Certain Advantages

by The Descendant

Chapter 1: "All Bets are Off"

“Certain Advantages”
Written by The Descendant

CoverArt by CuteSkitty
Used with permission.

Edited by Future

Chapter 1: “All Bets are Off”

The air that hovered around Sweet Apple Acres was so thick with estrogen that it seemed to hang in the atmosphere with a visible pinkish haze.

So substantial was the presence of such an environmental hormone imbalance that even a stallion as manly and endued with excess testosterone as Big Macintosh could scarcely breathe without having the lingering urge to talk about his feelings and eat dark chocolate.

Not that he was opposed to dark chocolate, but in this case pondering the treat led to a rather unpleasant want and wish to read trashy romance novels in a bubble bath by candlelight.

So, as he wheeled Granny Smith towards the podium, Big Macintosh tried his best to think about power tools, sports, and some of the more perfect female flanks that had caught his eye in the last few days.

Even these decidedly macho thoughts were not enough to overcome the decidedly Amazonian ambiance that held sway around the farm. Indeed, so powerful was the feminine influence that hovered around Sweet Apple Acres that at the thought of the word “flank” Big Mac actually found himself worrying whether or not his mark made his butt look big.

Stunned by where his thoughts had taken him, he carefully placed Granny Smith at the microphone, easing her closer so that she wouldn’t hurt herself like last year, and then galloped away from the crowd of young mares and fillies in search of large things made out of metal and wood that he could hit with a hammer while ranting about “the game”.

Clearly, the Sisterhooves Social once more held immutable dominion over the farm.

“Hey now!” Granny Smith called through the loudspeaker. “We’re gonna go an’ get started wit’ the race and all that hooey in a bit! If ya’ ain’t gone an’ get gotten all yer’ flanks registered, do it now!”

After parsing her sentence, a few young mares and their little sisters headed to the registration table.

Two pegasi sat there, registering each group that came forward. One pegasus pony delighted in her task, passing the entrants their colored scarves, recording their names, and generally being delightfully bubbly.

The other pegasus sat with her head across the table, begging for the sweet release of death.

“Hey, Rainbow Dash!

Hey, hey… Rainbow Dash!

Heeeyyyyy Rainbow Dash!”

“What. Is. It. Derpy?” replied Rainbow Dash without looking up to her counterpart.

“We’re at the Sisterhooves Social!”

Rainbow Dash gave a low moan and wrapped her head with her forelegs. She didn’t even bother to look up as the hooffalls of what she desperately, desperately, desperately hoped would be the last two entrants fell before the registration booth.

“Oh, my!” called Derpy. “You’re gonna be in the Sisterhooves Social? That’s neat-o! Here’s your bandanas… sorry, that’s the only color that’s left!”

Neat-o? Dash groaned again. Still, she did wonder what was making Derpy so excited.

“And you’re gonna need to put... well, you don’t really need to, do you? I mean, we allllllll know who you are, huh?” Derpy concluded as her voice rose in a giggle.

Dash’s interest was piqued.

She opened her eyes, blinked twice, smacked her lips, and then looked up to see whom Derpy could possibly be getting so excited about.

Upon seeing who it was, Dash immediately took to the air, a plan developing in her mind.

Dash scanned the length of the grandstand, searching for that most beautiful and most wondrous of things… namely, a dupe.

Yes, a dupe. She needed a dupe.

Her eyes panned the crowd that sat awaiting the beginning of the race. What she needed was someone who was slightly too naïve, way too trusting, easily intimidated, and not the fastest on the draw.

“Hi, Spike!” she said, landing near the dragon in a flurry of feathers. She tried her best to hide the deceitful tones that were building in her voice. “Watching the race, huh?”

“Yup!” he answered, smiling up to her in the same innocent smile that he always wore.

She bit her own lip, lest a duplicitous fit of laughter escape her.

“Twilight’s using the mare’s room,” he said, gesturing over his shoulder. “We’re here to cheer everypony on and…”

“Yeah, uh huh. Hey,” she interrupted, barely unable to hide her conniving any longer, “that’s great. Wanna bet on the race?”

“What?” he asked as he startled slightly.

