. Standing at the window, heads whipping around in surprise, were two tall, gangly unicorns wearing waistcoats and boaters. Lyra’s eyes widened.
One of the unicorns, sweat trickling from his forehead to lodge in his moustache, gulped.
“I think the jig’s up, brother o’ mine.”
The Flim Flams backed up against the window as Lyra advanced angrily across the cluttered room, goats scuttling from her path as she bore down on the travelling mercenaries.
“Now now, uh, Lyra m’dear, there’s no need for viole-”
Flim’s mouth clamped shut as Lyra raised a hoof menacingly, her face making it very clear just how much need for violence she considered there to be. She stomped to a standstill before the two cowering unicorns and leaned over them. Her voice as cold as an icicle and twice as sharp, she snapped,
“What are you two doing here?”
Flim seemed unable to open his mouth again so Flam spoke in his place, rattling off patter in their characteristic machine-gun fashion.
“Why, we’re merely providing our five-star services - with a little help from technology that we in-no-way-unfairly appropriated from the remains of certain celestial empires - to a satisfied, paying customer!”
He yelped as Lyra thrust her face close to his.
“I’ve had a really bad day, Flam, and I’m pretty sure it’s your fault. If you want to keep that moustache, I’d play straight. What are you doing here, and why aren’t you all... exploded?”
Now that Lyra’s attention was focused on his brother, Flim found his voice.
“Oh, just the same little thing that helped us out the last time you consumed us in fire, young filly!”
“And the time before that!”
“And the time before that!”
“A little thing called...”
The two brothers, even as Lyra glared at them from inches away, threw their hooves up with a flourish and declared their answer in a sing-song cry.
“L-U-C-K, and that spells luck!”
Lyra stared at the two unicorns for a few seconds, during which their eyes flickered uncertainly from her to each other to the minotaur blocking the door that was their only escape. Then, with a minimum of ceremony, she knocked their heads together sharply and they slumped to the floor unconscious. She stood up, dusting a strand of red hair dislodged by the impact from her shoulder, and turned to Iron Will and Fluttershy, trotting to where they stood by the Flim Flam’s contraption.
“Okay, problem solved. Let’s figure out how to reverse thi-”
“With all due respect, madam, we cannot let you do that.”
Rolling her eyes and groaning, Lyra threw her head back in frustration, crying out to the universe that seemed determined to frustrate her.
Without warning, the goats that had been quivering on the floor leapt to their hooves and surrounded the trio. They took a step forward, hemming them in, and Lyra’s nostrils wrinkled at the rank stench of their lank-haired coats.
Iron Will’s, meanwhile, were flaring with rage.
“What’s going on here?! I’m your boss!”
The voice that had interrupted Lyra spoke again, its urbane lilt carrying a bleating edge to it.
“Awfully sorry, Iron old boy, but it is at this point that our professional relationship must come to a close.”
There was a noise, almost exactly like hooves crushing cereal, and blue energy crackled in the air around the room’s lone entrance. Iron Will clenched his fists, Lyra clenched her teeth, and Fluttershy clenched her eyes shut. With a flash, the arcing light faded and revealed...
“... A goat in a top hat?”
Stepping carefully over the remains of the door was a goat of an exceedingly dapper persuasion. His coat, unlike his brethren, was fine-combed and lay flat against his body, and his beard was trimmed neatly. His horns, poking through the brim of the velvet hat that lay rakishly atop his head, were buffed to an almost mirror sheen. He winked at Lyra through the monocle that adorned his right eye.
“Very observant! I had hoped to remain at large amongst your assertive brethren but, alas, your untimely intervention and the dwindling power of my cloaking device have forced me to play my hoof rather early.”
Lyra struggled for words, and could only repeat herself.
“... A goat in a top hat?”
The jaunty newcomer chuckled heartily.
“Surprised, eh? I certainly do not blame you! The other fellows do have something of an... issue with presentation, something I have endeavoured at great lengths to change. But, well, tell a goat to wash and he rolls around in the mud. One step forward, two steps back, what?”
Iron Will found his voice and leaned forward menacingly.
“Just who are you, anyways? You ain’t like any goat I’ve seen.”
The goat slapped a hoof to his forehead.
