"Harry, why is there a pink pony in your kitchen?"
Murphy always did have a habit of cutting straight to the heart of the matter.
Just in case you've got no idea who the heck I'm supposed to be, the name's Harry Dresden, and I'm a wizard. That's right, a genuine spell-slinging magic wielding wizard. Just like Merlin, except I went for a black leather duster and a semi-permanent five-o-clock shadow instead of the classic robes and flowing white beard. Gotta stay with the times and all that. I even had a listing in the Chicago phone book; the only wizard for hire in the entire city. Needless to say, I get a lot of crank calls, since everyone knows magic isn't real.
Lucky for this wizard-for-hire's wallet, some folks in the greater Chicago area were clued in enough to know that not everything that went bump in the night was the product of somebody's overactive imagination., and Murphy was one of them. Karrin Murphy didn't look like anyone's idea of a police officer, let alone a sergeant who'd once been in charge of the entire Special Investigations branch of the Chicago PD. A cute little blond who came up to five foot nothing when she wore heels didn't match most people's idea of a hardass cop. We'd been friends for years; killing trolls, plant monsters, and ghouls together makes for a great bonding experience.
Murphy and I have been through a lot of crazy together. In a city the size of Chicago, there were almost always a few demons, werewolves, vampires, faeries, and other magical critters running around and causing trouble, and more often than not it was up to us to deal with that kind of thing. Pink ponies were new, though.
I glanced back over my shoulder at said pony, who currently seemed to be in the middle of mixing up some kind of dough, and then back to Murphy. "I'm pretty sure she's making cupcakes."
"Yuppy duppy!" The pony poked her head out from the kitchen to confirm. For the most part, it looked like an ordinary pony, or it would if ordinary ponies were bright pink. However, her eyes were a bit larger than normal, and her face was less on the long and horse-y than most horses. When the pony noticed Murphy, it cheerfully bounced out of the kitchen and up to her. "Hi! I'm Pinkie Pie! I don't think I've ever been here before, and that's great because it means I don't know anypony here, and if I don't anypony here then that means I get to make bunches of new friends and making bunches of new friends means I'd get to throw a really big party, but right now I don't know anypony here, so that means I don't have any friends yet! Let's be friends!" I was a bit impressed the pony managed to say all that without once stopping to breathe.
"It talks." Murphy said dully.
"Well, duh!" Pinkie let out a laugh. "Who ever heard of a pony that doesn't talk? That'd just be silly." Pinkie turned to me. "Your friend's a silly-filly, Harry."
"Yes, yes she is." I replied calmly; the last thing I needed to do was get her more worked up. "How are those cupcakes coming?"
"Cupcakes!" Pinkie shot back into the kitchen, and less than a second later was back in my apartment's doorway, somehow balancing a trio of vanilla cupcakes with chocolate icing on her head. A quick flick of her head somehow managed to let Pinkie swallow one of cupcakes whole without dislodging the other two. "Mm! Yummy! You guys gonna eat yours now? You've got to, they're super-duper tasty!"
I quickly took my cupcake off Pinkie's head, but I saw Murphy hesitate for a second, no doubt remembering warnings about how you shouldn't accept baked goods from strange ponies. Or maybe she was just more of a donut person (she is a cop after all). In any case, not taking the frosting-covered sweet when Pinkie offered it proved to be a mistake, since Pinkie decided to help Murphy out by taking the cupcake in-hoof and shoving the entire thing into Murphy's mouth. Fortunately, Murphy chose to swallow rather than spit, and managed to pull it off well enough to avoid the humiliating fate of choking to death on a pastry.
I took a much more reasonably sized bite of my own cupcake, and just how good the it was proved a pleasant surprise. Apparently ponies are really good bakers. Who knew? "These are really tasty, Pinkie."
"Gee, thanks Harry!" Pinkie bounced up and down cheerfully. "By the way, I need to make more cupcakes for the party, but you're out of flour. Where I can get more?"
"I think there's a shop a couple blocks down that way." I pointed down the street, in the vague direction of one of the large grocery chains.