“You know,” she said, giving him a slight punch in the shoulder, nearly sending him tumbling, “let’s bet on who’ll win! Now, I’ll wager that…”

“Whoa! Whoa, whoa, whoa!” he said, waving his clawed hands through the air. “I… hey, I can’t…”

“What are ya’, chicken?” she said, lifting her wings and standing over him imposingly. “C’mon, it’ll be fun!”

She grinned to herself, watching his first defenses come down.

“L-look, I don’t think Twi would like me to,” he said, trying to look away from her.

She leapt through the air with an enthusiastic twist of her athletic body and was right back in his face once again. “Awww, man,” she said, her face painted with treachery, “don’t be so lame, Spike. I thought you were fun…”

“Hey,” he said, a little hurt showing in his voice, “I am fun…”

“There ya’ go!” she said, playfully punching his other shoulder, sending him reeling in the other direction. “I knew I could count on you! You’re awesome, Spike!”

She watched a few more of his defenses fall down, and she could barely keep from trotting her hooves in anticipation as he danced his fingers together.

“Look,” she said, her scheming reaching its endpoint, “I’ll go real easy on ya’! I just want to back the next team to come up to the line… whoever they are. Really! That’s my team, no matter what… and all we’re betting is one week of slavery!”

“One week of what?!” the little dragon cried.

“C’mon, Spike?” she said, making her expression go soft. “If any other team wins, you win! Goin’ real easy on ya’, the last team to come up is mine, that’s all! C’mon, please? Please? Pllleeeaaaasssseeeee?”

Her lower lip trembled, she pouted, and Spike’s last line of protection washed away.

“Oh, well… okay, I guess,” he said with uncertainty.

He suddenly felt his hand being lifted, heard the sound of her spitting, and felt her hoof bump to his.

“Deal!” she cried. “I bet on this last team, you get all the others, and the loser is the other’s servant for a week!”

“Blegh!” Spike answered as he wiped the spit from his hand. “Geez, Dash, I-I’ve never bet on anything before. I, wow, ummm, so… when will the last team get here?”

Dash lifted her eyes, and at once all of the deviousness, the scheming, and the cunning fell out of her as she grabbed him forward and pointed towards the starting line.

“Why, hey,” she said, grinning mischievously and pointing with her hoof, “here they come now…”

Spike focused on the distant starting line where the few other teams of sisters stood awaiting the call to begin the competition. He squinted into the distance…

… and Princess Celestia and Princess Luna took their place at the starting line, the royal sisters nodding to the suddenly very disappointed looking competitors.

When Twilight returned to where she had left her little baby dragon she found him standing there with his mouth hanging so far open that his jaw seemed to be sitting on the ground, resting amid the dust and the discarded bags of Mairsy Doats.

His eyes were distant, and he held his hands out in a position of supreme confusion, his whole expression seeming to say “Why? Why? Why?” over and over in wounded tones.

Nearby, Twilight noted, Rainbow Dash lay on her back, laughing uproariously.

“Spike?” asked Twilight, eyeing him up and down. “What’s going on?”

Spike could only continue to stand there, hands held out, mouth open, and make little whimpering sounds of dejection.

“Dash,” Twilight asked the pegasus, “did you break Spike?”

“I bet… I, I bet him that the next team of sisters… sisters, to come to the line would win!” Dash explained, trying to speak through the laughter that still convulsed her.

“Spike,” she said, turning back to him, “I don’t like the idea of you gambling.”

Spike held his expression of astonishment, his voice continuing to reach out in a series of disbelieving squeaks.

Twilight arched an eyebrow at him before turning back to Rainbow Dash.

“I don’t get it,” she said. “Who were the next sisters to join the race?”

Dash sat up, looked deep into Twilight’s eyes even as she bit her lip to keep from chuckling, and grasped the unicorn’s head in her hooves. Dash spun Twilight around, facing her towards the starting line.

There stood the two alicorn Sister Sovereigns of Equestria.

“Wow, Spike,” said Twilight, her face a picture of befuddlement, “you’re screwed.”

Spike emitted a low whine. Soon he began to pace back and forth, his hands on the side of his head. Soon he had grabbed Twilight and was staring into her eyes as he bounced up and down in confusion and alarm.