“Oh, I have entirely neglected my manners! Bartholomew de Geit, at your esteemed service.” Sweeping one leg expansively, he dipped into a deep and respectful bow. “As for the difference between myself and my fellows, well...” His eyes narrowed for a split second, a hint of steel beneath his amicable demeanour. “Let us merely say that, unlike they, I have made something of myself.”
Fluttershy peeked out from behind Iron Will, visibly battling her desire to curl into a ball.
“Um, why are you doing these horrible things to everypony?”
“And what did you do to my show?!”
“And why are you making my day worse?!”
De Geit began pacing back and forth as he spoke, in much the same way that Iron Will had punctuated his speeches onstage.
“Ah, and now we reach the crux of the matter. What, I see you wondering, could a goat like myself possibly gain from driving twenty thousand ponies to homicidal rage? Too small a number to act as an army - I’m sure the fine ponies of M.A.R.E would have some ingenious and spectacular method of dealing with such a problem - and too large to satisfactorily utilise as a hostage group.”
The only sound now was the wheezy breathing of the goats and Lyra’s increasingly impatient hoof-tapping.
“The answer, ladies and gentlefellow...” He stomped his hoof as he turned back to face them and fixed them with a hard stare. “The answer is havoc.”
He moved to the window overlooking the auditorium, the gazes of the encircled trio following him warily as he went, and looked down at the ponies milling below. A gentle sigh escaped him, its genuine melancholy surprising his captives.
“Your surprise at my appearance says more than I ever could. We are a second-class species, and it has ever been so. Griffons, ponies, zebras, dragons... even rabbits are more respected. And we have done little to change that. I mean, honestly. Have you seen what I’m working with?”
He turned to face them again and swept an ironic hoof toward his comrades. One of them coughed, releasing a visible cloud of dust. Another scratched behind its ears with one hoof like a dog. He sighed again.
“Case in point. As I raised myself on the streets of Trottingham, I saw what we were. But as time passed, as I watched the pony elite pass and taught myself their ways... I saw what we could be. To you, I am a curiosity, an abnormality. To my species?”
His eyes shone with conviction, tears welling in their corners.
“I am potential. I am what goats can achieve if they fight the status quo, if they realise that they are more than wordless bleaters catering to the whims of an oblivious society. And that is precisely what I shall demonstrate here in Metropony, the heart of the pony hegemony.”
Iron Will snorted in anger.
“You ungrateful... When I hired you goats as kids, you were on three meals a day! Oatmeal, miss-a-meal and no meal!”
De Geit’s response was sharp, his seemingly-unflappable drawl drowned in irritation.
“We are goats, Mr Will. We like oatmeal. Your ignorance merely serves to illuminate the issue. You hire us as... roadies and manual labourers and consider it a step up. But when these ponies are released... No matter how or when they are stopped, they will cause chaos before they are done. And the world will see what goats can do.”
There was a silence, broken only by the slowing of de Geit’s impassioned breathing as he regathered his dignified air.
“Um... Mr de Geit? You’re wrong.”
The villainous goat raised an eyebrow.
Fluttershy appeared from behind Iron Will, hovering as close to the ring of goats as she dared, and looked de Geit in the eye.
“Your plan is wrong. I’ve never really met a goat before, but... maybe ponies have mistreated you, and that sounds terrible. But if you do this, then no one will want to help you. They’ll just call you, um, criminals. They’ll banish you, or throw you in a dungeon, or banish you and then throw you in a dungeon in the place that they banish you to. And then you, the only goat who ever stood up for his people, will be gone. And that wouldn’t help anypo... um, anygoat, now, would it?”
De Geit scoffed at Fluttershy's determined expression.
“Hmph. Naive. Your Princess Luna understood. The only method of truly enforcing change is revolution.”
He nodded to the goat closest to Fluttershy and, quicker than anypony expected, it bit Fluttershy’s tail and pulled her sharply to the ground. She cried out in pain as she hit the floor.
A red mist descended over Lyra’s vision.
Faster than the eye could see, she leapt toward the offending goat with such force that the floor dented beneath her. With a single enraged kick, she sent the goat flying across the room to impact with the window, shattering the acrylic glass in an instant. The goat sailed into the auditorium, becoming tangled in the lighting gantries high above the stage.
Even as she locked eyes with the recoiling de Geit, Lyra called out.
“Iron Will! They’re all yours! If anything happens to Fluttershy...”
The minotaur cracked his knuckles and squared himself before the closing circle of assailants.
