Pony POV Series Season Three: Butterflies

by Alex Warlorn

Pony POV Series Episode 45: "Replacement Screws"



"Not-Really-Optional" Canon
(There is nothing optional about this canon)

This house has never felt more empty. Once upon a time, at Hearth Warming's Eve, it would have had a small hill of packages, the best toys bought straight from Manehatten, the finest dresses, and the most expensive horseshoes and ties.

Now it was cluttered with furniture no pony used, filled with empty rooms, and stuffed with antiques with no pony to look at them. It was the first Hearth Warming's Eve, and Day, that I spent all alone.

My name is Onyx Tiara. My birth-name, and according to the family by-laws the one I have to sign my checks with, is Filthy Rich. My grandfather, Stinking Rich, came from what elitist Narwhals would call a hayseed family. He survived on blood, sweat, and tears. But he was no fool, and he knew a success when he saw one. So he took a chance.

That chance was to form a symbiotic relationship with the Apple family, and sell their near impossible to raise Zap Apples, hard won from the deadly-as-always Everfree Forest. And he used those bits to buy wares from the ponies coming all over Equestria to sample the jam that existed nowhere else in the world, then sell those wares off to -other- ponies from other parts of Equestria. He made a fortune.

Of course, to the Narwhals he was still just a "country bumpkin stallion" from the collection of tents and a small farm in the shadow of their royal city. But they still liked their jam, and they could buy it only from him thanks to a very wise exclusive sellers contract with the Apples. He met the most beautiful pony in Equestria of her day (she wrote horror novels, go figure), who saw past his dirty facade and taught him to look and act like a gentlepony.

Rich's Barnyard Bargains came into formal existence soon enough. Father had the idea of taking a loss to under bid our competitors to buy customer loyalty and more importantly to destroy their profit margin. Grandfather thought Father was insane, but it worked.

My wholesale buying and price slashing created the little empire I've enjoyed with my empress and little princess.  ... I felt so proud of her seeing her pay perfect attention as I recounted my leg of our family history, I would have gone all the way back to my grandfather but I had to keep it short. She was going to be the queen of the business world someday, I knew it.

And from the one pony who also paid attention (a little frizzy red-head filly with candy for a cutie mark) she might have some competition to keep her healthy (while eliminating the competition is a part of business, having NO competition leaves you a straw giant to be knocked over by an outside force). Or perhaps a good business partner (after all, a business is nothing if it doesn't have its suppliers and consumers to purchase its goods).

I can't -believe- Silver Spoon SLEPT through it! Her family has had wealth longer than us, I figured she'd have a longer line to appreciate the history more! Silver Axe, er, Tongue makes a good business partner though.

At least my little diamond's clapping was cute.

Yes I am aware my child doesn't have quite the same, way of speaking as me. No, she is NOT adopted! With our businesses expanding beyond Ponyville, some things are simply not proper anymore. My, my wife suggested I should take a few of those elocution lessons myself.

Huh? Oh don't tell me you've gone to sleep too! Economics is not boring! Why does everypony keep saying that? And my filly isn't either! You take that back!

...I never noticed how many empty rooms this house now has until last Hearts and Hooves day. When she, when she didn't come home I thought she was visiting Silver Spoon again ... later I found out they had had a horrible fight, weeks before... that my little princess hadn't spoken of, and Silver Spoon hadn't mentioned to her parents.

I'd give the feather duster who'd find my little filly half my fortune if I thought it would help. Diamond Tiara. Where are you?

...What are you looking all ashamed about?

My wife? . . . We met when we were foals. You would have never guessed she was upper-middle-class from how she acted. I still have the scars from our first play-date. She did not get the name Golden Skates for nothing after all, she was quite the active filly ... more so than a pudgy little colt who couldn't make one lap around the track without stopping for breath.

As we got older, she had an eye for coordination and precision that was a sight to behold, and she loved it. The attention and the symmetry she could give things... She was no trophy-mare, if anything I was HER trophy, HER prize! And I couldn't think of a higher honor.

No, the only family history she ever talked about was a poet from the pre-tyrant era.

I introduced her to the finer points of high society, how to look and dress and act like a lady proper among the social elite. She says she only did it for me, but personally I think she saw it as a challenge or a glorified game of pretend that adults played among themselves. And she loved to win any game that presented itself, she was just that kind of pony.

Then of course came the happiest day of my life: we went from prince and princess of our little world to king and queen.

What followed was the second happiest day of my life. Did I want a colt instead of a filly? If I did, I don't remember, all I remember is seeing the spitting image of my wife as a foal in her forelegs, nursing. And I knew our fairytale had come full circle with a new princess to find her prince.

When Golden Tiara took on more responsibilities I didn't stop her, why should I? It's not like earth pony mares are made of glass like narwhales or have hollow bones like the feather dusters.

She then began surprising me by doing some of my workload for me. She slept less. She ate less. She never rolled back on spending time with me or our filly. For a while she kept coming up with new ideas on the fly, then, so slowly it was like the receding of the tide, they stopped.

I didn't notice Silver Platter, and other mares from high brow families talking to her, about how a proper mare did and didn't act.

I didn't notice her surprise games at parties shrinking in number and force.

I didn't notice the spontaneousness I saw in a filly with gold colored roller skates being buried alive bit by bit. I didn't notice her suffocating under the weight she was putting on herself.

Steam began to hiss its way out of the building pipes. Golden Tiara bucked an accountant in the face who had finished his work a day early, throwing off her plans.

One night she smashed a plate in the face of a maid who had put them back into the cupboard in the wrong order.

Then came that day, my princess was at home organizing the house schedule, our little princess had no school that day. I heard the noise and came into the room. What I saw wasn't my wife.

I . . . I'm sure it was just stress, yes, that's all it had to be. There's no way that thing had been my wife.

It all should have gone away in a day or two. Or a week or two. Or a month or two. That wasn't her, it couldn't have been her. I wanted my princess back!

I went before the incarnation of evil itself to beg for her to use her magic for good, yes I was that blinded by desperation.

The Tyrant claimed that mind altering magic couldn't fix my wife's ... illness, unless I wanted to completely eradicate the person she was. Some propaganda about how mind magic couldn't repair Golden Tiara's ... problem.