“Twi, what am I going to do?!” he said. “The princesses are gonna trot away with it! They’re just so big, and strong, and magical…”

“I’m sorry, Spike,” she said with a sigh, running her hoof over his frills, “but if this is the only way for you to learn your lesson, then I guess you’ll have to deal with the consequences.”

“Ha! That’s right, Fun Size!” laughed Rainbow Dash. “You’re gonna have to be my personal gopher for a week!”

“But, but,” began Spike, “please, Dash, I didn’t really wanna gamble! I just came here to watch my friends in the race. You know… to watch Rarity leap through the air, her mane shimmering behind her as the graceful curves of her body lift past the obstacles, to see the gentle fall of her lines as her hooves touch back to…”

Spike looked up to see Rainbow Dash and Twilight smirking at him. He blushed brightly and ran his foot across the ground.

“Please?” he asked piteously.

“Sorry, Junior,” she replied as she bopped him gently on the nose.

“But I can’t be your slave, Dash!” Spike said, painting some irony into his voice. “I’m already Twilight’s slave!”

Spike looked back over his shoulder, ready for Twilight to give him a mouthful about his word choice. He had done it on purpose, hoping that he’d just started an argument that would give him a chance to divert attention from his looming gambling debt.

Instead, all that met him was a whimpering Twilight. Her jaw trembled, her bottom lip quivered, and tears were forming at the edge of her eyes.

“Oh, jeez,” he said, pinching the bridge of his nose and then looking back up at her. “I’m sorry Twi, I was just being sardonic. I don’t really feel that way. I don’t really think you treat me like a slave…”

Her expression brightened slightly.

“It’s just that, well… you know,” he said, “sometimes I have to work all day, and sometimes I have to keep going even after my arm starts to hurt, and sometimes you bounce furniture off of me…”

Spike pinched the bridge of his nose once more as Twilight spun around in a circle, bawled her eyes out, and then pelted off into the distance before disappearing in a poof of her magic.

“I was being sardonic!” he called after her, waving his arms frantically before sitting in a huff.

“I don’t think that means what you think it means. I think you mean ‘sarcastic’,” Dash said, mentally calculating all of the tasks she’d soon have him doing.

“No,” said Spike in an unhappy tone, “I mean sardonic.”

“Those little fish that some ponies put on pizza?” she said, staring down at him.

“Oh, sit down and watch me lose the bet,” he said with a groan. He crossed his arms in front of himself in dejection, listening as Twilight appeared and disappeared in the far distance in poofs of her magic, still wailing noticeably.

“Don’t mind if I do!” she said, grabbing some popcorn from a nearby barker. With that she stuck the box on his spines for easy access, leaned across him in recliner mode, and watched her shoo-ins prepare to run the course.

Down at the starting line, Celestia and Luna wrapped their bandanas around themselves, took their places, and looked on in astonishment as the other sets of siblings fell down in whimpering, jibbering heaps.

“My little pony!” Celestia said, lowering her head to where Rarity sat in despondent puddle. “Whatever is the matter?”

“Oh, Princess,” Rarity wailed, “forgive me, but this year, I had… had hoped to win the race with my dearest sister Sweetie Belle, to win it for her, you see…”

“And why should this not be the year for you to do so?” Celestia asked, lifting her hoof to the two white unicorns.

“Well,” said Rarity, sheepishly, looking upon the imposing figure of the alicorn, “there’s the problem that you’re… you. You see?”

Celestia arched her eyebrow, and then at once an expression of understanding swept over her features.

“Oh. Oh! Oh my, I do see your point,” the alicorn said in an apologetic tone. “Would you consider it more fair if I dipped my innate magic a bit?”

“Oh, Majesty!” spoke the unicorn, her eyes twinkling, “Would you?”

“Certainly dear!” she said with a smile.

“Buck!” came an invective from the grandstands, the tone seeming to denote that it had arisen from a cyan pegasus mare who had just heard her plan begin to go awry.

“Yes!” came a voice in reply, one that seemed to come from a dragon whelp who suddenly found himself potentially freed from indentured servitude.

