Pound and Pumpkin Tales 1

by Never2muchpinkie


18-5: Stories and feelings

The group entered the library. Peppermint’s mouth hung open at the sheer number of books adorning every wall, going up to the ceiling. She couldn’t see the whole library because of the copious amount of book shelves everywhere, but she could tell that the amount of books here was enough to likely last her whole life.

As she walked around she spotted a pony sitting at a table, her nose in a book, a horn protruding from her head. It had to be the princess herself. She approached the pinkish coated mare. “Hello, Princess,” she said respectfully, bowing slightly as the mare looked up.

“Princess?” she replied, running her hoof through her purple-blue mane. “Sorry, but you’ve got the wrong mare.”

“O-oh.” She blushed. “So who are you?”

Pumpkin was wondering that too. She didn’t recognize the pony.

“Hello, Starlight!” Pinkie said brightly.

“Hello, Pinkie,” the mare replied.

“Long time no see!” She trotted to Starlight’s side, giving her a big hug. “It’s so nice to see you again!”

“L-likewise,” she replied in a strained voice. Pinkie was hugging way too tightly.

As Pinkie let go she turned to the two children and said, “Everyone, this is Starlight Glimmer. She’s a gifted unicorn and Twilight’s personal student.”

“If she’s Twilight’s student then how come I’ve never seen her before?” Pumpkin asked.

Starlight answered herself. “That would be because Twilight trusts me enough to send me out into the world to try and help others.”

Pinkie put a hoof to the side of her mouth, whispering, “That’s not the real reason.”

Starlight glanced at her.

“So what is it?” asked Peppermint.

In a sappy voice she said, “She lives in the Crystal Empire just so she can be near her husband and be all lovey-dovey smoochy-smoochy!” She hugged herself, making kissing noses. “Oh, Sunburst, I loves you sooooo much!”

Starlight flushed slightly, but couldn’t keep a grin off her face. “Fine. I admit it. Me and Sunburst have a loving relationship, but it’s not like I can’t help others AND be intimate with my husband, right?”

“’Me and Sunburst?’ Don’t you mean ‘Sunburst and I?” came a voice in the distance. Around the corner came a purple-coated mare. Her horn was glowing as she placed a book on the top shelf.

“Always stuck on grammar, aren’t you?” Starlight said with a laugh.

“Why shouldn’t I be? Sounding intelligent is one of the best ways to win others over, right after being polite and empathetic.” Unfurling her wings she went a few shelves up, moving slowly to the right as she looked for a specific book. “Aha! There you are!” Pulling it out she landed, folding her wings back up.

Peppermint froze. Horn and wings. This one was definitely the princess.

Twilight turned to leave and begin her next book. “Hold on, Twilight!” said Spike.

She turned around. “Yes?”

Spike gestured to Peppermint. “You have someone that wants to speak with you.”

Peppermint’s heart rate went up now that the moment was at hand.

“Oh, no problem. I’ll just save this for later.” The book levitated in the air before Twilight teleported it to her usual reading spot. She approached the trio. “Hello, Pumpkin. Hello, Pinkie.”

“Hello!” they both replied.

Twilight leaned over slightly. “And who might you be? I haven’t met you before.”

Peppermint hastened to bow. “I-it’s an honor to meet you.”

“Likewise. So who are you?” she asked again.

She flushed crimson. “Nobody,” she replied meekly. “Just a friend of Pumpkin’s.”

Pumpkin rolled her eyes. “Would you cut it out? Just talk to her. She won’t bite your head off.”

As Peppermint stood back up and met Twilight’s eyes she saw they had changed. Twilight had been in good cheer before, but now her eyes were kinda hollow, her smile forced. She took a deep breath. “I… I’m sorry. It’s just… it feels so weird to meet you in person.

“I’m Peppermint… Peppermint Swirl. I… I hope I’m not bothering you, but I wanted to ask you a question.”

Twilight nodded. “Okay, shoot. I’ll help in any way I can.”

Peppermint stared into Twilight’s eyes. They still hadn’t regained their luster. “I was talking to Pumpkin earlier, and she started telling me about you. And I guess I’m just curious… do you enjoy being a princess?”