Nag. I'll never forgive her for choosing not to heal Golden, and then covering up her choice with some obvious lie.

Now I can't bear to look at that thing! It's like looking at some grotesque parody of her! I want Golden Tiara back! I want the mother of my filly back! I want the filly who taught a colt to believe in himself back!

I even beseeched her sister once she was freed from her imprisonment, hoping another victim of the tyrant's cruelty would hear my pleas. She said in the time before her imprisonment, mind magic was not a common practice by virtue of their predecessor's horrific usage of it, and she was still learning up on the changes that had taken place since then. She said there was nothing she could do but give my princess dreams as pleasant as a mad mare was capable of.

Once more, by one tyrant's hoof or another, I had been denied the chance to have Golden Tiara back.

Then Princess Cadence made a brief respite from her exile as a threat to the tyrant's power (too many would know her for what she was if she sent another rival to the moon NOW). The one Alicorn the ponies knew they could trust, even if she was blind to her family's corruption. I dared ask her for help any help. When Diamond was at school I visited the bedlam with her and her bodyguard (who broke into a cold sweat one patient began howling like a wolf). She had insisted her visit be completely unknown for privacy's sake. And I knew how the tyrant would react if she found out her niece was making friends among the people.  

She cast the a spell meant to heal bonds on myself and the parody of my wife.

I...I did feel my love for Golden reignite for a brief, fleeting moment, and I think I saw the same deep in the mad eyes of that parody. But then the moment was gone, and the parody was still there. She then tried a memory spell...something it reminded her of caused the parody to become... violent. Cadence was lucky even young Alicorns are apparently very difficult to truly hurt and the orderlies were ready. The doctors refused to permit another try for the safety of all involved. Cadence asked for my forgiveness for her failure...At the very least, I don't hate her. One cannot fake the look of utter disbelief she had when her spells failed to reach Golden deep inside that parody of her. At the very least, Cadence tried, and that's more than I can say for her aunts.

Then came the second time in so many years that another tyrant deity made a claim on Celestia's throne but not bothering with her farce of being loving and benign, and being completely open in seeing all ponies as his playthings. It was strangely refreshing.

The world went mad. Everyone went mad. My precious little princess turned into a foal sized doll, tried on all my little princess' clothes, and then it went outside.

One of the work-hooves was dusting and humming to herself, while trotting on the walls!

I backed away from her in shock when I bumped into our chef who was saying something about the vegetables trying to eat him.

His pudgy shape became athletic, his mane became white and violet with curls, his coat became lavender. His form shifted to alluring perfect shape I knew every detail of. Bones shifted as she became shorter. Her eyes blinked into the world's most perfect purple.

"Hello my prince, I missed you," she whispered taking off her chef's hat.

I looked into her eyes, I saw a gleam in my eyes from my own reflection. I grinned. My entire body shook. I laughed like a hyena. I looked at the maid dusting on the walls, and touched her with a hoof.

Instantly her elderly and gray and faded beige colors brightened to purples and whites, her maid outfit becoming form-fitting and enticing. She hopped off the wall and nuzzled me as the 'chef' did too from behind. "Hello my prince, I missed you," she whispered, spitting out the feather duster.

I laughed like a mad pony. Tossing off my business tie I ran through my house naked. I spotted our second, younger house keeper hiding from the potted plants she said wanted to molest her. I grabbed her. She shifted into her proper form with a white and black maid outfit to the other one's black and white maid uniform. "Hello my prince, I missed you," she whispered as she nuzzled me as the other three did the same.

And her numbers grew. Our gardener, our accountant, the nanny, a colt selling door to door cookies, our butler, everyone in the house soon welcomed me with the words, "Hello my prince, I missed you."

I assembled them in the upstairs dancing rooming when I had found all I could find. I told them to take off anything they were wearing and they obeyed without question, smiling at me. I basked in their presence, over a dozen images of perfect beauty looking back lovingly me at me.

I then ordered them to shuffle around while my back was turned. I heard them move about, but when I turned around, I could not tell who had moved where. And I loved it. She was mine! All mine! And she'd never leave me again! And I would always have her! If I ever lost her I could just make another!

Then a thought hit me, of how I could reach my perfect union with her ... I touched myself. And nothing happened. I let out a cry out anger and disappointment. My princess muzzled me from all directions.

I heard a knocking on the window. I saw something purple flying above the ground with a propeller beanie. It looked at me lovingly with a smile on her face. She looked surprised and confused when she noticed my wife everywhere, but she just grinned wide and shouted, "Got room for one more?"

"Begone parody!!" I snarled.

A floating screen appeared in front of it showing a heart breaking in two. It flew away sniffing. I ignored the thing.

I enjoyed my wife's pleasurable company several times over at once.

The wall of rainbow light came. Reality crashing down on me. And my wife vanished several times over, replaced by the house staff and one traumatized colt. We all screamed.

I don't ... remember the next couple of days clearly. One of the maids has claimed I tried to hang myself. I do remember waking up in a hospital bed, and Nurse Redheart saying they had to pump my stomach. I came home to find half the liquor stores completely empty.

No. My wife didn't come home during the day of chaos! No she didn't! Even if I was insane I wouldn't have told her to go away! I wouldn't have rejected her even in the depth of madness. Surrounded by cheap replacements of her which she simply accepted and was willing to embrace along with me!!!

That-that couldn't have been her! I wouldn't have said that to her! It must've have been a trick of the chaos spirit!

When I came home, I heard noise from upstairs, I found one of the servants bleeding on the forehead and another with a nasty bump and black eye. I heard screaming coming from Diamond Tiara's room. I found her throwing her doll collection against the wall shattering the expensive glass figures, each one worth a small fortune. "It's not fair! It's not fair! Mama was free and I couldn't even hug her! It's not fair!"

She snarled and hissed words I'd never taught her at them. She never stopped screaming. What else did she say? No, please, I do not wish to recall.

She was crying, no, she was bawling her eyes out. Rage and sadness tore up her room worse than any typhoon.

I took a step back when she saw me, she looked like a wild animal. She growled and galloped at me. She bucked and bit at me, I held her at hoof length. All the time screaming that she wanted her mother back and that she hated everypony. I was scared.