“Oh, don’t worry, pony. I got this. I’m gonna teach these goats gratitude Iron Will style!”
Lyra advanced on de Geit, the goat’s hooves scrabbling at the floor as he scurried back from her. Her eyes flashed with anger, anger of a magnitude she hadn’t felt since battling Nightmare Moon.
“She did nothing to you, de Geit. None of these ponies did. You did all this, you took their minds away and threw an innocent pony to the ground because they had the gall to disagree with you. And all because you felt, what... inadequate?”
De Geit had reached the wall by now, and was trying so hard to back further away that he had pressed his back against it, wobbling on his hind legs.
“Well, you picked the wrong day to do it, and the wrong place to do it in. I promise I will do what I can to help your people. If I have to kick down the door to Celestia’s palace, I’ll find out if what you say is true. But you are so incredibly wrong if you think I’m going to let you waltz into my city and ruin everypony’s day.”
She leaned in so close that the goat could feel her breath on his face. De Geit looked into her eyes, and saw the sorrow behind the rage.
“Because I’m Harpflank, and I will not let you make the same mistake I did.”
She pulled her hoof back. But before the blow could fall, de Geit made a strange clicking sound with his tongue and clumsily rolled from beneath her, skipping toward the door and calling over his shoulder.
“You have not heard the last of de Geit, ponies! By my hat, you will see the goats rise!”
With a flash of blue energy, he vanished. Before Lyra could turn and pursue him, a muffled but strangely familiar voice reached her ears.
“You threaten my master, I beat you faster!”
The ceiling exploded, showering Lyra, the goats, Iron Will and Fluttershy in plaster and debris. A cream blur rocketed downwards, slamming into Lyra and pinning her against the very wall that she had so recently pushed de Geit against. Coughing and struggling to pull the hoof at her throat away, Lyra desperately blinked the dust away and squinted at her assailant. Her eyes widened in horror even as those of her attacker narrowed.
“Oh, no... Not you too.”
As Fluttershy struggled to free herself from beneath a chunk of ceiling, as Iron Will kicked and punched and threw the goats that leapt back into the fight every time he repulsed them, as Lyra’s mind raced as to what in Equestria she was going to do now...
Bon-Bon raised her hoof to strike.
Iron Will caught the goat’s flailing hoof in one hand and swung it into another, sending them both flying. Another jumped on his back and began snapping its teeth at the back of his neck. Before it could find any purchase, he bent double and reached over his head to grab the goat by its sides and slam it to the ground before him. The others circled him warily. He spat on the floor, snorting steam from his nostrils.
His battle had already reached a stalemate. Though he vastly outstripped them in strength, the goats seemed almost preternaturally resilient and they outnumbered him twenty to one. He silently wished that that Lyra pony was helping him out. He’d heard stories about Harpflank and Sweets, the superpowered defenders of Metropony, and, after seeing Lyra’s assault on de Geit, now very much believed them.
A nervous cry caught his attention. Two goats had separated from the pack and were advancing on Fluttershy, who was still trapped beneath the rubble that the other pony’s entrance had created. He bunched the muscles in his legs, gathering his strength. The goats around him hesitated, uncertain as to his intent. Then, with a roar, he leapt across the room in a single bound, landing with a crash between the goats as they looked up in surprise and fear. Grabbing one in each hand by the horns, he brought them together with a resounding crash. He dropped them contemptuously and they staggered away, dazed beyond any ability to fight.
He dropped to his knees and lifted the rubble from Fluttershy’s squirming body with one movement. She scrambled to her hooves, wincing at the bruises on her side.
“You alright, ma’am?”
Fluttershy nodded, expression as strong as it had been during her declamation of de Geit.
“Um, I’m okay. Thank you, Mr Will.”
He grinned, even as he heard the goats close in behind him. Then he span on his heels and leapt back into action.
Across the room, Lyra was still staring wide-eyed as Bon-Bon’s hoof flew toward her face. At the last second, she snapped out of her surprise and planted both hind legs in Bon-Bon’s midriff, hard. Her friend was catapulted away, shifting her weight gracefully in mid-air to hit the opposite wall with all fours before dropping lightly to the ground. Lyra coughed as the pressure on her throat was relieved and she slumped from the wall.
Within an instant, Bon-Bon was leaping at her again.
