Chapter 31: The way back.
Twilight gestures at me with her hoof. “Dash, take a deep breath and calm down! I can barely understand what you're trying to say. Why are you so excited?”
I bounce on my hooves and try to calm down. “Shining and I were talking and we think we found a way back to Equestria!”
Twilight raises her eyebrows in her trademark gesture. “And... how?”
I throw my hooves in the air. “The portal from that stupid movie! The mirror between our worlds!”
She chuckles. “Dash, we all wrote off Equestria Girls as pure fiction. I know my old childhood notebook has the phrase ‘Go Wondercolts’, but we did the research back in Seattle when we first found that phrase. I’m sorry, Rainbow, there is no school with ‘Wondercolts’ as a mascot. It’s pure fiction.”
I move up to her face so our muzzles scrunch together. “Ah ha! But when you did your research, you only checked to see if that school was around right now, in 2020. You never factored in the time difference! If Equestria Girls did take place, it would have been like, over twenty five years ago, back when we were all originally ponies.” I stop and cock my head. “Am I right or am I right?”
Twilight moves back a step and stares at me as she goes over the facts in her head. “It, um... well...”
“Come on! What do you think?” I search her eyes for an answer. “It makes sense, right?”
She breaks eye contact and paces. “That’s actually an interesting idea. But, I don’t know, Dash.”
“Don’t know what? Come on, this is brilliant, isn’t it?”
“Well, you’re right, we should have checked the records for older schools.” She bites her lip. “But, I still don’t think the school will show up.”
“What?” I sit back on my haunches. “Come on, why not?”
She sighs. “I want to believe it’s possible, and that it can give us a way back ‘home’, but, I don’t know if it makes any sense, Dash.” She rubs her forehead with a hoof. “In the movie they had cell phones and YouTube, it was clearly a modern school. But you’re suggesting it took place in the 1990s? That doesn’t add up.”
“Well, maybe, uh,” I stammer.
“And the bright green and blue skinned people?” Twilight smirks. “And the stupid names for humans to have? And the fact that a student turned into a monster and was shooting lightning at people? You don’t think that sorta incident would have made international news?”
“Well excuse me, Princess. I just thought it was worth a shot.” I sat back and crossed my forelegs in annoyance.
Twilight chuckles, “I’m sorry, that was rude of me, I didn’t mean to shoot down your suggestion. Searching for schools from the past is actually a really good idea, Rainbow.”
My eyes light up. “So you’ll do it?”
She magics over a notepad and pen and starts scratching some notes. “Yeah, you got me curious about it now. And heck, it’s not like we have any other leads to pursue at the moment.”
“But you were right. What about the fact that the tech level was wrong for 1995, and the stupid names and the purple skin...”
She shrugs and keeps writing. “Meh, who knows. I suppose it’s possible it was just Hasbro interfering to make the story seem more interesting by having it take place in modern day. And besides, if these events really did happen, all Hasbro would have had to go on from my stories to Lauren would have just been the most basic of plots. Just something like ‘Twilight went to Earth one day through a mirror and helped some humans discover friendship’. I imagine everything else about the movie could have been made up in the studio.”
I nod happily. “Alright, so there’s a chance! But wait, if we don’t know what parts of the movie are true, how do we find the school, assuming it exists?”
Twilight taps the page she was writing on. “As you said, there was a line in my childhood sketchbook that said ‘Go Wondercolts’. Give me a computer and a few hours and I’ll be able to cross reference that mascot with all high schools that were operational in the 1990s.”
I nod and stand to leave. “Sounds good, need anything else?”
She raises her eyebrows. “Some peace and quiet from these new ponies would be nice.”
I chuckle. “No kidding. An hour ago I was just trying to grab some lunch, and I ran into this group of ponies from Japan. Names were like Emerald, Whistling Arrow, and--”
She tilts her head. “Wait, they were from Japan? How’d they get here?”
I scoff, “That’s what I wanted to know! I asked, and they just launched into this huge story about the Olympics and all these crazy shenanigans they got into coming here.”
She holds up a hoof. “Urgh, save it, I heard enough life stories from these ponies already, and I have enough on my plate.”