"Okey dokey lokey; I'll be back in a jiff!" A pink blur shot out of my door, headed in the general direction of the grocery store.
I invited Murphy into my apartment, and the two of us sat down on my couch. I took another bite of my cupcake while I waited for her to get over the shellshock and finish swallowing the cupcake that Pinkie Pie had cheerfully force-fed her. After about thirty seconds, Murphy finally spoke. "Harry, what the hell was that?"
"Pinkie Pie." I answered, taking another bite of my cupcake. These things really were good. "She's a pony."
Murphy just glared at me. "It's like a game for you, not explaining anything."
I shrugged. "Hey, a wizard has to have some hobbies."
If looks could kill, the White Council would have just had its membership reduced by one. I decided to explain before Murphy finally snapped and tried to beat an answer out of me. "I don't know much either. One minute, I'm talking to Molly about how important keeping secrets is, and then suddenly she bursts out of one of my cabinets, one that was way too small for her to fit into, by the way, and yells 'Forever!' She asked if I had any sweets lying around, and when I said I didn't, she started baking cupcakes. Then you showed up."
Murphy took a quick look around, and frowned. "Where's Molly now?"
"Sent her home." I finished off my cupcake. "Not sure what I'm dealing with here, so just to be safe I'd rather not have the grasshopper mixed up in it." I shot a glance at the door, just to make sure the pony wasn't back yet. "Murph, that pony just popped right into my house, straight through a whole bunch of very nice defenses designed to keep anything from ever being able to do that."
"You think she's dangerous?" Murphy sounded a bit skeptical. I couldn't blame her; Pinkie seemed harmlessly enthusiastic, and so far the worst thing she'd done was ruin Murphy's diet and sing a song about cupcakes that was catchy enough to lodge itself permanently into my brain.
"I don't think so; Mouse didn't seem bothered by her." At the mention of his name, my ridiculously huge shaggy dog padded out of the kitchen, his head buried in a mixing bowl he was in the process of licking clean. "Still, if she's strong enough to breeze through my threshold and all my wards like they're not even there, I'm not going to tell her no when she asks if she can use my kitchen to make cupcakes. Compared to what most supernatural critters would do to me if they broke into my home, making my kitchen dirty is pretty mild."
Murphy nodded, only to blink and jump slightly in her seat. "Wait, I just remembered why I came here in the first place."
"Your mind got knocked off track by running into a manic talking pony who force-fed you cupcakes. Totally understandable."
Murphy reached into her jacket pocket, and pulled out an envelope. She passed it over to me, and I opened it to discover a card covered in a truly ridiculous amount of streamers and glitter. A feeling of sudden dread hit me. I opened up the card.
You're all invited to a party!
The food will be quite hearty!
It's at Harry Dresden's place!
I hope there's enough space!
I know that once the party ends
We'll be the very best of friends!
"This showed up in my mailbox about fifteen minutes ago." Murphy told me.
"I - what - how?" I stared at the invitation in confusion. "She's been in my apartment the whole time. How could she have delivered a party invitation to you?" I frowned as another thought hit me. "How did she even know to send you an invitation?"
"That was easy!" I nearly jumped out of my shoes when I heard Pinkie Pie's voice right beside me. "I just sent invitations to everypony you knew!" I hadn't heard her come in, and sneaking through my door was just about impossible with the horrible racket it made every time it opened ever since that time zombies busted it up. That's not to mention the fact that I'd locked the doors and activated the wards after Pinkie left. Apparently, none of that mattered the slightest bit to this pony, as she was now settled comfortably on the couch with Murphy and me.
"Wait, you sent invitations to everyone I know?"
"Yes indeedy!" Pinkie declared with a grin. "I wanna have the bestest party ever!" Pinkie frowned in thought for a moment, and then declared. "I'm gonna have to make bunches of cupcakes, and normal cake, and pies, and bunches of yummy stuff." That decided, the pony shot back into my kitchen, and began busily baking once more.
"Wait, Pinkie." I called out after the hyperactive little thing.