“BB! You gotta snap out of-”
Before she could finish her sentence, she was forced to dodge Bon-Bon’s blow, ducking low and attempting to swipe her friend’s legs from under her. Bon-Bon hopped over Lyra’s sweeping kick and threw one of her own, connecting with Lyra’s cheek with enough force to send her rolling along the damaged floor. Clenching her teeth as she bounced across the thick cables, Lyra planted her hooves on the ground and skidded to a halt.
“Yeesh, I always forget how fast you are!”
Even as she spoke, Bon-Bon arced toward her, forelegs outstretched in a double kick that could shatter steel. Lyra rolled, barely escaping the blow, and Bon-Bon slammed into the floor, sending a shockwave across the room that made Iron Will stumble and Fluttershy leap into the air, beating her wings furiously in fear.
Lyra gritted her teeth as she came to her hooves and tried to think even as her partner blitzed at her once more. At that moment, she saw Iron Will spinning a goat by its hooves, ready to toss it violently away. A desperate plan formed.
“Will! Over here!”
Clocking her call, the minotaur hurled the goat like a hammer in her direction. Both goat and pony flew toward her, and she crouched ready to move. If her timing was off...
Bon-Bon launched from her gallop into her trademark flying kick. Just as the blow was about to connect Lyra leapt straight up, kicking down sharply and using Bon-Bon’s head as a stepping-stone, sending her partner chin-first into the ground. Her extra height took her into the flying goat’s trajectory and she caught its head between her hooves, spinning in the air and using its momentum to hurl it at Bon-Bon’s sliding form.
“I’m trying to fight here!”
Despite his complaints, Iron Will threw another goat in Lyra’s direction, this time arcing it above her.
The goat Lyra had thrown collided with her friend, pinning her. Even as Bon-Bon glared up at Lyra, legs curled to kick her burden from her and eyes bright with hatred, Lyra twisted and hit Iron Will’s second living projectile with all fours, launching herself back down at Bon-Bon like a green missile and sending the goat spiralling into the gantry with its fellow.
“Time to repay the favour!”
Lyra’s hoof connected with Bon-Bon’s face with enough force to collapse the floor of the control room, and they tumbled into the corridor below. A great plume of dust erupted from the new hole in the floor and filled the control room with a grey haze. Eyes wide at the immense forces in play and battered from their futile conflict with Iron Will, the remaining goats scattered, the cloying cloud covering their escape. Iron Will bellowed after them.
“I’ll get you, goats! Iron Will doesn’t take no guff from no goat, you hear me?!”
In the wreckage of the floor below, Lyra straddled her friend, panting heavily, hoof raised for a second blow. Bon-Bon glared up at her, and opened her mouth to speak.
Then she stopped.
Slowly, unexpectedly, the fires of rage died, and were replaced with the gleam of indignation.
“You hit me!”
“I... uh... yeah.”
Bon-Bon brought a hoof to her swelling cheek, wincing in pain.
“You hit me!”
And, suddenly, everything was right with the world. Lyra threw her hooves up as if to highlight the devastation above them and replied with equal irritation.
“You were all crazy and mind-controlled!”
“You didn’t have to hit me!”
“What else was I supposed to do?!”
“I don’t know, break the spell or something!”
“Oh, so it’s okay for me to get punched in the face, but not you?! That seems fair!”
Iron Will peered down at the bickering ponies, shaking his head in disbelief.
“Hey, uh, we gotta sort out these ponies, remember?”
The two ponies stopped mid-argument, words catching in their throats as they remembered that there were twenty thousand ponies in exactly the same situation Bon-Bon had been in not moments before.
It was at that moment that a crowd of ponies galloped into the corridor, making Lyra cry out a final time against the injustice of it all.
“Does it ever end?!”
She hopped from Bon-Bon to a ready stance, glancing at her friend questioningly. They couldn’t just beat up a crowd of civilians, but it seemed increasingly likely that they would have no choice.
Fluttershy hovered uncertainly above the soon-to-be melee. She closed her eyes and put her hooves over her ears, wishing it would stop. Why did everypony have to be so angry? Why couldn’t they just talk things out? Surely all these problems could be solved with just a little kindness! She felt the frustration rise. It was not the searing rage that the Flim Flam’s mind control had briefly induced, but a sincere and burning annoyance that everypony could be so stupid. She threw her head back and screamed.
The crowd immediately skidded to a halt, and a deep silence fell over the area.