An hour later she calmed down enough that I could safely put her to bed. I ordered the servants to clean her up and tidy her room. She fell asleep crying. She kept, she kept calling for Her. It was like knives in my ears.

Then came the day Miss Applejack came by. The house was still a complete disaster. Not all the damage had been caused by the chaos spirit and repairing the ponies took priority over repairing Ponyville.

"Ah just wanna speak ta yer daughter! I'm not sellin' nothin'! Oh come on please?" She pleaded at they entry hall. "Hey, I happen to be friends with Celestia, just so you know, and-"

How dare she mention That Tyrant, like being acquaintances with That Tyrant was a good thing!? I didn't bother with servants, I picked her up and tossed her out the door- "HEY! Put me down ya yellah-UGH!"

My next weekly card game with Granny Smith was bitterly silent.

Weeks later, as we began to piece our lives back together. I had collected for a party the Silvers, and the other members of the hard working earth pony families, who pushed the wheels that made Ponyville turn, and made it the worthy gateway town to Equestria that it was no matter what the Narwhal snobs say.

A mare and her husband spoke with each other, she asked. "Did you see Screw Ball flying over Ponyville during ... that day?"

"Screw Ball?" He replied.

"Filthy Rich's wife. Nurse Battleaxe told me about it at our last visit to the spa. Apparently she escaped, along with the other mental patients. Discord LET them out and told them to have at it. I guess since he couldn't drive them to Crazy-Town cause they were already there, he did the opposite and made anything their screwed up minds came up with real to get his kicks out of them. Screw Ball went flying. Did you see that purple flying pony with the beanie flipping her lips?"

He laughed, "That thing was real? I figured it was just some fake pony Discord made. It was too ugly to be a real pony!"

I think he realized I was standing behind him after he went through the second story window.

I didn't let the doctors so much as touch me with their psycho-babble, I knew I was alright. There was only one pony whose well being I cared about, that I could do something about after that sick day.

I didn't think Diamond Tiara truly needed anything at first. After all, earth ponies were built to take it, not like spoiled narwhals or feather-dusters. But then came the ... incident, on Family Appreciation Day at school, where Granny-Smith got her chance to tell what I didn't have time to.

And my daughter crossed the line.

A couple days later I had one of the visiting therapists to Ponyville do a session with my little princess, he also asked about her mother. We spoke when she was away at school.

"From what little of her family history I've managed to dig up, I think perhaps your wife's condition is genetic. If such is the case, then I suggest you be prepared for when her child begins to suffer such ... episodes." That doctor never set hoof on my family's property again.

It can't be genetic! It isn't my princess' fault! It must be what that chaos spirit did to my poor little diamond! He did this! He must have!


I dropped my namesake out of my two hooves back into my soup bowl when I saw that pony toss. Mom dragged me back home with barely a few well chosen excuses.

That was when he dyed his coat from brown to black. And began wearing his old silver onyx neck ring opposed to his respectable business tie. Anyone calling him by his birth name was thrown out the door with the pink slip shoved in their mouth. I nearly got hit by one that went flying out the door.

Diamond had told me he had refused to see a doctor following the chaos monster's rampage, and those that came to see him were quickly escorted off the grounds. That was one of the last things she ever told me before, before she said those black words to me...


The maid wasn't the first purple Earth pony to be mounted by Onyx Tiara in his bed since his wife had become Screwball, and she likely wouldn't be the last. There had been many, none had so far had become pregnant. Streaks of violet and white mane, purple eyes, a lavender coat, any detail, any resemblance, was enough to earn a night with the black furred earth pony.

Sometimes he'd give compliments, sometimes he'd prove himself a charmer and woo them to a night with him. But each night, every climax, would end the same, with him shouting only one name, and only one name, and for that name to be muttered in his sleep next to whatever mare was with him that night, and they'd eventually leave, taking whatever trinkets he offered in compensation.

And if they tried to stay hoping to erase the name from his mind with their passion or endure being a instrument of vicarious desires for the sake of the prize, they'd see how much of my father's line bred true onto the next generation.

I had no experience with pranks beyond the mean spirited taunts and cruel lies towards blank flank fillies, so all eyes would be on THEIR worthless backsides rather than my worthless backside. But I learned very quickly, and could be more vicious than a griffon if I fancied. And I would protect my mother's empty seat from anyone who'd dare try to steal it.

"He'll come back to her. I know he will. He has to." I told myself with a sense of dim hope each time I saw another poor imitation who could never stand up to my mother's beauty leave, never to be seen again.

You're really surprised at a filly knowing about mares and stallions? I'm high society, I've walked in on drunk couples in one of our guest rooms since before I got my cutie mark.

'Diamond Tiara', I hate the mark of Cain on my rear but I still prefer it over my birth-name.

Tried and true sadist 'Diamond Tiara,' and loyal minion and partner in teasing, Silver Spoon.

And a new dress in the making to dress up my cutie mark so pretty no one will ask what it's for.

Miss Cheerilee's lesson about Cutie Marks. I already had the ugly thing, so why should we keep talking about it? Stupid cutie mark.

So I did what I always did when I was feeling down, make somepony else feel worse.

Mother said go for the top, and the only way to be at the top is for another pony to be at the bottom.

Mom always said I was special. So that means everypony else can't be special.

After all, they weren't me, what did I care if they hurt? Oh right, I cared because it meant there was somepony else worse off than me and that made me feel better!

And that worked perfectly. I enjoyed my new toy. It gave me such a warm feeling inside.

It was so nice I was even able to pretend that I didn't care both my parents were too busy to attend my Cute-Ceañera. Mom said she'd be there but had to 'teach some pencil pushers some manners first,' whatever that meant. She never showed, neither did dad.

At least I had plenty of presents and a new chew toy to take my mind off it.

Then the toy bit back! At my party for the thing I dared not let these foals realize was as impotent as me.

'She's free to be whatever she wants to be?!'

When do you hate somepony? Simple. When they have something I want!

And that it couldn't be bought with my father's money wasn't a feeling I was used to. Neither was somepony actually standing up to me!

The orange pegasus said "And she's not stuck being stuck-up like you two!"

I would give every doll and every dress I had if I could erase those words from reality!

There was a weird look on Silver Spoon's face like her brain had simply shut off, followed by her looking like she'd been bucked in the gut.