The pony poked her head back out of the kitchen. "Yeah?"
"When did you deliver those invitations anyway?"
"When I went out to get more cupcake stuff!" Pinkie answered brightly. "I saw your friend, and realized I should totally throw a party right now!"
"Um, did you send an invitation to Murphy too?"
"Well, yeah!" Pinkie sounded just a bit annoyed that I had to ask. "She's your friend, isn't she?" Having said her piece, Pinkie went back to baking.
"Wait a minute." Murphy looked a little confused, mirroring my state ever since this weird pony popped into my apartment. "She said she got the idea for the party from seeing me, and just delivered the invitation."
"But I only came here because I got her invitation."
"Then how did - when did she - what is - ?" I could practically hear the sound of Murphy's mind breaking as it tried to wrap itself around two contradictory facts.
"It's probably a good idea not to think about it too much." The only rational explanation I could come up with involved time travel, and the thought that this pony could casually violate one of the most fundamental laws of the universe just to deliver a party invitation was mildly terrifying.
Before I had time to work myself into a proper state of panic my phone started ringing. I sighed, and picked it up.
"Hoss." I flinched just a tiny bit when I heard the voice of my old mentor, Ebenezar McCoy on the other end of the phone. "Not that I don't appreciate the invite, but who's Pinkie Pie and why's she inviting me to a party?"
I sighed; I had a feeling this was going to be the first of many, many such conversations I would be having this night.
"So then the trees were all like 'BWAH' and everypony else was all like 'EEK!' and I was like 'HAHAHA!' and then everything was fine, and that's how I saved Equestria!"
"Uh huh." Murphy answered dully, obviously having long since given up any hope of making sense of Pinkie Pie's tale.
"And then there was this time when all these parasprite showed up, and everypony else thought they were cute! I mean, hello! They're parasprites! Yuck! And I tried telling everypony that they were parasprites and we had play a bunch of music to make them go away, but nopony listened to me! Even Dashie didn't, and she's my bestest friend! So I had to get all the instruments together all by myself, and then I had to play all of them at once! Do you know how hard it is to play a tuba, a tambourine cymbals, a harmonica, an accordion, and a banjo all at the same time! But I finally managed to figure it all out, and I played the music and got rid of the parasprites, and that's how I saved Ponyville! Well, except for all the stuff the parasprites ate, which was, like, almost everything!" Somehow, the pony managed to deliver that entire monolouge without once stopping to breath.
For a second it looked like Murphy was tempted to ask for clarification, but no doubt any explanation Pinkie offered would just be more confusing. "Right. Good for you, Pinkie Pie."
I set down the phone, having just finished one of the strangest phone calls of my life, and over the past couple of hours I'd gotten some very strange phone calls. "Pinkie Pie?"
"And then I-" Pinkie cut herself off when she heard my voice. 'Yes, Harry?" Murphy shot me a grateful look when I finally freed her from Pinkie's nonstop verbal onslaught.
"Did you really invite Cowl to the party?"
"Well of course!" Pinkie answered brightly. "You know him, don't you?"
"You are aware that's he's kinda evil, aren't you?" I frowned at the pony. "He's tried to kill me a couple times; I don't think he ever really got over the time I foiled his plans to become a god."
"Well, then obviously he's stressed out and uptight, and a party's the perfect way to help him loosen up a bit and get nicer!" Pinkie declared brightly. "I bet if you two just had fun together at a party you'd be bestest friends instead of always fighting!"
There was probably no point in trying to explain just how wrong she was about that. I'm still not sure what this pony was, but she obviously had a somewhat shaky grasp on the whole good/evil thing if she thought Darth Bathrobe could be turned away from the Dark Side by a single party. Besides, we'd technically already been at a party together when Bianca tried to kill me, even though I hadn't known who Cowl was at the time.
The phone rang again, and I answered it with a groan of weary resignation. "Yeah?"
"Harry Dresden." The male voice on the other end of the phone spoke with a high-class British accent. "I must say, I was not expecting to hear from you in quite this manner."