“It is only fair, Rarity,” said the Daybringer with a smile. “I am sure I can afford it, and Luna too. Here, let me just…”

The crowd in the grandstand watched, their eyes getting wider, as the elder sister began to decrease the amount of the deep magic that sat within her ancient frame.

Apparently, she hadn’t done it for quite some time.

“Hurrrrrrrr!” Celestia exclaimed, a single shudder going through her. “Murrrrghh!”

The entirety of the assembly looked upon the alicorn as she closed one eye, winced, and danced her hooves.

“Rrruuuggghhhhh… ruh, rugghhhhhh.”

The ponies looked upon their sovereign wordlessly, each blinking in disbelief as their princess made rather indelicate noises.


Celestia’s tongue hung out, and one of her eyes bulged. As a series of shakes coursed the lengths of her body most in the audience felt their eyes only growing wider, and one filly began to cry.

“Majesty, oh dear, I… I didn’t mean…” Rarity attempted to interject.

“Oh, it is no problem, my dear,” Celestia said, wiping a bit of sweat from her brow.

At once she was at it again.


Rarity covered Sweetie Belle’s eyes.

“Princess,” Rarity interjected, “if it’s inconvenient, don’t feel that you…”

“No, no, my dear," the princess said, “I have this one… just let me…”

“Oh, well, if…” began the unicorn.


The alicorn groaned, stuttered, and gave another lurid motion that seemed an imperfect mix of pain, incontinence, and modern dance. With that there was an immoral sound, kind of a wet pop, not unlike if someone had thrown the cake down a stairwell at a very good office party.

“There we are, is that better? I certainly hope so,” said the alicorn with a small sigh. “I’ve pushed my magic all the way down to the level it was at the first time I raised my sun. Is that fair, Rarity? Rarity?”

Rarity did not answer, and instead she, along with the rest of the ponies gathered there, gazed at her mane. It was pink. Just pink.

“Well… no, my princess, not really,” mouthed the unicorn. “Forgive me, but you’re still quite powerful… and it is still not quite fair.”

“Oh,” said Celestia, looking a little self-conscious. “I’m sorry, but I can’t depress my powers any further, not without the sun dimming and casting us into darkness, I’m afraid…”

“Yes!” came a voice from the grandstand, one that sounded like it arose from a mare who had just gotten her uncompensated labor force back.

“Buck!” came the voice of a dragon whelp, one who quickly covered his mouth and blushed red in embarrassment.

“Heh,” laughed Rainbow Dash. “Hey, Salty, keep using language like that and Twilight will have me wash out your mouth with the same soap that you’ll be using to clean my bathroom!”

Spike groaned.

“Hey,” she said, bopping him again, “how was that for some sarcasm?”

“Sardonicism,” he said, checking the far horizon to make sure that the wailing Twilight had not heard his cursing. He turned back to Dash to find her blushing brightly.

“Wow,” she said, her own face a twist of surprise. “Aren’t you a little young to know about that?”

“What? Sardonicism? It means ‘in a sardonic way’. Right? Why? W-What do you think it means?”


Back at the starting line, a pink-haired Celestia turned to her sister.

“Luna?” she said, lifting her hoof. “Will you not do the same?”

“Ha!” laughed the younger sister sovereign. “Nay!”

The Nightbringer turned to the other competitors, and a particularly bloodthirsty smile fell from her that sent several onlookers in the grandstand running away screaming and into the comforting embraces of their therapists.

“Nay, Sister,” she chuckled, “we shall not forgo our strength! Too long have we suffered that we may retain our title, and here upon this glorious field of battle we shall not suffer its loss!”

The eyes of the ponies in the grandstand went wide once more, and even the two contenders in the bet stopped their explorations of grammar as Luna’s words fell across the farm.

“Nay!” she continued. “We seek to strive in divine combat! Let those who should seek our besting suffer the pain of defeat! Our throne is ours alone, and we shall not share it! We shall clutch onto it until Death himself grabs it from our hooves! Let all who seek our undoing feel the power of the moon that courses through this frame!”

Applejack slid Apple Bloom behind her.