And I spent the rest of my party on the sidelines!

Silver Spoon? Pst. Sure she stayed alongside me. But why wouldn't she? It's not like that's anything special.

I want a do over! I want a cutie mark that shows I'm special like Mom says I am! The cutie mark can't be right, right? Wearing jewelry, can't be all I'm good for, right? Like a tailor's dummy?

Then the day of, Discord, happened.

The dance, the dance, the dance, everything switched around.

No, please, I don't wanna talk about that.

Whenever that little white blank- whenever Sweetie Belle was around, I felt ill just at the idea of getting back at the yellow blank for my humiliation.

This only made me more determined! One weird sickness wasn't going to keep me from getting what I deserved!

Finally has her cutie mark? ... Rubbing my face in it?! Who does she think she is? Me?

Then she didn't have her cutie mark, stupid Applebloom went and infected herself with some crazy plague and ... the sickness came again when I tried to think of cruel things to say to her. Not that it mattered, when she came back to school everyone was paying attention to her and telling her how worried they were! Even when she loses she STILL gets all the attention!

Why. Why is she the one with friends? A no talent bumpkin who can't even talk straight? Why am I the one alone?

Then came for my chance for revenge. To break her. To destroy her. I wanted nothing left of her!

To humiliate her by proxy with her crazy grandmother! HAHAHAH! The best part was, there was no way I could get in trouble! All I had to do was set the pieces and watch them move! After all, I wasn't doing anything wrong, not that anyone could prove!

Waddya mean 'petty?'

I mean! Have you SEEN that hat her grandmother made her wear? That is so last century!

Then ... then ... everything goes wrong. Her granny shows up just like she's supposed to and ... she's responsible for the founding of Ponyville, and for my family being rich, and for me being born?

NOT FAIR! NOT FAIR! Not again! This was supposed to be my moment! She was finally going to get it! I tried to salvage the situation and -

And I've never been shouted at by my father before. I can't remember the last time, if there was a last time.

What did he say? Oh I don't remember. Er, something about insulting his most trusted business partner and biggest supplier, damaging the friendship that existed between two families since before Ponyville began, being awful to an honest hard working fellow earth pony, being snotty, spoiled and, and petty?

He said I needed to learn what it meant to earn something. He slapped the rabbit ears on me and made me do that hop over the water cans singing the ABCs, WITH those blank flanks. . . my rear legs were so sore the next day!

I rejected Silver Spoon's offer to use her as a crutch, once we were in sight of the school. That blank wasn't getting satisfaction from me.

Dad also took a much bigger interest in what I did at school.

I remember Miss Cheerilee speaking to my father, she didn't know foals of rich families had eavesdropping down to an art form.

"It's like seeing other fillies hurt is the only thing that can make her happy anymore. And now she doesn't even have that."

Happy?! What did grown-ups know?! They thought I pushed these blanks in their place because it made me happy?! ... I got sweet satisfaction when I saw their sad little faces, when I saw them hurt with their perfect little lives for one moment.

I felt sick again.

Then came ... then came the visit from the doctor who worked at the same place where they were trying their hardest to make mama be well again, so everything could go back to the way it was supposed to be.

Silver Spoon keeps pestering me about what's bothering me. WHAT IS SHE, STUPID? Mama's gonna be sick forever! I have a cutie mark for wearing jewelry! I'm not anything without my namesake! I've been humiliated repeatedly in front of the foals I'm supposed to be the popular one of! So why don't I have lots of friends?! When things go wrong for me everyone laughs! When things go wrong for that, ugh, for Applebloom everyone feels bad for her! Why? What does Silver Spoon know? Then what good is she?!

She's as worthless as a blank-flank! A silver spoon? What's she good at? Eating cereal?! A worthless pony with a worthless friend! Get lost!

I want everything back to the way it's supposed to be! Where everypony at school loves me! Where mama is waiting for me! Where dad loves me! Where the intruders aren't always coming through the back door trying to steal papa! I want everything back to normal!!

I could listen to the coma inducing lectures from my special tutor about how narwhals and feather-dusters and evil Alicorns secretly ruled Equestria and how Earth ponies were slaves and didn't even know it.

Narwhals, spoiled, lazy.

Mama's birthday coming up.

Go to best dress maker in Ponyville.

Stupid Narwhal! What does she know?

Knows how to sew, knows about mama, tells me mama will love it more if I do it myself.

Needle marks all over my mouth and hooves. Mama loves it.

Narwhal-M-miss Rarity, willing to teach me how to sew.

Doesn't treat me as an 'inferior' Earth pony. She uses her hooves to sew as much as her horn.

She isn't being paid, at all, but, she's still willing to teach me. Just because? She doesn't work for dad.

So why ... why does it feel so right around her?

Why do I feel so ... happy?

I don't need to be on guard, around her.

That was when I first began hearing the voices. Sometimes I saw a brown pony with a 'arrows pointing everywhere' cutie mark in my head when the voices spoke. The voices' promises. The voices are ugly. Sometimes they act nice, sometimes they act mean...

Then Heart and Hooves Day comes. I used to get cards from everypony in class. Now my desk is strangely empty. It's not like it matters, so why I do care?

Normally I just buy a card and give to mom through the slot at the asyl-, at the hospital. But Miss Rarity said that when someone is made with your own hooves, your feelings show more.

We never have much actual class work on a holiday anyway, so, I have plenty of time to put one together. It's purple and white and sparkles like diamonds. White and purple. Like both of them. Wait. Who did I make this for? I feel something inside me being pulled taut.

I feel the pale yellow feather-duster, no, pegasus in the desk behind me looking over my shoulder. Alula. She attended my Cute-Ceañera.

I don't need this. I look around the room at the red and magenta balloons.

I blurt out in a higher than normal tone as I look back at her,  "I like the red one!"

Without one hesitation, Alula hooves me a red and white card. Out of the corner of my eye I see Silver Spoon smiling at me.

There's a hopeful, expecting looking in Alula's eyes.


I feel like my mind breaks in two.

I shut down. I don't know or care what Sweetie Belle and her friends are doing.

Then the voices start up worse than ever! Like snakes in my head! I don't hear what Alula says. The voices promise. The voices say, hurt the nar-, hurt Rarity! Then mama will be well.  