"Nicodemus." Perhaps I'd spoken too soon when I said that the conversation with Cowl was the strangest one ever. "Pinkie invited you too?"
"But of course." Nicodemus answered smoothly. "I would quite like to attend, but I'm rather tied up arranging some genocide in Africa at the moment. You know how it is; genocides are delicate business. I just can't afford to slip away right now; if I don't keep a careful eye on the situation, it might end up only killing a few hundred thousand people."
I should probably warn someone about that. Then again, just because Nicodemus told me that's what he was doing didn't mean it was true. Guys who make pacts with demons aren't exactly the most honest of people. "Oh, I understand. A few hundred thousand dead, that barely even qualifies as an atrocity." It was stupid and petty, but I wasn't about to let Nicodemus out-deadpan me.
"Just so, these things must be done properly." Nicodemus agreed. "I am relieved that you are not too horribly offended by the fact that I cannot attend." Nicodemus paused for a moment, and then diplomatically added. "Deirdre is not occupied with anything of great importance at the moment, shall I send her in my place?"
"Oh, that's alright, I wouldn't want to inconvenience you."
"It would be no trouble at all." Nicodemus declared magnanimously.
"It's quite alright," Not that I wanted either of them around, but I think I'd rather have Nicky at the party than his daughter; Nicodemus was the rational, calculating kind of psycho. Deirdre, on the other hand, might just decide to kill someone just to see the color of their blood. "I'm sure you need her around to shake babies and smother old ladies or something.
"Well, I did have a most unpleasant encounter with a rather annoying child the other day..." Nicodemus trailed off musingly. "Still, it is a pity I won't be able to attend your little celebration. Do say hello to Tessa for me, if she makes it."
"I already heard from her. I don't think she'll be here, though it was kind of hard to make out exactly what she was saying over all the screams."
"I have often encountered the same problem." Nicodemus confided. "By the way, I was planning a little get-together for next month. You and Lasciel are more than welcome to attend."
"I'll keep that in mind."
"I should hope so. Do give my regards to – Pinkie, was it? She sounds like a most delightful young lady."
I lowered the phone so my mouth was clear of the receiver. "Pinkie? Nicodemus says hi."
"Tell him I say hi right back!" Pinkie trotted out, balancing an entire tray of cupcakes on her head. "Does he want me to bring him some cupcakes?"
I picked the phone back up. "Pinkie says hi." I informed the two thousand year old demon lord. "Want some cupcakes?"
"That would be delightful." Nicodemus answered.
I nodded to Pinkie, and a bright, vaguely equine blur shot out the door. Fifteen seconds later I could clearly hear the pony's loud, cheerful voice on the other end of the phone, and thirty seconds after that she was right back in my kitchen, whipping up another batch of cupcakes. I could vaguely hear the sounds of someone else eating on the other end of the line, and then Nicodemus declared. "These cupcakes are quite good. Certainly the best cupcakes I've ever had that were made by a vaguely anthropomorphic intelligent pony."
"You get a lot of cupcakes that way?" I just can't resist any opportunity to be a smartass.
"You would be surprised what experiences a person will accumulate over two millennia of life."
"Huh." That almost made me curious enough to ask. "So, I guess I'll see you the next time you're trying to kill me and everyone I care about."
"Most likely." Nicodemus agreed.
I set the phone back into its cradle, and took a few deep breaths. "Yeah, that was definitely stranger than the conversation with Cowl."
An hour later, I was pretty sure I'd finally gotten through fielding phone calls. Murphy had finally made her escape half an hour ago, making some excuse about how she needed to get ready for the party proper. Pinkie accepted Murphy's excuse at face value, leaving me alone with the pink party pony. How Pinkie Pie managed to get a party invitation to Uriel, I'll never know. At least the archangel had a sense of humor about the whole thing.
"I think that's the last of them." I announced with a sigh as I set down the phone, silently wondering how many of the big nasty critters of the world had bumped me up a few places on their 'to be killed' list for this particular incident.