“Where art our enemies!? Let them feel the holy wrath of our judgment! We shall smite them all! There shall be wailing, and families shall weep! We shall leave their crushed, broken bodies upon…”

“Luna! Luna, no, dearest sister,” Celestia interrupted, her own eyes a touch wide. “No, dear… this, this is not that kind of competition. This, this is the Sisterhooves Social, in Ponyville, the one we talked about yesterday. This contest is not what you believe it to be…”

“Pray you, sister, the Sisterhooves Social?” Luna said, jumping a touch in surprise. “Oh! Forgive me!”

With that Luna blushed slightly and smiled to the crowd. She dropped her shimmering, starlit mane down to the single tone of blue that she had worn when she had just returned from imprisonment within Nightmare Moon.

“Truly, 'twas but a silly mistake on my part,” she giggled as she dropped her third-pony persona. The crowd breathed easier, and some small chatting and laughter broke out. “My, now I feel the fool! This is not such a competition, is it, dear sister?”

“No, my sister,” Celestia said with a smile, rolling her eyes. She giggled too, and then focused back on the race before them.

“No,” she said with a small laugh, “you were thinking of the National Moon Pie Eating Championship in Hofston next week.”


The crowd went stark silent once again, the only discernable noise being that of their jaws hitting the ground.

“Alright! Get yer rumps on the line!” came the gravely voice of the Granny Smith.

At the starting line and in the crowd, various ponies began to wince as the old green mare rocked closer and closer to the megaphone. More than a few remembered her unfortunate eye injury from the year before.

“On yer marks!” she called, rocking closer to the megaphone, causing the crowd to grimace.

“Get set!” she said, bringing her eyes perilously closer to the conical device as she rocked forward once more.

Her chair rocked forward, the crowd gasped…

… and Twilight Sparkle emerged from a poof of her magic, her eyes still bleary, and tripped across the old mare, sending them both to the ground.

“Oh! Mah back!” called Granny Smith.

“I’m so sorry! I’m sorry!” answered Twilight as she still blubbered.

“Sardonic!” cried Spike from the grandstand as he waved his arms frantically, trying once again to apologize to his caregiver.

“Oh! Mah back!” Granny Smith repeated.

“Oh dear. Here, please, let me help,” came a strong, caring voice. Celestia’s magic reappeared in her mane for an instant, and with that Granny Smith found herself lying comfortably on a table and surrounded by several virile looking young stallions.

“I say fellows!” called one. “One moment we were at the National Chiropractic and Sensual Massage Seminar, and now here we are at this farm!”

“How very odd!” commented another stallion. “Why, weren’t we about to accept the prize for Most Tactile Chiropractic Team? And now, here we are indeed!”

“Mah back?” Granny Smith said again, a sudden shadow of hope appearing in her voice.

The stallions looked down, and there discovered the incapacitated octogenarian. “My word, lads!” called another one. “This poor mare! Let us not let our newfound titles for Best Carnality in a Massage go to waste as we race to her aid!”

In the grandstand and at the starting line most big sisters placed their hooves over the eyes of their little sisters. As the sounds of oils splattering reached their ears most of the young fillies reached up and did the same for their older siblings as well.

“Go!” whimpered Granny Smith in a libidinous tone, and after a moment the wide-eyed participants at the starting line realized that the word had floated out to find them.

The crowd at the grandstand gave a loud shout of excitement, and with that the race began.

It seemed a slaughter from the get-go.

Spike wailed as Celestia and Luna leapt from the starting line in time, the sisters’ longer strides, easy breaths, and unerring grace instantly leaving the other participants behind. Rainbow Dash could only grin and reach for more of the popcorn in the box she had stuck to Spike’s spines as her inevitable victory approached.

In what seemed moments the royal sisters had reached the first obstacle, the mud pit leap.

The crowd looked on as Celestia lifted her graceful frame, her long legs reaching out before her as she leapt into the air…

… and then fell face-forward into the mud with a sullen splat.

Spike looked up to see that the piece of popcorn that Dash had begun to toss into her mouth was somehow suspended in the air in front of her, and the pegasus herself seemed frozen in place in shock and disbelief.