I leave the paper heart colored white and violet in my desk.

The voices promise.

The voice promises.

PROMISES TO MAKE MOM BETTER! Then everything can be perfect and back to the way it's supposed to be!

... and I see the look on her face ... I've seen it one time before ... it was the look ... the look mama had when, when I helped the doctors who came to our house ...

She doesn't come back. No. Mama, mama, MA-MA!

'There there dear, you don't need to remember anymore ...'

"Thank you."

'A good filly. A very good filly. Because only a good filly would care about her mom right? Or is that a bad filly? Who doesn't want her father to be happy? Or who hurts her only friend? Which is it?'

I shuddered. "I-I don't know."

'Very good.'

A pair of guard pegasi made note of every pony or carriage that entered Canterlot's City.

A tiny swarm of parasprites swarmed around them for exactly one minute and six seconds.

I huddled into the city in the meantime, everypony's eyes on the parasprites. Before they just flew away and ate each other.

The noise. It wasn't the sights I noticed first. It was the noise. The noise was so confusing.

I had been to Canterlot before, along with everypony else in my class on our field trip, but that was all controlled, and it was the most direct route from the pegasus port to the Gardens and back again.

The busy ponies of Canterlot didn't give me a second look. It was a really weird feeling. In Ponyville I always drew heads, everypony knew the daughter of the biggest retailer in Ponyville. Here it was like...I didn't exist...

I also felt strangely exposed. In Ponyville going around without anything on was just natural outside of winter or Nightmare Night. But here, from foals to adults to the guards, not a single pony was naked. It made me feel . . . inadequate.

A big pony bumped into me and didn't even stop to say 'sorry' just hurrying off to where he wanted to go. Now I actually felt vexed. Weren't Canterlot Ponies supposed to be the best? Where were their manner to a little lady?

'Maybe you're not a little lady then. Maybe you're just not that important, though you already knew that, didn't you? But it's alright my dear. It's perfectly alright. As long as you walk the path I've set for you, I'll always protect you. There is nothing to worry about with me.'

As my head cleared I finally noticed, I was in the minority. Unicorns were a novelty in Ponyville, with most at best second generation, with the traditions around our Winter Wrap-Up to keep them from flaunting their powers and having to use muscles like the rest of us ponies. Now I found myself surrounded on all sides by unicorns! I don't think I've ever seen this many in my whole life!

So many.

'You're not a Venus Pony Trap, so stop gawking and get one hoof in front of the other already little filly!'

I obey.

'Look at them my little pony. From more successful families than you, more educated than you, more rich than you, more refined than you, my little pony. Does that make them better than you?' The voice gasped, 'But they're unicorns! Dirty ugly wicked Narwhals! The ones your father, and grandfather, and your tutor are always saying are bad ponies. So they must be bad right my little pony?

But! What about Rarity? Isn't she a narwhal? Oh she treated you awful when you first met so she must be bad! But she then set up the dress for you so she must be good. But she made you do it so she must be bad! But she actually taught you how to sew! I mean! Taught you something that could in some distant random universe might somehow possibly be useful! And not for a bit! So she must be good! And if she's a good narwhal, then maybe all unicorns aren't so bad? Or are they right and she's the only good one of the lot?

'...Or does that mean Earth Ponies are really the bad ones? But wouldn't that make you a bad pony too? A bad pony who shouts at her one friend, a bad pony who laughs at other ponies because she's terrified at being laughed at? A coward who can't stand it when a yellow filly isn't scared of her father's money and tells her how useless she is? And is that eager for her mother, that she'd cling to any pony who reminded her of her, just like your father.

And I bet you were secretly planning to have her replace your mother! That must be why you were driving away all those pretenders to the throne (wonderful job on that by the way)! So you'd be happy! And your father would be happy! But your mother couldn't be happy with being replaced! But if you and your father are happy, she'd be happy right? But who could be happy, seeing their very special somepony in the hooves of another?

So tell me, my little pony. Is she bad or good? Are you a good daughter for going through all of this? Or are you a rotten, spoiled little retch who doesn't want to see her family back together?'

"I don't know!" I cried out, I was crying in public again. I wasn't a lady.

'That's a good filly.' The voice gave the ring of approval, then shifted to that sharp Arctic tone, 'Now keep walking.'

I obey.


Far away, Celestia felt a chill down her spine.


Did I always like things to be orderly, then become free? Naw. When growing up I didn't like knowing what happened next. I loved surprises! I guess that's why I never liked the idea of destiny, or cutie marks for that matter.

I mean, once you get it, that's it. Poof, that's all you're meant to be, the end. Where's the fun in that?

My father and my teacher spent a lot of time telling how cutie marks didn't quite work like that. I never really got most of it, but something like 'you own the cutie mark, the cutie mark doesn't own you' or something. But so long as I could get mine and still have lots of surprises, I was happy!

So how did I get into things being set and ready? Well, gymnastics, rollerblading, martial arts, all those wonderful things, I love them all. Who needs a brush or a pen when your whole body can be art? And I don't mean just sitting on your flank as some pony paints your plot! If other mares are happy being a bowl of fruit, let 'em.

Naw! It was the rush! The power! The thrill! The excitement! The exhilaration that came from just being alive! All those things? Karate, dancing, roller skating? They got my blood pumping and they kept my body fit and in control.

My parents said it also gave me focus, a direction for all that boundless energy I have. They said it was better than me climbing the ceiling like I was a pegasus! I think I even tried that once.

And what after the thrill of being alive and proving it? The excitement of competition and the delight of the win of course. So yeah, I went for all three.

I came in first place exactly once, but there wasn't one competition I entered where I didn't place.

Upset? Pst. I'm in it for the excitement first, the wins second. They were just the icing on top.

But I'm not above improving myself. How else do you get better at anything?

My teacher said I needed to get harmony into my routines or they'd look ugly nonsense. Now I'm not a pony who really cared what other ponies think about her that much. But I'm not one to not try new things either!

And I was shocked, no, seriously, like a big ka-zap! I was shocked at how -better- my performances felt, okay, a lie, I still loved to simply dance/kata/skate completely with no plan and just let my body lead me along. But, for the ones in front of the crowds, people cheered, and the judges loved them.

And that's just it, it became a new challenge, this harmony stuff, it was a new mountain to climb, and I wasn't about to back down!