I sigh. “I already miss the old times when it was just us eight ponies.”
Twilight smirks again. “Bringing them all here was your idea, Dash.”
“I know, I know...” I stare at the ceiling. “I never think these things through, do I?”
“No, you don’t, but it was a nice decision in the end I think. We couldn’t just leave them all out in the cold, could we?”
I nod. “True. Well, regardless, this is why I’m really excited about this portal idea. If it works out we’ll have a way back to the land of ponies, and we won’t have to host half of Equestria on this small farm!”
She points a hoof at me. “And the fact that Equestria is probably a chaotic wasteland, and there is a psychotic demigod waiting there to attack anyone that arrives through that portal...?”
I dismiss the notion with a hoof and turn to leave. “One thing at a time, sister. Find us that portal.”
“Yo, Applejack, when’s dinner?” I wave a hoof at her and Shining as I spot them heading towards the house.
Jack yawns. “I can serve it anytime, but I hope you like hay. Our guests burned through nearly all our tasty food over the past 48 hours.”
My stomach grumbles with hunger and I sigh, “Hay is fine...”
Shining laughs to himself. “Never thought I’d see the day where I look forward to something as bland as hay, but I agree with Dash. I’m looking forward to sitting down with the others and getting some food in me.”
I nod. “It will be nice to get our little clique of eight back together. I’m honestly getting a little tired of seeing nothing but new faces.”
Applejack trots past us carrying a sack of supplies. “Tell me about it! You’d think Discord banished the entire Equestrian planet to Earth, this is just getting ridiculous.”
“Yeah, I think I even saw the Flim Flam brothers walking around. You’d think they’d still be adverse to being around you and Big Mac.”
“Pfft.” Jack snorts. “They probably came running as soon as they heard we had free food and shelter, ripe for the taking. Those weasels are nothing but trouble.” Jack gestures a hoof at Shining. “I want you keeping an eye on those two Shining, they’re up to no good.”
Shining gives her a flat expression. “Oh? Shall I put them above or below the embodiment of evil, King Sombra. How about the Changeling Queen whose race is hellbent on enslaving ponies? You’re right, I really should put these lowly apple cider con men at the top of my list of ‘evil that we should never have allowed to come here’.”
Jack rolls her eyes. “Yeah, yeah, I get it. You have bigger things to worry about.”
I laugh softly and wave a hoof at Shining. “Oh come on, Chrissi isn’t that evil. You can’t judge her entire race just on how she was portrayed in the cartoon, and in only one episode!”
Shining narrows his eyes. “I don’t trust her, or her race, one bit.”
“Fine, fine, security is your detail, I won’t tell you how to do your job.” I sigh and lean back a bit. “Anyway, changing gears, have you talked to your sister at all? I shared that Equestria Girls idea with her like six hours ago, and I haven’t seen her since.”
He nods. “Yeah she said she was going to lock herself in her room with a laptop until she had an answer for us. I mean, all she had to do was look up the school records from 1995 and check if any high school had Wondercolts as a mascot. How hard could that be?”
Jack yawns again. “Think she’ll have a solution to this mess? I gotta admit, I’d love to get back to our farm in Equestria and get that place all fixed up.”
Shining looks around. “Jack, why are you so eager to go to Equestria? On Earth you live with your brother and run a farm... and in Equestria you live with your brother and run a farm. I mean, really now, is there a difference?”
She rolls her eyes. “At least in Equestria I can kick people like the Flim Flam brothers off my land.”
Shining scoffs. “Oh sure, kick the poor Flim Flam brothers to the curb, but you don’t care about Chrysalis or Sombra!”
AJ shrugs. “Chrysalis never tried to steal my apples.”
Shining narrows his eyes. “She tried to conquer all of Equestria.”
AJ nods. “Sure, but she never went after my apples.”
The next morning...
I munch away at my cereal, then frown when I notice the box is almost empty. “Hey, Big Mac, do we have any more frosted shredded mini wheats?”
He shakes his head on the other side of the table. “I think we had an extra box in the pantry, but one of the new ponies nabbed it and brought it to their tent.”