Twilight’s eyes grew interested. “Why do you ask that? What did Pumpkin tell you?”

“I noticed that Pumpkin just calls you Twilight instead of Princess Twilight. When I asked her why she said that you don’t like your friends to treat you like a princess. I was wondering why. I, well, also wanted to know if you’re really like Pumpkin described, and you’d really just meet with anyone if they asked.”

Twilight giggled a bit. “I see.” She gestured with her head. “Come with me.”

Peppermint followed her as she walked down several rows.

Pumpkin held back. She didn’t need to go. She already understood. She was more interested in Starlight anyway.

Twilight came to a stop. “Here we are. Although I don’t care for them much myself, this is a library and I have to consider more than just my own tastes. Spike absolutely adores them.”

Peppermint looked at the shelf Twilight stopped in front of. “Comic books?” she said questioningly.

She nodded. “Pick out any one you like.”

“Umm… is that important to my question?”

“Certainly. Don’t think too deeply about it. Just pick a short one that catches your eye.” She could see Peppermint looked a bit put out. “I’m not snubbing your question, I promise. All will be made clear soon enough.”

Peppermint finally broke eye contact. She had no idea what a comic book had to do with if Twilight enjoyed being a princess, but she had to guess that that was why Twilight was a princess, but she herself was just a little filly.

Was Twilight going to give her one of these books? She didn’t mind gifts, but that wasn’t what she had come for.

She shook her head, clearing her mind. She went through the books at random, looking for something interesting. She pulled out one with six ponies on the cover dressed in superhero costumes. “Is this one good?” she asked, lifting it up.

“Ooohh, good choice. The Power Ponies is one of Spike’s favorite series.” Twilight put a hoof on her. “Brace yourself. This feels a little odd the first time around.”

There was a flash of light, and Peppermint’s stomach jumped. She was now standing on a cushion. She closed her eyes, feeling a little dizzy. Since she was already on something soft she let herself fall to the ground.

“Sorry. I did warn you.” Twilight rubbed her back. “You okay?”

It took a few seconds, but she nodded. The dizziness had passed now and she opened her eyes.

Twilight took the comic book out of her hooves and placed it on a stand angled at a diagonal for easy reading. “I’d like to read together with you, if that’s okay. I know it may feel like I’m stalling or ignoring what you want to know, but it’s hard to just explain my thoughts. I give you my word that when we’re through I’ll be ready to give you a satisfactory answer.”

She didn’t really have much of a choice in the matter, so she opened the first page and began reading the introduction. She struggled a bit with the longer words, but it gave an overview of the six Power Ponies and their abilities.

When she turned the page and the story actually began Twilight read that one, letting her read the one after that. They each made up their own voices for the six, as well as Humdrum when he came into the picture.

Her question grew less important as she got into the story. Twilight put a wing over her protectively, which made her happy.

While Pumpkin waited she decided to get some answers. “Excuse me, Starlight?”

“Yes?” the mare replied.

“I get that you live in the Crystal Empire now, but I guess you lived in Ponyville at one point, right?”

Starlight nodded. “That’s right. How old are you?”

“I’m turning seven real soon.”

“Well, I moved out about three to four years ago, so it’s no wonder you wouldn’t know me.” She turned to Pinkie. “You and Twilight never told her about me?”

Pinkie looked a little embarrassed. “Well, it’s not like we were hiding your existence from her or were ashamed of you or anything like that. This is your first time back in so long you never got to be properly introduced to one another.”

Pumpkin spoke up now. “Did you ever meet me when I was a baby?”

“Once or twice, though I don’t remember much about it. You were typical toddlers.”

“Don’t be upset at Auntie Pinkie or Twilight. We barely know about Shining Armor and Cadance because they live so far away too.

“So how did you get to be Twilight’s student? She told us how she got to be Princess Celestia’s student because of some crazy magical explosion. If Twilight took you on you must have like saved Ponyville from some gigantic monster or something, right?”

Starlight heard the excitement in the filly’s voice, and was a little embarrassed, both from the attention and the actual reason she got the position. “Well… um… let’s just say that I’m another one of Twilight’s enemies that was reformed and leave it at that.”

Pumpkin looked a little disheartened. “You… tried to hurt Twilight?”