Breathing heavily, Fluttershy alighted and strode to the control panel. Pressing the PA button, she spoke firmly into the microphone. Her soft voice echoed throughout the entire building.
“Now you listen here, everypony. You all get back in the auditorium right now.”
A low rumble shook the building as, inexplicably, the horde of ponies complied. The group that had been charging the two heroes scurried out of sight with their tails between their legs. Pony after pony hurried into the huge room below while Fluttershy tapped her hoof impatiently. She turned to the incredulous Iron Will.
“Mr. Will, could you please put my face on the screen?”
Snapping to attention before hurrying to the control panel, the minotaur deftly flicked switches and ripped cables free as Fluttershy looked on.
“Okay, look in this camera here.”
Fluttershy trotted to the small lens, nodding curtly as she went.
“Thank you, Mr. Will.” She fixed the camera with a steely gaze. “And as for you...”
Twenty thousand ponies collectively shrunk back in shame.
“You should be ashamed of yourselves! The nice Mr. Will invited you to his show, trying to help you feel better about yourselves, and look at what you did!”
The crowd shuffled its many hooves.
“Now, I understand that these Flim Flam fellows put some kind of spell on you, but that’s no excuse for this kind of behaviour, now is it?”
A barely audible murmur of assent crept from the crowd’s lips.
“I can’t hear you...”
“No, it isn’t.”
The huge projection of Fluttershy’s face nodded matter-of-factly.
“No, it is not. My poor friend Lyra just wanted to watch a show, and instead she had to spend all day running around and saving the city. What do you say to her, hmm?”
“What was that?”
Lyra and Iron Will could do nothing but stare at the shy little pegasus. After being dragged around for hours, needing constant protection, here she was staring down an arena’s worth of brainwashed ponies and, apparently, breaking magitechnical mind-control through sheer force of will.
“Now, I want you all to go home and think about what you’ve done. And if I hear that anypony is still attacking other ponies...”
The crowd collectively shook their heads emphatically, letting loose a tide of fearful variations on “We won’t! We’re very very sorry!”
“Good. Now, off you go.”
As one, they stood and shamefully began to trail out of the convention centre. Fluttershy turned back to the others and smiled brightly, fanning her face with a hoof.
“Oh my. That was exciting, wasn’t it?”
Lyra kicked the Barmony’s door open unceremoniously and trudged in. The M.A.R.E. clientele, startled at her entrance, settled back into their drinks as she weaved through the tables to take her usual seat at the bar. Bon-Bon was already there, sipping a milkshake absentmindedly as she pored over a sheaf of papers. Lyra slumped onto her stool, resting her head on the bar, and waved half-heartedly at Berry Punch, who rolled her eyes and started to pour.
Taking one final slurp, Bon-Bon looked up and cocked her head quizzically.
Lyra shook her head, cheek squeaking on the polished surface of the counter.
“Long day. I don’t know how you can just sit there reading whatever after you spent hours all crazy.”
“Well, it’s not like I actually did much while I was brainwashed. De Geit just told me to wait above that room until he gave the signal.”
Lyra looked up at her, wincing as Berry slid her mug across the bar to connect with the back of her head with a quiet thonk.
“What was it like? The mind-control thing, I mean. I asked Fluttershy before Derpy got ahold of her, but she was never properly under. Said she couldn’t remember.”
Bon-Bon chewed her straw, looking thoughtfully into space.
“I felt... good. Really good. Like I was the best pony in the world, and the only way to show it was to listen to de Geit.” She sighed. “I wish I could’ve seen Iron Will’s actual show, though.”
Lyra sat up, grinning, and magically lifted her drink toward her lips.
“Aww, does Bon-Bon need help to be more assertive? Did those mean ol’ goats push you around?”
Bon-Bon laughed, an unusual combination of frown and giggle that she had quickly developed after becoming friends with Lyra, and playfully punched her friend’s shoulder.
“Oh, shut up. But... thanks.”
Lyra glanced over the foam cresting the rim of her mug, mouth too full to reply properly.
“For snapping me out of it, I mean.”
Lyra swigged the rest of her drink in one gulp and wiped her mouth, winking.
“Hey, we’re friends, right? It’s like I said; I was just repaying the favour.”
She slid from her stool, yawning, and Bon-Bon turned in surprise.
“You’re not staying?”
Lyra shook her head as she trotted away.
“Nah. I gotta go see a Princess about a goat.”