I grit my teeth. “Damn new ponies, stealing our cereal...”
“Oh, they didn’t steal it,” Fluttershy quietly speaks up behind me. “I gave the box to a filly who asked if we had any.”
I bite my tongue. “Of course you did Fluttershy, of course you—”
“Gah, why did it have to be in the 1990s!” Twilight cuts me off as she yells with frustration trotting down the hallway towards us.
Big Mac tilts his head. “What’s wrong with the ‘90s? Those were good years.”
Twilight trots closer to us to grab a cup of coffee off the table. Flutters raises a hoof and mumbles that the coffee was hers, but she’s quickly drowned out by Twilight’s rant. “Trying to track down school records and mascots from the mid ‘90s is freakin’ impossible! See, before the 1990s, all records from every school were kept on hard copies. Those records are easy to look up via state libraries which are accessible online. Likewise, all school records from post-2000 were all electronic to begin with, so it’s easy to search them!”
“And what’s wrong with the 1990s?” I say with a sigh.
Twilight grits her teeth. “It’s a mess! Half the country was using electronic records stored on CDs, half was using paper records, half was storing them online, and the other half was storing them on floppy disks!”
Fluttershy raises a hoof. “Twilight, that’s too many halves.”
She shakes her head in annoyance. “The bottom line is it’s practically impossible to go through all this data. It’s all unorganized! Sorry guys, this is going to take a few days.”
“Need any help?” I offer, eager to get away from dealing with all the new ponies on the farm.
She declines, “I just need more time, I can do it, but it will take me a few days.”
Big Mac sighs. “Well, take all the time you need, just don’t take too long, our food reserves won’t last more than two weeks with this many mouths to feed.”
She nods. “It won’t take that long. Just make sure no one distracts me.”
“Goodluck with that, this house is always filled with new ponies walking around and using the kitchen and bathrooms.” I give her a shrug of sympathy.
Fluttershy raises her hoof again. “Oh, Twilight, you can use my ‘cottage’ if you want. Even with all these new ponies, no one goes over there. You’d have peace and quiet if you want.”
Twilight’s facial features soften. “Aww, you’d do that for me?”
Flutters smiles again. “Of course! We need you at your best, and if that means no distractions, than we’ll all make sure you get no distractions.”
“Twilight!” I scream as I gallop towards the door. With a kick I burst into the flimsy cottage that was converted into a private study. “Twilight!” I yell again, my heart pounding.
“Gah!” Twilight snaps the pencil she was holding in her magic. “Dash, I said no distractions! It’s only been a few hours, what could you possibly need me for, and why are you yelling?”
“T-there’s someone here to see you, she’s in the farmhouse.” I feel myself tremble down to my hooves. I just spotted a new pony on the farm, someone that I never once expected to actually be here.
Twilight turns to look at me, and even with my fur I think she could tell I am a bit pale. “Dash, what’s wrong, you look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“Sounds about right...” I can feel my chin tremble.
She moves away from my desk and trots towards me. “What’s wrong, who’s looking for me? Is the farm in danger?”
I shake my head slowly. “Not as long as she’s here. Come on...”
I turn tail and trot out onto the field with Twilight in tow. She nips at my flank as we trot towards the rest of our friends who are waiting just outside the house. “Dash, what’s going on? Why are we all here? Who are we meeting?”
“Yeah, Dash, what’s going on?” Shining asks, alarmed. “I got the message from Rarity to head out here, but who exactly are we meeting? Who’s important enough to warrant all eight of us coming out?”
I trot forward and the other seven ponies follow behind me. “She’s someone you probably want to meet, Shining. Someone who gave your life meaning.”
He cocks his head. “You don’t mean...?”
I nod slowly as I slowly creak open the door. “She’s the mother to all of us, and I never thought I’d ever see her again.”
Twilight’s eyes go wide with realization, and a second later we shuffle into the living room to see the alicorn waiting for us. “...Celestia?”
The moment feels frozen in time. The eight of us stare at her, wordlessly, and she smiles as she glances at each of us in silent elation.