Starlight closed her eyes. She should have guessed she wouldn’t be able to hide it. “Not physically, no. What I had planned was far more devastating.”

“And what was that?”

She sighed, meeting Pumpkin’s eyes. “Did Twilight ever tell you about the sonic rainboom?”

Pumpkin nodded. “Yeah, she did. It led to her and her friends all getting their cutie marks at the same time.”

“Using a spell, and augmenting its power astronomically by harvesting the power of this castle, I went back in time to ensure that moment never happened.”

Pumpkin’s eyes went wide. Obviously Starlight had been stopped, since Pinkie and the rest were all still friends, but just the idea was horrifying.

“That wasn’t the worst of it, either. I let Twilight follow me using the exact same spell, so hopped up on thoughts of revenge I was willing to spend however long it took to see Twilight break. Time after time we went backwards to that key moment, and I stopped Rainbow Dash despite Twilight’s best attempts. It was the perfect emotional torture. She didn’t want to lose her friends, but she couldn’t defeat me. She would try over and over and over, hundreds, thousands of times, her heart crumbling a little more with each failure.”

Pumpkin didn’t know if she wanted to know, but she had to ask. “But WHY? Why were you so mad at Twilight in the first place? What did she ever do to you?”

Starlight scratched her head. “I had a large misconception about the nature of cutie marks. When I was just a filly Sunburst got his cutie mark when he saved me from a collapsing pile of books. He was so excited he ran out into the road to show it off. After that he was sent off to Celestia’s school for gifted unicorns, and I didn’t hear from him again after that.

“I started thinking that cutie marks were evil, only fostering anger, arrogance, and jealously towards others. Using a spell I created a village where everyone was equal, because no one there had a cutie mark.”

Pumpkin’s mouth hung open. “You… you can take away other pony’s cutie marks?” She didn’t have hers yet, but it was still a terrifying prospect. Still, the kinds of spells Starlight created made it more apparent why Twilight took her on as a student.

“Well, more like replace them. They got an equal sign mark instead, which ensured that the level of ability of everyone stayed the same. If the cutie marks weren’t kept in some kind of container they’d return back to their owners.

“I thought I’d finally found happiness, but when Twilight and her friends showed up they sparked a rebellion when they revealed that I actually still had my own cutie mark. In retrospect it was very hypocritical of me, but I needed my special magic to use the spell.

“Everything came crumbling down around me, and once again I was left all alone.”

Pumpkin understood now. “So you felt like Twilight was to blame? She ruined your friendships with the others, so you wanted to ruin hers in return?”

Starlight nodded. “After that I studied her, looking for a weakness I could use. It seemed obvious that their friendships were just too strong to put a permanent wedge between them, so I tried to stop the event that ultimately led to them becoming friends in the first place.

“I was so focused on getting revenge that I didn’t consider the bigger picture of what that moment meant for Equestria.”

Pumpkin thought back to all the powerful villains Twilight had told them about. “So Twilight wasn’t around to stop Nightmare Moon, right?”

“There were several different timelines she went through, where each time a new supervillain wound up ruling over the others. It wasn’t until Twilight dragged me with her to one of those futures that I finally understood what my revenge was doing to the world.

“Everything was just a big empty void devoid of life. The land was dead and drab, and there was no trace of life, either plant, animal, or pony.”

Starlight’s eyes grew dim as the memory came back to her. “I had only been trying to stop a friendship, but ultimately if I had left things the way they were I would have been responsible for wiping out all life in Equestria. It was one of the worst feelings of my life. I tried to deny the truth, but eventually I had to come to terms with myself, and how much evil I was truly responsible for.

“I surrendered to Twilight, giving up. And then… I waited for my sentence. Twilight would have been perfectly within her rights to lock me away in Tartarus and ensure I never saw the sun again, but… she chose to forgive me. Instead of locking me away she set me free.” Tears brimmed in her eyes before she smiled. “She offered her hoof in friendship to show me that cutie marks can be a beautiful thing and the things that make us different can be the things that bring us closer together. She acknowledged my skills, and worked hard to help me grow into a better pony.”

Starlight humbly bowed her head. “Truly, I am forever in her debt. She rid me of the bitterness that would have ruled me my whole life, and helped me reunite with my childhood friend.”