That wasn't my biggest challenge of course. My biggest challenge was getting a timid fat colt to grow a spine. That part wasn't easy. But the pay off? Whoa-boy. You would not believe!

He wasn't all that bad once he learned to care enough about himself to take care of his body, and believed enough in himself to take risks. So yeah, I married him.

Like a prince and princess. We were a perfect match. I didn't want one of those self-loving jocks, or one of those upper crust snobs who treated fellow Earth ponies as genetically inferior due to having more bits to their name.

Yeah, my family read me a lot of fairytales, and I can't say I didn't like them, of course I wasn't gonna let it out I liked that sort of thing, until I met my prince.

And I could tell I was the only filly who didn't scare him. Kidding! I'm the only filly who -ever- scared him other than his mother. Yeah, our relationship didn't exactly start out the best. But it was all uphill from there, wait! That didn't come out right.

Ever read 'Gone With the Pegasi'? I haven't either. He taught me how to mingle and act among those Canterlot and Manehatten elites. I could see it in their eyes, they were all pretending like me, all hiding behind those costume masks, I never got that part about those elite ponies; if they were so successful, why couldn't they be themselves? Pst.

Then came the news I was going to have to lay off the sports for few good months. I can't say I liked the news about having to cut back on what I loved. But the end result was very very very worth it. My prince says she looks just like me, but my mane was never that straight.

For a while I was Golden Rich, but my prince told me how he wanted to end the 'family curse.' And with a name he got stuck with, I can't say I blame him, his grandfather's was even worse. His father and grandmother had been very staunch against the idea of changing your name when you got your cutie mark. I didn't mind, Diamond Tiara just rolled off the tongue so much better!

I still remember when I gave my little princess her first real and most important lesson.

"Aim for the moon, Diamonds ... always shoot for the top. Never settle for anything less than your all. And always be in control. Whether it's yourself, a group, or a situation, take command, and never let it be taken away from you. When you reach the top of the mountain, aim for the stars next."

And you can bet I took my own advice to heart. Just because I was a married mare with a foal didn't make me some glorified housewife. Wasn't gonna happen. Getting back to close to my original weight, took a while.

Like I did with my prince, I took control and I kept control, nothing happened in that house that I didn't know about and I didn't affect. Not from how much the workhooves were paid, to what hours our nanny was with Tiara, to the patterns on the napkins, to where our happy medium lay between discount and number of customers.

I had never felt so focused in my life. All the concentration I had known during my routines came back with interest, and I loved it. Everything becoming a pure laser-beam for my mind to zero in on. Everything a new challenge to conquer!

For a while I ran any ideas I had by my prince, but I eventually thought it best to just cut out the middle man.

Everything was down pat. I was happy that Silver Platter's Silver Spoon (a filly my little princesses' age) made friends so quickly with my little princess. It was almost like clockwork how she behaved. I'd think that was boring, but it made it easier for me to focus.

Silver Platter and her entourage of lady friends and trophy wives ... I can't say they were unpleasant company. But there was always something about Silver Platter. With all the other ponies I could see hints of the real pony behind the mask. But with Silver Platter, there was just, nothing, just some slight fear, all her movements had a little slight shake to them. Her eyes taking a glance in any reflective surface. I know narcissistic ponies, that wasn't the look in her eyes.

She talked about how lucky it was to be married before becoming an expired Hearth Warming's Eve Cake, and she said that if you want ponies respect, how it was best to act, and how best not to act.

I cut out time for my surprises at our family parties, I needed the extra space if I wanted to keep control and still have time for my little princess and prince.

Control. Family. Control. Family. I was always the master of my own destiny.

I was always in control. I made my own choices. No one made them for me.

I am free.

Then I had to start focusing more and more on things, it'd end up weird. I began to have strange dreams too, like that one time I thought I saw a mare moving behind the pattern on our wallpaper... I had it torn down and replaced. It was an ugly yellow anyway. But everything was fine, nothing changed, nothing a bit of focus couldn't fix!

But some of the ponies we had to hire on account of us not being able to be in two places at once didn't get it. (I hear that the Alicorns can pull off that trick, too bad they don't bother to share it. I'm sure there's a unicorn I could hire to cast the spell for me.)

First there was one of our bookkeepers who thought he could rush me ahead of my time table because he felt like it.

Next was a dishwasher who thought she was in charge of the kitchen and could rearrange it however she wanted without my consent or approval like she owned it. Don't ask me why Sliver Platter's husband hired her later.

I began to start feeling like I'm the only one who cares about maintaining the household, like everyone wanted to let the place descend into anarchy! So I worked even harder to stop them from doing it!

Then-then. My little Princess. Doesn't she know. Of course. But.

What were we talking about again?

Oh right. Then my prince came home. We had a misunderstanding, nothing major. After all, he is my prince. We worked it out. Nothing major.

I feel free again and I didn't even know I was trapped. I feel like I didn't have any bound again. No rules. No restrictions. No walls. Everything was surprises. Everything was random. I could finally see Equestria for its real shape, everything was silly pandemonium. All those heavy weights, gone.

The next day they came, the burley white pegasi. I'm not stupid. I knew where they wanted to take me. Fat chance of that happen. I had one with his muzzle in the floor making a real splash the maids were going to have trouble getting out and was working on the other two when-when

I felt-

Her forelegs. Her face. Her eyes.

Her eyes.


"I'd still go with something genetic/organic myself. She doesn't seem to have had a very unhappy life beforehand with her husband and foal, at least not from what little we've uncovered so far. Indeed, from all accounts she seems to have been the bright shining light and joy in her daughter's life. And the memories she recounts of her husband are always positive.

"And while Ponyville isn't utopia, it's not a nasty place either. There doesn't seem much room for the kind of violence and trauma that can lead to insanity as an escape mechanism as one sometimes sees in places like Manehatten."

"Professionally I think her problem may be schizophrenia, with it being mild most of the time and sometimes getting severe enough to make her an unwitting threat to herself. Her symptoms are most fitting with a form of paranoid schizophrenia, at least from what I can gather from how she justifies her attacks on her house staff, and several other factors hint she may have one other form as well. She just seems to have spiraled downhill from there. But mostly I think she just behaves in a very bizarre fashion.