Jack is the first to speak. “Princess?”
“How...” Shining trails off in confusion.
“I thought she was dead?” Fluttershy says, lowering her ears and looking at the ground.
Pinkie looks over at the rest of us, smiling. “Is she going to get us home?”
I see the Princess stoically watching us, and I suddenly realize we should almost certainly be bowing right about now. “Pssst, girls,” I whisper as I kneel before our benevolent ruler.
I see everyone else follow my lead and start to kneel. Well, except for one of us. Twilight, the only other Princess in Iowa, remained standing. Celestia and her were staring into each other’s eyes, and finally the elder spoke. “Hello, Twilight Sparkle.”
Twilight struggled to find her voice. “H-hello, Princess.”
Celestia slips back into her serene smile. “I’m so glad to see you and your friends are safe. I was wondering if you had a moment to chat?”
Twilight nods slowly, and I exchange glances with Shining, my eyes telling him ‘Dude, what the fuck is going on right now?’
He swallows with nervousness and gives me a look to express something along the lines of ‘Are we supposed to say something here?’
‘I don’t know!’ I glance back at him with worry.
In my periphery I see Pinkie looking over at us with a look of ‘Oooo, hey, what are you guys talking about?’
I crease my eyebrows at her and express. ‘We’re not talking Pinkie, we’re sharing meaningful glances!’.
Our facial emotion conversation comes to an abrupt halt as Twilight finally speaks up in earnest. “Would you um, care for some tea, Princess?”
Mmm, I think to myself. That’s a good question. We should be good hosts to our long lost Princess who was killed by lava in... wait a second! I stand up straight and stamp my hoof. “Buck the tea! Where have you been, Celestia? How are you not all… melted from that volcano?”
My friends stare at me with a look of horror. Twilight in particular is giving me a look like I just pissed on the Mona Lisa. Hmm, maybe I was a bit out of line. Well, thankfully Celestia still looks pretty calm. She smiles at me and says, “Rainbow Dash, that cartoon’s portrayal of what happened to me wasn’t entirely accurate, nor would a volcano necessary be the end of me.”
“Well, what did happen to you, Princess?” Shining asks quietly.
She gives a regal sigh. “The same thing that happened to you, I’m afraid. Isolated alone with Discord, and caught off guard. The past is not important though, the present and future is.”
Twilight leans forward. “What will you have us do?”
Celestia stares off in thought. “There are many wheels in motion, so many that we can’t possibly hope to control them all. I have been dealing with Discord’s influences here on Earth, but still have yet to find a path back to Equestria to deal with him directly.”
Big Mac speaks up quietly. “What do you mean his influences here on Earth? What has he done?”
The Princess dismisses it with a hoof. “Don’t worry about those details, I need you to focus on finding a way back home. The importance of getting back to Equestria goes far beyond your own personal desires and wishes. There are thousands of ponies relying on you obtaining that goal, and the stability of both of these worlds hang in the balance.”
“Oh, no pressure or anything...” I mumble.
Celestia speaks over me. “Have you discovered a way back yet? It will not be an easy task I’m afraid, my sister and I have been struggling with it ourselves with little progress.“
Twilight nods. “We have found a way… maybe. I was in the middle of researching a possible way back just as you arrived, in fact.”
She nods. “Very well done my student.”
I bite my tongue and hold back a snarky remark. Pfft, look at that, Celestia crediting Twilight for the Equestria Girls portal idea. That was my idea. Well, okay, I guess Small Horn, or whatever the little pony’s name was, also helped.
I look back up to see Celestia’s horn start to glow. “I leave it in your capable hooves then, my faithful students.”
Twilight blinks. “Wait, you’re leaving? Just like that? You’re not coming with us?”
She shakes her head. “No, I’m not. Not yet anyway. I have… other concerns I need to deal with first.” She smile as she looks us all over. “You have your friends with you, and you have never once failed me when it mattered. Truth is, you and your united friends are a far more powerful weapon against Discord than I ever would be. You’re the ones who can open the way to him, and you’re the ones who can defeat him once and for all.”