Pumpkin mulled over what she had heard. Was Twilight too forgiving? She reminded herself that Starlight wasn’t aware of the full ramifications of her actions at first. When she saw what her revenge would lead to she abandoned it.

She thought back to the times Twilight had helped them. When they had stolen Discord’s magic Twilight let them off with a tickle torture. Twilight could be stern, but she was very fair. She didn’t give up on them. She saw their potential and tried to help them grow through their issues.

“I guess Twilight truly is worthy of being the Princess of Friendship, huh?” said Pumpkin.

Starlight nodded.

***

Peppermint let out a maniacal laugh, playing the part of the Mane-iac. “You’ll never stop me now.”

The Power Ponies were all stuck in a small cage, one of her minions periodically hitting them with the paralysis spray.

Mane-iac aimed a laser cannon towards them. “Ta taaaaaaaa!”

“NOT SO FAST!” Twilight said in a kiddy voice, as Humdrum appeared, running towards all of them.

The Mane-iac only laughed. “Oh, Humdrum. Whatever shall we do now?”

Humdrum stepped in a bucket, tripping.

Everyone began laughing and mocking him.

“Well, that’s about what I expected.” The Mane-iac centered her aim. “Say goodbye!”

“Noooo!” Humdrum cried out, getting up. He was too far away to help… or was he? Rearing his leg back he then kicked it forward, momentum knocking the bucket off his leg and towards the ray gun.

The Mane-iac fired, the laser rebounding off the bucket and hitting the henchman by the paralysis spray.

“WHAT?” The Mane-iac said in shock.

Humdrum laughed. “Alright!”

She growled. “Get him!”

Humdrum cried out in terror as he was being charged on all sides. He backed up against a wall, gulping as they approached, weapons in hoof.

“Hey!” said the Masked Matterhorn. “Aren’t you forgetting about something?”

They had been so focused on Humdrum they had given the spray enough time to wear off. She blasted open the door of the cage, and from there they proceeded to beat down all the henchmen and in the end the Mane-iac as well.

“A job well done, everyone,” said Fili-Second.

“And we couldn’t have done it without you, Humdrum!” said Radiance, giving him a peck on the cheek.

Humdrum blushed. “Aw, it was nothing,” he said humbly.

“And so, the day was saved once again, thanks to… The Power Ponies!” The final page showed a group shot of the seven. “What crazy adventures will they get up to next time? You’ll have to buy the next issue to find out.”

Peppermint’s heart was beating hard with excitement. “Whoa! That was so cool! I didn’t think it would be so interesting.”

Twilight giggled. “Well, I’m not usually one for comic books, but I can see why Spike enjoys them so much.”

“Do you have more?”

Twilight playfully rolled her eyes. “Spike made sure I got the whole series.”

“It was a lot of fun reading with you. Can we read another one?”

Twilight shook her head. “Absolutely not.”

Peppermint’s face fell. “Oh… okay.”

“Didn’t you come here initially to ask a question of me? I told you I would give you my answer when we were done.”

“Huh?” Peppermint was so into the story it took her a minute to remember what she was there for in the first place. “Oh. Oh! Right.”

“You asked me whether I enjoy being a princess. It was an interesting question to me, and one I wanted to help you understand. However, if I had explained my thoughts right away, it wouldn’t have had as much significance as it will now.”

“Why not?”

“Let me ask you first: what do YOU think of me?”

“Well… like I said before I found it really fun reading with you. You created some cool voices, and you had your wing over me during the whole thing. I was a little nervous meeting you at first, but I think Pumpkin was right. You really are a kind and understanding pony. I’m glad I got to know you a little better. It feels like I could ask you for help when I’m in trouble. No. I mean, yes, I do think you’d help me if I’m in trouble, but I also think you’d hang out with me even if I’m not in trouble. ”

Twilight slowly nodded. “That’s correct. That’s the kind of pony I am.

“The answer to your question is… yes, I do enjoy being a princess. To be one of the few alicorns in the world is a great honor. So is being a princess. I would be very ungrateful if I didn’t appreciate the wonderful gifts given to me. This castle has a special function that tells me and my friends when we’re required in certain areas that are in need of a friendship lesson, so being a princess has also allowed me to head out into the greater world of Equestria, and help ponies outside of simply my hometown.