"Also I think it might be important as to know a little about if she was prejudiced before she lost her mind. Something tells me if she was, it would have been the inadvertent cause of her madness, likely she was warned about a certain danger but she would have snobbishly ignored the advice from a non-earth pony."

I listen as the doctors think I can't hear them. None of my fellow residents seem to care.

I wish I could understand more of what they were saying.

"Have you noticed how subdued she's been lately? Did someone double her medication or something?"

"I triple checked, no. I've checked the records, she started to behave more after ... after the fog invaded."

"Ugh! Did you have to remind me? We're just lucky we didn't lose any patients and our one escape ended up back in her room."

"True, but it does seem to have had a positive effect on several ponies who had been making appointments here from Discord-related mental damage."

"Yes. As all those possessed mare's admirers have been saying ad nauseum! If they really believed that they wouldn't feel the need to bring it up every conversation."

I've been a 'good pony' for the last couple of months, so they trusted me to interact with a couple of the other patients as we eat breakfast. Without any utensils. With hoof-cuffs around my rear and front legs, and an orderly behind each of us and at every door. Oh and the doctors watching us like fish in a tank through a one-way mirror that didn't fool any mad pony. I still get fun from making faces at it.

They even have a few books in the corner as a treat, too bad I can't read anymore. All I see is a bunch of weird lines.

I looked at the pink wingless pegasus sitting next to me. She was a lot happier before the fog. She'd just giggle to herself. Now she moved like some kind of broken doll.

"Hi, hi, hi, heard that the fog, the fog outside, made the fog inside your head go away."

She didn't even look at me. Well that was kind of rude!

"I think you looked great in that suit of armor, and those butterfly wings you had were really beautiful."

Like she didn't even hear me.

Screw Loose happily barked at us. Screw Loose isn't her real name, and neither is Barking Mad like some of the other orderlies call her. The orderlies sure like giving us pet names. None of them are as nice as the ones my prince give me.

"The doctors say you can go home now if you just promise not to cut yourself."

My eyes narrowed. I don't like being ignored.

Barking Mad leans over the table panting with her tongue out of her mouth at us.

I say, "Sit."

Good doggy.

"I read that unicorns whose horns get broken feel a lot like pegasi who lose their wings. But being a regular old earth pony isn't so bad."

"I'm not an Earth pony," She whispers out.

"Oh-oh-oh? No wings, no horn, sounds like an earth pony to me! Just like me!"

"No I'm not!"

The orderly spread out his wings. The pink pegasus looked at him and the center of her eyes became smaller. She looked back at me. "Er, no ... Imagine if you were stuck in Cloudsdale forever, never able to touch the ground again, Earth Pony, without a unicorn's magic to help you. With legs that'll shatter like glass or burst into flame if you twist them wrong. And then you might have an idea what I'm feeling right now."

That didn't sound nice at all. "I'm sorry."

She didn't respond.

"But don't you have family waiting for you? Isn't that worth leaving with just a little promise?"

She didn't respond again.

Too bad. I liked her as a neighbor.

I looked at the date of the Calendar. It was really hard. I knew what the month was simply from the picture on the top, and I guessed the date just from the 'xs' on the little squares.

My precious little baby hasn't visited for her birthday, Hearth Warming's Eve, or Hearts and Hooves Day (not in that order, of course). That was all I needed to know.

"Why hasn't my princess come to visit today?"

"Because you're a sick pony, and nopony likes to visit a sick pony," Said the big strong orderly behind me.

"Why did they come looking for her here when she didn't come to visit me?"

"Who's they?" The white orderly said not sounding amused.

"Heh-heh-heh. The ones who were asking about my baby of course."

"No one was. You must have imagined it Screw Ball."

I sighed.

Liar. It was a lie. Identifying liars' call signs was one of the basic lessons of high society as you built up a cache of who was lying about what.

And now I knew. My baby needed me.

I remember when the fog came. I dodged it. Then the bird gave me a day with my prince, how we were meant to be. I remember a filly scared she was going to die when the day ended.

I remember a nice mare and a beautiful but sad song.

I didn't mind when I first came here, it was just to make me well again right? Though I didn't know what was really wrong with me. The world was non-sense. Always had been, until that one wonderful day where everything made sense ... my prince ... I-I, no, I never found my prince! And I never saw my little princess either.

Then everything went back to nonsense, and they took me back here. I didn't mind. It was just to make me well again right? I didn't know what was really wrong with me. The world was non-sense.

But ... after that day with my prince ... the world was still nonsense ... but for the first time since I came here. I hurt. I wanted to understand again.

But there was something I still wanted more. No. Somepony  I needed more. Somepony who needed ME more.

"FETCH GIRL!" I tossed one of the bone shaped treats that Barking Mad insisted on eating over my shoulder. She went for it, leaping onto the table and into the orderly behind me, knocking over the chair she was in and sending the orderly behind her off balance as well. The orderlies near the doors instantly began to move in.

The pink pegasus observed it all like a tailor's dummy.

I didn't go for the keys like they thought I would. I simply dislocated my hooves and slipped out of the cuffs and knocked them back into place. I got right in the path of the orderly heading from the door, the obvious exit of course.

I grabbed him, used his momentum, and sent him crashing through the one way mirror. I followed through the shattered mirror.

I landed on top of his white mass now red and pink with blood.

I looked at the two doctors.

"Please let me out with your security card, Dr. Head-Scratcher, or I'll invent the pony pretzel." I politely told him, but I kept my voice stern, like a mother warning a child. Dr. Freudian Excuse came at me from the side, side hoofed him in the face so he could take a quick nap.

The nice and good pony doctor took a step back, "No way Golden Tiara."

He's so brave! I'd date'im if I wasn't a married mare! But as nice as he is, he's between my princess and me, tee-hee!

I gave him a serious look, I think that scared him worse than anything else. "Yes way, actually."

A couple seconds later I plucked the security card from the ball of perfectly twisted pony limbs on the floor and ran through the staff hallway swiping through the doors with the security card. I think I heard the pink pegasus say 'Good luck.'

Then I remember the door to the outside could only be opened via the security booth. So I dropped the security card for one of the orderlies behind me to slip on and have them all crash into each other. I did a flying dragon kick at the doors.