I look over at Twilight and see her mouth tremble slightly. I can practically feel the burden of leadership falling on her shoulders. For a moment I think Twilight is about to buckle and cry, but I see her grit her teeth, square her shoulders, and steel her resolve. “We’ll do it, Princess.”
She returns the nod. “Then get our home back, Princess.”
A moment later her horn glows with a brighter aura, as if the sun itself was rising right in the middle of the living room. I raise a hoof to shield my eyes from the light, but before I even get it there, the aura vanishes in a flash of radiant sunlight.
And just like that, the Goddess was gone.
A day or so later...
“Damnit, that’s it, we’re kicking that bug to the curb!” Shining yells out, and I hear it through the walls of the house.
I trot down the hallway to find the noise and see Big Mac, Shining, Rarity, and Jack discussing something. Big Mac shakes his head slowly. “I admit, it’s a bit creepy, but we technically never told her she couldn’t do that.”
“Oh come on! She’s building an army!” Shining grits his teeth and paces back and forth.
“You don’t know that,” Mac said flatly.
I trot closer. “Hey, stallions, what’s up?”
Jack glances at me. “Rarity was out cleaning up the driveway, and she heard noises coming from inside one of the trucks that one of the ponies drove here”
Rarity bit her lip. “So, wanting to make sure it wasn’t somepony trapped, I looked inside the truck.”
“And? What was inside?” I ask.
“Changeling eggs!” Shining Armor yells. “Dozens of them! The wretch must be laying eggs everyday!”
I wince. Not only is that pretty creepy, but it is rather alarming actually. “Did anyone ask her to explain herself?”
Jack nods. “I went after her and asked, she dismissed it as nothing, saying it was just something her body started doing ever since she became Chrysalis. She said she had to stash the eggs somewhere, so she stored them in that truck.”
I shiver, imagining having to push giant, slimy changeling eggs out of my marehood every few hours. “Urgh, that’s just gross!”
“It’s not just gross, it’s dangerous!” Shining paces the room, gesturing wildly with his hooves. “What if they hatch? Will she even be able to control hundreds of Changelings? What if she does control them? She’d probably use them to attack us!”
Before I can protest, Fluttershy and Pinkie enter the room, meaning only Twilight was missing from our full clique. Pinkie claps her hooves as she enters. “What are we all yelling about? Can I join?”
“Hey, Pinkie.” I give her a quick wave, then turn back to Shining. “Look, we can’t assume anything.”
Rarity squirms on her hooves. “I don’t know Dash, there is such a thing as 'err on the side of caution'.”
Fluttershy walks over and sits at my side. “What’s the problem now? Why are we erring?”
I nod at her. “We found out Chrysalis is laying eggs, but it’s fine, we’re going to talk to her about it.”
“You’re not in charge here, Dash! I’m sorry, but I’m not spending another minute on this farm with that wretch laying eggs and—””
Shining gets cut off by the door opening and slamming against the wall. Twilight strolls in a second later, a smug look on her face and a map hovering alongside her in her purple aura. She drops the map on the floor before us and proudly exclaims, “The city of Dubuque!”
Shining and I back away from each other, silently deciding to resume that argument at another time. He clears his throat. “Duh-what?”
“Dubuque, it’s about one hundred miles from here.” She gestures at the map. “There’s a portal to Equestria there.”
“Haha.” Jack narrows her eyes. “You sound awfully certain of something that you always said doesn’t exist. And besides, that’s a huge town Twilight. If there was a portal there I think the humans would have found something amiss by now.”
Fluttershy looks at the city map. “What state is Dubuque in?”
Twi smiles. “That’s the thing. Dubuque is not in a state.”
I scrunch my muzzle. “But it’s only one hundreds miles from here? How is that even possib—”
“It’s not in a state, it’s in three states,” Twilight says definitively. “And, Jack, the humans did notice. They just didn’t know what they were feeling.”
Jack exchanges a confused glance with her brother. He speaks up, “You might wanna explain this from step one, Twilight.”