“Take thee to the wing, my sister!” called Luna, bounding past her older sibling. “Disregard the sodden earth! Obtain thy victory!”

At once the Nightbringer’s wings came open, and the alicorn sprang into the sky…

The misty shoreline of Equestria knows many hidden places. Some of them are well known, and others hang in myths of silent shores and ancient lords. Some are majestic in their sweep, and grand in their beauty.

Some are known to the fiercest of races beyond Equestria’s borders, and it was to one such place that the diamond dog longship Hambone glided on the gentle wind.

Rex walked the length of the longship. The oars were stored, and as he went forward he felt the wind that brought his boat closer to the towering cliffs and short beach of the fjord beyond. Equestria loomed over him and he looked upon his crew, imparting to them his warning.

“We come only for gems,” he said, looking out over the entire complement of his crew, some three-dozen dogs. They sat hunched on the deck, peering at Equestria beyond even as their spears were held high over them.

This was the best crew he’d ever assembled. He still wondered if it would be enough…

“We come only for gems. Take gems, find gems, steal gems. We go. We can not stay long,” Rex said, his voice resolute even at a whisper. “Equestria scary place, dangerous for dogs. Rumors tell of whining harpies.”

He held their gaze as he lifted a fist and told them of their role in the raid.

“We must not stay long. Must not attract the guardsponies. Must, must, must not be noticed by…”

There was the sudden clatter of hooves, and the rustle of feathers as something landed in the boat.

“Curses!” said Luna, stomping her hoof on the timbered deck. “We have but overshot our mark!”

With that she turned, smiled at the diamond dogs with a smile that made the iron fall out of their red blood cells, and took to the air once more.

“… their princesses,” Rex whimpered.

Luna returned to the farm to find that most of the teams had overtaken Celestia. This didn’t seem to be a very hard thing to do, as her sister was hopping along with all four of her hooves firmly stuck in the bottom of a half-barrel.

“I pray you sister,” Luna said, arching an eyebrow as Celestia went thudding past her in little leaps. “You are vexed?”

“Yes,” replied Celestia as she hopped along, “I seem to be having some difficulty with my hooves. You see, the barrel run was next, and whilst you were away I began it.”

Luna’s eyebrow arched higher as her sister skipped along with the barrel half firmly stuck around her hooves, loud thuds sounding out each time she made her little jump forward along the course.

“I could very well have simply walked it in a few steps, but I was so taken by the way that Rarity’s darling little sister did it that I felt mischievous enough to try it that way myself. Sadly, all of my hooves are now stuck within. I could remove it easily enough with my magic, but we must be fair, you see.”

Luna looked up to where a rather confused looking Sweetie Belle, Rarity, and the rest of the competitors watched. As they did they were treated to the sight of their ageless and mighty sovereign rolling to her back and waving the barrel through the air in attempt to free herself.

“Well, we can now all look upon this bunghole,” she said with a frustrated sigh. There was a collective gasp in the grandstand, and some older sisters clamped their hooves firmly across their little sisters’ ears.

“My sister!” gulped a shocked Luna. “I know thou art but disappointed in thine self, but such language is unbecoming!”

“What? Oh, oh no, dear sister!” blushed Celestia. “The bunghole is a hole drilled into a barrel and sealed with wax to allow the contents to be emptied at the appropriate time. See, one stands out on this barrel half.”

Celestia wiggled the barrel towards her sister… showing off her bunghole.

In the stands some younger sisters lifted their older sisters’ hooves from their ears and began to lecture them on the descent and evolution of contemporary language.

Back out on the course, the other participants had slowed their progress to watch in disbelief as their princesses struggled to even begin the race. They also slowed down to prevent themselves from coming any closer than necessary to where Granny Smith was making lurid noises as her massage progressed.

In the grass next to the grandstand Spike picked the single piece of popcorn out of the air, studied it, and then placed it back so that it once more floated in mid-air over the unmoving pegasus. It hovered over Dash’s mouth as her shock at the realization that the princesses might not win the bet for her continued to, apparently, emit supernatural anti-gravitational and time-compression forces.

“Whoa,” he said to no one in particular, “that’s freaky.”

Thud, thud, thud.