“The role of princess itself is something I’ve never been unhappy with.” Twilight’s grin faded. “What does cause me disquiet is what being a princess has done to others opinions of me. Of course as a princess I’d expect to be asked to solve problems, but some see me only as a princess, as if my ascension has robbed me of my basic pony needs of love, communication, and connection.”

Twilight gave her a nuzzle. “That’s why I wanted to spend some time together before I answered your question. I wanted you to see for yourself who I really am.”

Peppermint was a little confused. “What did you mean, about being a princess robbed you of basic needs?”

Twilight looked pleased. “I like that you ask questions. It makes me feel like you’re paying attention to what I’m saying. “

Peppermint blushed a little. “W-well, it’s only good manners…”

“Do you see what we’ve got going on here? We’re exchanging dialogue, expressing ideas and emotions. In other words, we’re forming a connection between us. Would you agree with that?”

Peppermint nodded. “Yeah. I think so.”

“My ideal world is one in which everyone starts to see me as my friends do. You’re getting there yourself. When I say that I don’t want my friends to treat me like a princess I don’t mean I don’t like being a princess. It’s because I hate the huge gap that forms when ponies know who I am.”

“What do you mean by ‘a huge gap?’”

“I mean it’s the opposite of a healthy connection. It drives other ponies away. Because I am royalty ponies aren’t real around me. They put on their best face, force a smile, and bow before me more out of fear than true respect or reverence. They feel they can’t relate to me before even speaking to me, and so they don’t bother trying to bridge that gap and attempt to know me. Think of how you reacted when you first talked to me, and how you’re acting with me now, and you’ll start to see what I mean.”

Peppermint thought back. She had basically done exactly what Twilight had described. She had bowed because it was the expected thing to do and she was nervous of the consequences if she didn’t.

After spending time together they had bonded over books, laughing together as easily as if she had known Twilight for most of her life. That comparison helped her understand why Twilight couldn’t answer her right away.

“Twilight?” she said quietly.

“Yes?”

“If you want other ponies to get to know you couldn’t you just do what you’re doing with me? Like, I don’t know, give everyone a number or something.”

Twilight let out a slow sigh, turning away with a wistful smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Unfortunately, no. No, I can’t.”

Peppermint hesitated, unsure if she should probe.

As if reading her mind Twilight said, “I’m sure you want to know why that is, right?”

“Y-yes.”

Twilight turned back to her. “I will never refuse anyone that needs my help, whether for a problem big or small, although naturally a big problem must take precedence over a small one. That is the mantle I have taken up, both as a princess and a pony.

“However, when it comes to social interactions that’s a different story. In an ideal world I would be friends with everyone, but while this world holds many blessings it is far from ideal. Issue number one: There is only one of me, and at least a hundred ponies in Ponyville. There is only so much time I have to devote to things. Besides helping to solve friendship problems in sometimes far-off places in Equestria I also have to keep up with my studies, make time for my friends, and just get some plain old rest. I also need a little down time just for reading. If I overreach and exhaust myself I won’t have the strength to protect those under my care.

“Issue number two: even if I offered myself up on a daily basis to as many different ponies as possible a fair number of them would not be suitable candidates.” She giggled. “I see you have a thought pulling at your mind, little one.”

Peppermint let out a little squeak. Was she that transparent? “W-well, I get that you don’t have a ton of free time and have a lot of responsibilities as a princess, but for the second part it sounds like you don’t want to give other ponies a chance. How would you know you wouldn’t be a fit match if you don’t even try?”

“You misunderstood me a little. There are two types of ponies I’m concerned about. The first are those that would come to meet me, not to be friends or for anything meaningful, but only for selfish purposes. For example, getting to tell their friends that don’t live in Ponyville that they met a princess personally.” Twilight smirked. “You’re doing it again.”

Peppermint had to laugh now. She guessed there was no point in trying to hide her feelings. “But isn’t that only normal? I mean, when you got to be Princess Celestia’s student didn’t you tell everyone you could?”