"So, how many people are coming for the party?" Pinkie asked cheerfully, "I wanna make bunches and bunches of new friends!"
Oops. I'd been so focused on not having my apartment swarmed by every single person I'd ever met that I'd kind of forgotten about the strange pony with undefined abilities that had her little pony heart set on having a great big party. "Well, Pinkie Pie, the thing is..."
"Oh no." Pinkie's eyes welled up with tears, the pony's mane seemed to lose a bit of its poofiness, and I could have sworn that her coat turned just a shade darker. "Nopony wants to come to my party, do they?"
Despite the fact that my inner smartass wanted to point out that technically she hadn't invited any ponies to the party, Pinkie looked so distressed that I felt my chivalrous instincts kick in and demand that I comfort her. "Well Pinkie, the thing is-'
Before I could get any further, somebody started rapping on my chamber door. Pinkie immediately returned to her bright and cheerful state. "Oh goody! Somepony's here for the party!" Before I could even attempt to restrain her, Pinkie shot over to my door, and yanked it wide open (how she managed that with just hooves instead of fingers, I don't know). "Hi! Welcome to the party!"
A pair of blond girls, one slightly taller than the other, ran through my door and began gleefully dancing around Pinkie, shouting. "It's you! It's you! It's really you!"
"It's me! It's me! It's really me!" Pinkie agreed, bouncing up and down as she readily matched the girls' enthusiasm.
"I'm Amanda Carpenter, and this is Hope, and that's our daddy Michael, and you're our very favorite pony!" The older of the two girls declared.
"I like Rainbow Dash better." Hope declared, just to be contrary.
"I like Dashie too!" Pinkie agreed brightly.
I stared in shock at this rather odd conversation, until the girls' father stepped through my door, staring at the pony with no small amount of wonder on his face. Finally, Michael Carpenter turned to me, an easy smile on his face. "I must say Harry, this is strange, even by your normal standards."
I admit, I felt oddly relieved to see Michael. Even if the man had retired from the whole Fist of God business, he was still one of the first people I would want to have at my side in any complicated situation. It didn't hurt that this didn't look like the sort of situation where there would be any need to smite some evil. The fact that he'd brought his two youngest daughters along with him was a bit of a surprise though. "Good to see you, Michael." I shot another look at the two girls, who were eagerly chatting away with Pinkie Pie as if they'd known each other for years. "Why do I feel like I'm missing something here?"
Michael followed my gaze, and smiled at his two girls. "Because you are, Harry. You can't watch television, so you wouldn't recognize Pinkie Pie."
"Huh?" A second later, it sank in. "Huh. I'd heard some fictional characters actually really do exist in parallel universes or really far-off corners of the Nevernever, but..." I trailed off in a shrug. Knowing that in theory fictional characters might actually exist was one thing, having a cartoon pony suddenly show up in your living room was something else entirely. "What show's she from, anyway?"
"My Little Pony."
Ah. Well, that would explain why Michael had brought his kids along; there was probably no way he could have kept them from coming once they learned just who was in my apartment. "Did they learn from Molly, or from the invitation she sent to your house?"
"Molly. She doesn't watch the show, so she came home and started talking about what happened when she appeared at your apartment. The girls were in the room."
Well, at least now I had some kind of handle on the situation. A cartoon character was a lot less threatening than some sort of reality-warping eldritch abomination that just wanted to toy with me by throwing a party and making cupcakes before it ate my soul. "So, what all can you tell me about this Pinkie Pie?"
"Well-" before Michael could get any further, I heard the sound of someone politely knocking on my already open door. The knocking sounded just a bit odd, like the person knocking didn't have hands.
When I looked over, I saw a purple unicorn and a blue pegasus with a rainbow-colored mane standing in my doorway. On any other day, that would have been shocking. I turned to Michael, and whispered. "Friends of hers?"
"The unicorn is Twilight Sparkle, the pegasus is Rainbow Dash." Michael promptly supplied. Give the man credit, he knows his ponies.
"Excuse me." Twilight Sparkle spoke up. "I'm sorry to intrude, but we're here to take our friend Pinkie Pie home."