Together Luna and her barrel-encased sister ran and hopped towards the next obstacle… the crate climb.

Luna leapt to the top easily. At once the other sisters in the race remembered that they were scrambling against ancient and supposedly divine beings and took off once more.

They all came to an immediate stop as the sound of splintering wood reached their ears. They all turned to find Princess Celestia suspiciously absent from the course.

Luna looked down to discover that Celestia had crashed her way down through the entire stack of crates.

“Sister!” she called in alarm.

“Oh, I am fine,” came an embarrassed voice from within the stack of crates. “Do not concern yourself with me.”

“Come along then, my sister,” Luna said. “Rise up! We must carry the day upon this field!”



“I,” began the older sister in a rather sheepish tone. “I do believe I am stuck.”

Luna felt other ponies gathering near her. To her surprise many other participants in the race were returning back and gazing down into the blackness wherein rested the older Sister Sovereign of Equestria… apparently lodged in a crate and entrapped in a barrel half.

“Why do you not free yourself, sister?” asked Luna as more ponies gathered with her at the top of the stack.

“Oh, no… I can get out. It will not take but a moment. It is just that I promised not to use so much of my magic, you see. We must be fair, and all. I am just having difficulty with this one bit…”

Sounds of frustration arose from within the deep, dark reaches of the shattered crates.

“There, there is something wedged… oh, my. It has inserted itself among my barrel half.”

“Princess?” asked Applejack as she and Apple Bloom looked over the side. ”Ma’am? What’s the matter? Anythin’ we can help ya’ with?”

“Oh, no. It is wonderfully noble of you to ask though. Please, do not let me distract you from the race. I simply need to dislodge the part of the crate, that is… is stuck in…”

A silence arose once more.

“Ma’am?” asked the earth pony.

“The barrel is impaled upon some component of the crate, perhaps the metal band. I seem unable to remove it,” came a rather self-conscious voice from within.

“Sister?” asked Luna.

A heavy sigh arose from deep within the crate, followed by a somber declaration.

“I have something stuck in my bunghole.”

Luna placed her hoof to her face.

“Oh no!” called Apple Bloom, alive with worry. “The princess’s bunghole is all in peril and such!”

Applejack stifled a snort.

“Enough of this!” called Luna, and at once deep and powerful magic flew out across the scene. While the other sets of sisters went tumbling from the stacks of crates, Luna’s horn came alight. Soon most were off running again, each attempting to regain their position in the race, escape the onslaught of the Nightbringer’s magic, and get farther away from the splattering oils that flew far and wide from Granny Smith’s massage.

“I shall no longer brook such bungholery!” cried Luna, rising into the air as her magic gathered to her and her eyes shone. “Let what magic sits in me curse these obstacles of competition! Have at thee, cubical storage units!”

Magic as deep and black as the night sky erupted through the crates, and they were tossed high into the air, sailing away to the far horizon.

“Oh,” said Celestia, blinking in her sun, “that was easy enough!”

With that she hopped to her sister’s side, the barrel still stuck inexplicably in place upon her hooves, and together they made their way to the next obstacle.

In the distant fjord Rex kneeled in the bow of the longboat, watching the small flotilla of his diamond dog raiders make for the distant shore. Behind them the familiar frame of his prized warship stood serenely in the misty fjord.

The longboats pulled in time, their muffled oars silently propelling them through the calm waters of the foggy bay.

“Rex?” came the voice of one of his dogs. It was a large one, and his best friend and lieutenant. “Biscuit worry about omen of pony princess. Biscuit worry about what means.”

Rex leaned down and petted his friend on the head. “Biscuit need not worry. Rex knows pony princess cannot be in all places at one time. We go all sneaky now, and all will be…”

There was a whistling sound. The dogs gazed around in confusion, and it only grew louder. Rex looked up just in time to see what looked like a group of large apple crates come plummeting through the sky.

With that they smashed straight through the hull of his warship.

He and his dogs looked on as the Hambone upended itself, spun around on its stern, and sank into the crystal waters of the fjord with a single unceremonious glub, not unlike a toy boat being pulled into a bathtub drain.

Rex slowly put his head in his paws and finished his thought.

“… fine.”