Twilight gently rubbed her head. “I guess I’m not making myself clear enough. Yes, it is a perfectly normal reaction, but it comes back to my beginning stance: I don’t want to be friends with someone that sees me as a princess only and not as a pony. If they only want to meet and interact for a chance to brag to others then they are not the kind of ponies I want to associate with, because they don’t care about me personally, only my title.”

Peppermint nodded. “Yeah, I think I understand it now. So what are the second group like?”

“The second group are the ones that can’t bring themselves to get any closer than legs reach. Much like the first group they’re more fixated on the princess part of ‘pony princess’ than the pony part. They would be horrified to think of meeting with me. And even if they did, they would be horrified still afterwards.

“They’re the type that think they have to be absolutely perfect around me, the ones that think I’ll lock them up for the rest of their lives if they so much as placed the silverware wrong or burped or just plain made a mistake. And even if the time we spent together was absolutely perfect, they’d worry about the next meeting and the one after that.

“With those kinds of ponies I could basically wreck their house under the guise of accidents, and they’d never confront me about it because they’d be too scared. They’re certainly more sympathetic to me, given that I was kinda like that when it came to Princess Celestia, but a good friendship requires being able to drop your guard once in a while and just be real with your feelings. Those ponies are more interested in just staying on your good side and not getting you mad. It’s difficult to have a meaningful friendship with someone that is terrified of you.

“I have to say, though, that you’re the kind of pony that I’d love to be friends with.”

Peppermint blushed heavily at the praise. “T-thank you, Prin-” She stopped, and then said simply, “Thank you, Twilight.”

Twilight pulled her closer, giving her a hug. “You’re very welcome.”

Peppermint hugged her back, her heart soaring. Twilight really was everything Pumpkin said she was.

When the two of them let go Twilight said, “Is there anything else you wish to ask of me?”

Peppermint shook her head. “Not really. Well… I guess there is one thing. Princess Celestia was your teacher, right?” Twilight nodded. “Have you ever asked her about all this?”

“I did… but… Princess Celestia…” Twilight sucked on her cheek, trying to find the right words to say. “Let’s just say that she’s the type that gives me the tools I’d need to succeed, and then let’s me go off on my own to gain real life experience. Just like I did to you at the beginning of our conversation, sometimes an explanation, no matter how detailed, just cannot compare to actually going through something and then reflecting on the experience.

“All things considered, I think I just have to accept that this is the way things are. Princess Celestia is friendly and cordial to all those that mean no harm, but she doesn’t go around trying to be close friends with everyone she meets. And I guess that is the way I have to look at things as well. I’d rather have a few deep friendships than a hundred shallow ones. If I can add in some new friends I won’t say no, but I think this is sufficient for me to do everything that’s required of me.”

Peppermint could see that now Twilight had something on her mind. “Is something wrong, Twilight?”

Twilight blushed slightly. “As one of my subjects I want to give you your due time, but, speaking honestly, I’m growing tired of talking to you. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed reading and chatting with you, but my mind is starting to wander towards the book I had picked out earlier. Today was supposed to be a no-thinking day where I just relaxed and read, but I wound up having to think anyway.”

Peppermint wasn’t offended. She had come at Pumpkin’s insistence, but still they had just barged in unannounced and demanded time with her. “So,” she said awkwardly, “do you want me to leave?”

Twilight put a hoof on her shoulder. “I think for a first meeting things went very well. I’m not telling you to leave, as you’re free to browse the library, but I don’t feel that I can be a good friend to you if I’m too distracted to pay proper attention to you.

“I’d really like you to come back and visit me again another day, even if you’re not with Pumpkin. You can tell me how you two became friends and we can read another issue of Power Ponies. How does that sound?”

Peppermint stood up and hugged Twilight again. “That sounds great. I’m looking forward to it.”

“Okay, then. Let’s get you back to Pumpkin. Would you like to walk or teleport?”

Peppermint said instantly, “Teleport!” It was a pretty cool ability that she would probably never learn herself. And, now that she had experienced it once, she was better prepared for it.

Twilight’s horn glowed, surrounding them both in a bright light, and with a flash they were around the corner from the table.

Peppermint spread out her legs for balance, closing her eyes as she regained her senses. She felt more composed this time around. She looked up at Twilight with a smile. “That is so cool!”