It didn't go flying off it's hinges like it was supposed to. Dang, must have reinforced it since last time. I just braced against both sides and -ugh- broke the door frame apart! And there it went!

As I ran outside I found the new electric fence was closed. One of the orderlies was kind enough to test it for me as I got out of his way and gave him a little push and he even let me use his back as a stepping stone as I back flipped over the fence and onto the ground on the other side. A perfect ten landing! Freedom! I turned and ran right for--a second electric fence? Okay, now that's just cheating!

Oh well. I'm either never coming back to this place, or I won't have a reason to ever leave. Where'd that come from? Oh right. I'm crazy. Whoa-kay! Well, nothing is keeping me from where I need to be. Up the electrified fence I climb and down the electrified fence I climb.

How do you climb a fence when you don't have digits or cloven hooves? Well I really had to be careful not to get my mane caught let me tell you!

I waved a smoking hoof at the orderlies. I noticed something didn't feel right.

"Whoops. I think my heart's stopped." I banged my chest a few times. "Give a tick to restart here and, there we go!"

One of the orderlies actually stared at me like I was some kind of monster. "How, the bucking moon, what is she? No pony endures that kind of pain!"

Well since he asked. "When I was a filly, I fell down a cliff while roller skating onto jagged rocks and broke every other bone in my body. The emergency aid ponies who saved my life didn't have any pain killers or nerve numbing spells. I was fully conscious for every one of my bone being set! Every pain since then has been a tickle! Now if you excuse me, my princess needs her mother, and I'm not going to keep her waiting!"

I dodged to the right as a tiny feathered needle stabbed the ground where I was standing a moment ago.

Dr. Freudian Excuse load another tranquilizer dart into his rifle.

I pouted, "Hey no fair! When did you get those?"

"You've done wonders for proving we needed a bigger budget, Golden Tiara!" Dr. Freudian Excuse said as he shot at me through the two fences again. His cutie mark should have been a bull's eye.

I ran off holding onto my beanie as they fired off several shots at once, leaving a beautiful outline of my figure against of the nearby trees that the nature reserve society had prevented from being uprooted and relocated from around the Ponyville mental ward.

The orderlies of course took to the air in the meantime, but I was confused for a bit when their angry shouts turned fearful and suddenly a lot more distant. Then I heard a Timber Wolf's howl, followed by a chicken's caw. Then I saw a chicken head connected to a snake. Oh. One of those. That was no good.

I closed my eyes as I felt the wooden claws dig into my back, I rolled, and forwards bucked the wolf in the head, breaking its neck. I heard the chicken caw again and dived right at it. The cockatrice wasn't used to its prey coming towards it and I tackled its snaky body. I didn't open my eye. I felt its head turn a full 180 degrees and tried to stare at me. I hugged it with my fore hooves.

It clawed at my chest and forelegs as I balanced on my rear legs. I trotted forward as fast as I could towards the sound of a river from a body of water that ran from a lake near Ponyville.

I twisted the cockatrice's neck, of course it didn't break, it couldn't break. It bit me with its beak, (thankfully that cockatrice's bites could turn ponies to stone too turned out to be a myth). I leaned forward, and with my teeth I pulled its eyelids open.

It made several panicked cackles that quickly grew silent as it turned heavy in my hooves, I dropped the now more foul tasting thing of my mouth and let go. The cockatrice statue made a heavy splash in the water.

Well. That was thrilling. A lot more thrilling than I've had a long time.

... And now I realize I'm stupid and crazy.

I have no idea where my baby is.

I could simply ask my prince, but the place is going to be crawling with Day Guard ponies by the time I get there and if he's let our daughter hurt like this for so long, then he must not know about it. I am an idiot.

I suppose I could ask Silver Platter, but I can't shake this strange urge of wanting to feed my friend her own parasol for some reason. And she's not likely to say much with it stuffed down her throat.

Have I given myself an impossible jump? My little diamond.

Oh it's you guys again. Can't you see I'm kinda busy? You insist? Fine. But can we be quick about this?

Yes, I know I don't have a clue where my baby could be.

Yes, I know if/when I get caught this time I'm going to be lucky if I only get is chained and muzzled with enough weights to keep down a dragon. I'm insane, not blind.

What were you guys whispering to each other? More questions? Seriously, I've got to-, alright, alright.

'Would my prince protect my little princess?'

Of course he would! Don't you dare ask that question again!

'Would she have one of the maids tell me something was wrong if she couldn't herself?'

That makes sense. I guess she would. The maids always deliver her card when she can't come herself.

'Would I be told if she was hurt?' Why wouldn't I be?

'So if she isn't hurt, but can't have any of the servants send me a message, or have my prince protect her, what does that mean?'

She's ... gone? No no no no!...Oh, just gone as in away! Yes that has to be it! She must not be in Ponyville! That's kind of a relief, the guards won't find me before I find her.

So where would she go if she's gone away? There's not really any relatives she likes visiting and Silver Spoon lives in Ponyville.

Is my princess a prim and proper lady?

Of course she is, she's a perfect little angel.

So where would a prim and proper lady go if she's not in Ponyville?


...What's with all the face-hooves?

'Is Manehatten too long a distance for a little filly to travel all on her own without knowing the way?'

I guess it is, kinda.

This is really making my head hurt.

'Why am I repeating all your questions?' I dunno. Why not?

Oh, wait! If she's not in Ponyville, and she's in danger, that means maybe she was kidnapped! Of course! She must've been kidnapped! Ok, if she was kidnapped, where would they take her. Don't talk, I'm thinking!

Ok, let's see, this is going to be like a needle in a haystack...Why do they always put the needles in the haystacks? Wouldn't they be harder to find in a needle stack?...Wait! It'd be harder to find because it fits in with all the other needles! So if somepony kidnapped my baby, they'd hide her where she'd fit in!

Alright, where would she fit in? Let's see...Ah! She's a princess! There's only one place where princesses live! They must've taken her to Canterlot!

Huh? Why the silly face? You know, if you don't pick your jaw up off the ground, it'll stick that way!

Sorry, no more questions! My baby needs me!

Oh! Canterlot's the other way? Thanks!

Wait. Canterlot! That's where she is! That's where she needs my help!

Diamond! Hold on! Mommy will be there soon!