She smiles again, clearly pleased with herself at figuring something out. “As I did my research I became pretty sure that there were no schools, even in the 1990s, that had an official mascot of ‘Wondercolts’. But something was bugging me. Why would I have written that sports mascot down in my journal if the movie wasn’t real? And on a similar note, of all the schools in all the world, what are the chances that the one school that the portal connected to just so happened to have a pony mascot that sounded like Wondercolts?”
“Coincidence?” Fluttershy mused.
Big Mac gives her a sideways glance. “Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous.”
“Exactly.” Twilight nodded. “And while I doubt gods are the issue here, in the research world we often said coincidences in your data meant there was something beyond your understanding going on in the background.”
I rub my face with a fetlock. “That’s all fine and dandy, but what does that have to do with the city of Dubuque, and how do you know the portal is there?”
Twilight went back to pacing. “I started to ponder about the fact that maybe the portal was subtly affecting the humans in the city where it was located. That would explain why there was a horse statue out front. That would explain why the students celebrated a new, unofficial mascot that was a pony. And it would explain why they all called themselves ‘Wondercolts’ and choose to dress in pony ears and tails to celebrate unity. Maybe something about walking past that portal everyday made subtle changes in their behavior.”
Jack shakes her head. “Sounds like a stretch, Twi.”
“Mmhmm, I know. So I looked for more clues.” Twilight stepped over to the map. “Have any of you ever read ‘American Gods’?”
We all exchanged glances and shook our heads. Shining mumbles, “Doesn’t look like it, Sis.”
Twilight stares down at the map. “In the book, the protagonist learns there are Norse gods walking around on Earth, and there are also portals between worlds. The portals are not something humans can see, but they still subconsciously know that they are there. The strange allure of the holes in space time would draw humans to those locations. They would cause humans to build monuments and towns in unusual places, they would fight over lands that are seemingly unimportant, and they would draw borders in strange ways in order to control these locations...”
Jack smirks. “Twilight, honey, are you referencing a pure fantasy book about gods on Earth, and using it as evidence for your theory?”
Twilight remains deadpan. “I don’t know, talking sapient pony that used to be a man. Maybe you should ask a talking pegasus what they think of this purple unicorn’s idea to trust a ‘fictional’ book.”
Twilight runs her hoof along lines on the map. “That’s when Dubuque caught my eye. It’s north of here, located at the intersection of Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois. There is no reason for a town to be built there, there are no natural landmarks and no geographical advantages to that location. Yet, there are records of it being one of the first permanent towns in the Midwest. The area was settled before the United States was even recognized as a country. Fast forward to today, and it’s sandwiched between three states that all dispute the exact location of their state border in that region. Most of the town and its suburbs spread into Iowa, but the oldest part of the town is right up against the river, snug with the other two states. This town has something going on in the background that we don’t understand...”
Shining and a few other ponies step closer to look at the map. He stares at it. “Where is their high school?”
“The town has several schools now, but there was a high school right here along the Mississippi.” Twilight levitates a pen and points it in the city, right smack in the middle of the horizontal line that would split Wisconsin from Illinois.
Fluttershy steps in and stares at the spot. “And what’s around the school now?”
“There’s a horse racing games commision, a half dozen veterinary offices, and a lot of monuments for some reason.” Twilight magics over a few print outs that show town streets. On dozens of city corners and roundabout there were, inexplicably, statues of horses.
I tilt my head and look at the pictures. Twilight was right, there was something really strange going on with this place. “Twilight, what happened to the school?”
“It was closed down because there were budget cuts.” She pauses for effect. “...And because it was the source of too many public disturbances and unexplainable ‘pranks’ occurring on a regular, recurring basis.”
Shining closes his eyes. “Something tells me the time break between those recurring events is going to be another amazing coincidence.”
Twilight shrugs. “Oh I don’t know, every 30 moons sounds pretty reasonable to me.”
My blood runs cold as I realize that this was it, the one method we had to get home. We just had to get over there with a few thousand ponies in tow, secure the area, and then train and organize some complex plan of attack so when we went through we could defeat Discord. I glance over at the information bearer. “Twilight, how long do we have until the next anniversary of these ‘disturbances’?”
She laughs nervously. “The portal opens in less than twenty four hours.”