Twilight giggled. “I’m glad you enjoyed it.”

“So why did we stop here? Did you want to say goodbye in private?”

Twilight shook her head. “Oh, no. I just didn’t want to scare the others. Listen.”

Peppermint could hear Starlight’s voice, excitement coloring it as she described one of the adventures she had been on. “Ooooh.” She could only imagine how distracting it would be to be telling a story and just have someone else pop into the room.

The two of them walked around the corner, and Peppermint saw Pumpkin fully invested in the tale. Spike and Pinkie were nearby, listening too. She felt curious. What had she missed out on?

“I thought for sure I was dead!” Starlight said. “I was on my back, half-blind from the raging snowstorm. The creature reared up, intending to stomp on my head. I seized my opportunity, swinging at its back legs and knocking it off balance. I flipped over onto my stomach as it reared up again. Bracing myself I jumped, hitting it in the stomach. I had hoped just to knock it on its back to buy me time to escape, but it turned out it’s underbelly was its weak point, and I wound up penetrating it with my horn. As it fell over on its back it took me with it, my horn stuck inside it.”

Pumpkin gasped. “That’s horrifying!” She put a hoof to her own horn. Horns didn’t even have a sharpened edge. They tapered off at the tip.

“I knew if I didn’t do something immediately I was dead, so I did the only thing I could. I channeled as much energy as I could into the tip of my horn, releasing it into its body. Its outer body was especially tough, but inside it was pretty fragile. It let out a horrible roar as it fried and grew still.

“I pushed hard, extricating myself from the creature, in shock at what I had done. I was bleeding and cold. Even though I had won the battle I still wondered if I was going to survive. Who knew if there were more of them nearby?

“I was on the brink of giving in to despair, when I heard voices calling out for me. It was Sunburst and several Crystal Empire soldiers. I was so relieved.”

“And that was when you learned there was a good reason you were told not to go too far outside the borders of the Crystal Empire,” said Twilight. “Right, Starlight?”

Starlight laughed awkwardly. “Right, but it did lead to something wonderful. When we returned and they were taking care of my wounds Sunburst tearfully proposed to me. No one lives forever, but my almost dying made him realize he would regret it forever if he never made that move.”

“That was an awesome story!” said Pumpkin. “It was exactly the kind of thing I needed.”

“Oh?” said Twilight, getting closer. “Are you planning on proposing to someone?”

Pumpkin rolled her eyes. “No! I’ve just been having some problems with Pound again, so I wanted to take my mind off things for a while.”

“Well, sure. Sometimes the best thing to do to solve a problem is to not solve it at the moment and come back to it with a fresh mind. Given that, I won’t probe for details. Although, if you need me, you know I’m always willing to help.”

Pumpkin nodded. “Thank you, Twilight.”

Peppermint hugged Twilight’s leg. “Yeah, thank you. I’ll see you later.”

Twilight patted her head. “It was my pleasure. Until next time.” Bidding the rest of her friend’s goodbye she disappeared with a blink.

Pumpkin asked, “So how’d it go?”

“You were right.”

“Told you,” Pumpkin replied with a hint of smugness.

“Yeah, yeah. Rub it in.” Peppermint winked. “So I guess you’ve just been listening to stories.”

“Yeah. Starlight is a fascinating pony. She’s here visiting since she hasn’t seen Twilight in person for a while. They have this cool set of magic notebooks where if you write in a page in one of them it will show up in the other one.”

“Wow! Talk about instant mail. And Spike can do that sort of thing too with his fire breath. If everyone had stuff like that they’d put the postal service out of business.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that,” said Starlight. “It’s really just something for good friends to share. There’s lots of mail where that wouldn’t be appropriate. If you ask me nicely maybe I’ll see about getting the two of you your own connected notebooks.”

“That would be awesome!” Pumpkin said.

“Yeah, yeah!” Peppermint said, moving up and down on her hooves. “Can you do it? Pretty please?”

“And tell us another cool story?”

Starlight’s cheeks felt warm. It was hard to believe how different she had been in the past. Back then she was so cold she wouldn’t have cared about the feelings of children. “Of course.”

Peppermint sat down next to Pumpkin, the two of them eagerly anticipating the tale of a princess’s student.