"Dashie! Twilight! You're here!" The pink pony started bouncing for joy when she saw her friends. Well, she was always bouncing, but now it was even moreso than normal. "You guys can join our party! This is Amanda Carpenter, and her sister Hope, and her father Michael, and this is my friend, Harry! This is his place, by the way. So what do you guys wanna do first for the party? We could-"
"Pinkie." Twilight cut her friend off with the kind of resignation that could only come from having to deal with the hyper pony on a daily basis. I felt a brief pang of sympathy for anyone who had to deal with Pinkie Pie on a daily basis. Just a few hours of dealing with her had been enough for me. "It's time for us to go home."
"Aww." Pinkie pouted, shortly joined by Michael's two girls. "Can't we at least finish the party first?"
"No Pinkie." Twilight said patiently. "We're not supposed to be in this dimension, and the Princess said we had to come back as soon as possible. Besides, everypony back home is really worried about you."
"Really?" Pinkie asked, hesitating.
"Yeah." Rainbow Dash spoke up. "Everypony wanted to come looking for you, but Twilight's spell could only bring one other pony with her." The pegasus got a sly look on her face, and added. "There'll probably be a big 'Welcome home Pinkie Pie' party once you get back."
"Aww." Amanda looked less than pleased by this news. "Do you really have to go right now, Pinkie?" Amanda shot the pony an impressively sad puppy-dog look. "Couldn't you just stay for five more minutes? Please?"
"You're my favorite pony, Rainbow Dash!" Hope added.
The pegasus' chest puffed out just a bit in pride at hearing that. "Well, I am pretty awesome. Hey, Twilight, I think we can give Pinkie a couple minutes to say goodbye."
"Princess Celestia did say we needed to get Pinkie back as soon as possible..." The full force of three pleading looks from Pinkie and both the Carpenter girls hit Twilight. Nobody can stand up to that much cuteness firepower. "So as soon as your five minutes are up, we need to get moving."
Five minutes seemed to pass by all too quickly for the two little girls talking to their favorite ponies, and then it was finally time to say goodbye. "Don't worry." Pinkie told two very sad-looking Carpenter girls. "Just because I have to go home doesn't mean we won't always be friends!"
"You promise?" Amanda asked, looking like she was seconds away from tears.
"Cross my heart and hope to fly -" Pinkie began.
"Stick a cupcake in my eye." Amanda, Hope, and to my surprise, Michael finished.
Seconds later, there was a bright flash of light from Twilight Sparkle's horn, and then the three ponies were gone.
I have to admit, I was just a bit sad to see the ponies leave. Yeah, dealing with Pinkie had given me a few of the craziest hours of my life that didn't involve some form of mortal peril, but it had been kind of fun, in a 'this is so weird I don't know what else to but laugh at it' kind of way.
Besides, any time I meet a strange new being I've never encountered before, and it doesn't end up trying to eat my face, I count it as a win.
"So." I said as Michael corralled his two little girls back into his truck for the ride home. "Cartoon characters. That was new." I gave a slight shrug. "I kinda feel like I should watch their cartoon now."
"We have the series on DVD." Michael offered.
I thought about it for a second. What the hay, why not? "Sounds good." I went back into my kitchen, and grabbed as many of the cupcakes Pinkie had whipped up as I could. There was no way I could eat a couple dozen cupcakes by myself before they went stale, and I can't allow such delicious baked goods to go to waste, that would just be wrong. "Alright, bring on the girly cartoon ponies, Michael."
Michael smiled, and threw an arm across my shoulders. "Welcome to the herd, Harry."
Meanwhile, at a castle in Britain, three students at the Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry were in the middle of a very private conversation.
"Don't worry Harry, we won't tell anybody." Hermione promised.
"Yeah." Ron added. "Everyone knows that betraying a friend's trust is the fastest way to lose that friend."
Much to the shock of the three Hogwarts students, a pink pony suddenly burst out of Harry Potter's trunk and shouted a single word. "FOREVER!"