by Frission

Chapter 9: Old Habits Die Hard

Twilight stood dripping wet, glaring at the ponies currently giggling like madmares in her kitchen. A smirk slowly crept across her face, coupled with the sound of the kitchen faucet turning on as her horn lit up.

“Of course you know, this means war.”

Pinkie and Trixie finally managed to pull themselves together and looked up just in time to see two magically-enveloped spheres of water being hurled towards them. All they managed were a pair of yelps and a frantic scramble out of their seats before they got pelted and soaked as well. Twilight couldn’t help herself any longer and burst into her own fit of giggles, which was quickly joined in by the others.

“That was great!” Pinkie beamed, shaking herself dry before her mane poofed back into place again. “You should totally come pranking with us, Twilight!”

Twilight just smiled and shook her head after she settled down. “As fun as that sounds, I think I’ll pass this time, Pinkie. That was never really my sort of thing, and besides,” she said wryly, looking around at the now dripping kitchen, “somepony has to clean this up.”

“Oh no problem, we’ll help!” chimed Pinkie happily, who suddenly produced three mops and three towels from off to the side, offering one of each to everypony present.

“We will?” asked Trixie with a touch of disdain in her voice, eyeing the mop being offered to her. When Pinkie simply nodded happily, she sighed and relented, levitating the mop and towel over and drying herself off first. “Right… I suppose we’d better keep the water balloons outside from now on.”

With the three ponies working together the kitchen was dried up in no time. Pinkie scooped up the mops when they’d finished, and before anypony thought to look she’d already stashed them wherever it is that Pinkie Pie stashes things. Trixie noticed this and gave Twilight a look, who only returned it with a shrug.

“Thanks girls,” Twilight said. “You two have fun out there. Oh and don’t forget, Rainbow Dash is coming home from Canterlot today!”

“Okie dokie lokie!”

The two turned to leave, but Twilight held Trixie back with a hoof on her shoulder while Pinkie bounced out the door.

“Do you think you’ll be up for another trip tonight?” she asked. “It’s been a few days since our last expedition.”

“Maybe… I just kind of need to clear my head first, though.”

Twilight grinned slightly. “Is that why Pinkie’s got you pulling pranks with her?”

Trixie couldn’t help but smile, looking back outside where the bubbly pink mare was waving happily in at them through a window. “You could say that. Pinkie’s nice, I suppose she takes after her folks like that. And she certainly knows how to get somepony to have fun despite themselves.”

Nodding knowingly, Twilight waved back to Pinkie. “That’s one of the first things I learned about her, too. She really goes out of her way to make ponies happy.”


Trixie felt something register in the back of her mind, but whatever it was just caused her to smile wider. “So I’ve seen. I’ll be back later tonight then, Sparkle.”

“Um, Trixie?” Twilight raised a hoof, her eyes lit up hopefully for a moment, but then she seemed to change her mind. “Err, would you mind stopping at Rarity’s on the way back? She finally managed to fix up our clothes from that last trip.”

“Eh, I suppose,” Trixie said with a subtle shrug, flicking her messy mane as she left.

The wagon’s timeworn hinges gave their familiar groan of protest as Trixie opened the door and stepped inside, the smell of the old wood interior making her feel at home. Specks of dust danced in the light of the morning sun which filtered through the doorway, illuminating the interior well enough for now. Pinkie Pie had temporarily vanished, but Trixie knew the excitable pony would probably pop up again shortly. It gave her a moment’s reprieve to gather her thoughts, as well as her favorite starry cloak, before they’d set off to have some more fun.

In the back a small, older wooden bedframe supported a firm and fairly new mattress, topped with a blue pillow and an old, matching blanket embroidered with her cutie mark. Next to it stood a small nightstand, on which sat a copy of the first Daring Do book. A small heatless candle rested beside it, enchanted to provide light when active, but never burn or run out. In such a cramped living space with so much flammable material nearby, this was an essential convenience.

Her gaze stopped on a shelf filled with notes and books which had been left in the corner to gather dust, the last remnant of her now long-abandoned studies on revenge. She had been a different mare when she last even looked at them closely. For the hundredth time she pondered just throwing it all away, but the information she’d managed to dig up was too potentially valuable to just discard. ‘Maybe I could donate the books to the library, at least.’

Trixie turned to the left side of the trailer, filled to the brim with props she’d used in her act over the years. A blue velvet curtain gathered dust along the left wall, which could fold out to form her stage. Innumerous decks of cards, fake flowers, silk coverings and the like were interspersed before it, along with the larger props such as the box for sawing ponies in half, or the chain-covered ‘Inescapable Chest of Doom.’

She paid little mind to most of it, finding herself drawn over to what had been her very first prop. It was a long, three-sectioned rectangular box made of solid oak which had been painted black, inside and out. Large enough and shaped for a pony to stand inside comfortably, its trick involved closing the hinged doors on the front, sliding in metal dividers between the sections, and moving the boxes containing the ‘split pony’ around the stage before revealing they were perfectly fine.

Trixie smiled as memories of her act came back. She closed her eyes and let her mind wander while gently running a hoof across the aging, slightly chipped paint which coated its dusty surface..

“Whatcha doin’?” piped up Pinkie from the doorway, almost on cue.

Trixie looked over her shoulder, her expression soft and distant from her mind swimming through a sea of nostalgia. “Oh, there you are. I was just thinking how much I miss doing magic sometimes.”

Pinkie tilted her head, not quite comprehending. “Don’t worry, I’m sure you and Twilight will be good as new in no time! Ooh, I know what’ll help, a song montage!”

“Wait, what?” Trixie blinked in disbelief.

Pinkie opened her mouth, took a deep breath, and began to belt out the first notes of a random song when Trixie regained her wits and cut Pinkie off with a hoof over her mouth.

“No, no Pinkie, not what I meant! I mean, I miss doing stage magic. My old act.”


Trixie nodded curtly. “I gave it up after my first trip here. I don’t think you were around that day...” She trailed off and looked back to the old prop again, her smile returning as she felt the aging wood under her hoof. “You know, I got my cutie mark with this old thing.”

Pinkie gasped, pulling a bucket of popcorn out of nowhere and suddenly plopping down on the bed with it. “Story time! Tell me aaaall about it, I love hearing cutie mark stories!”

Just then a deep, melodic male voice intoned through the room, seeming to echo from everywhere at once. “Now as much fun as that sounds, my dear, don’t you ponies have far more interesting things to be doing?”

A shadow which had disguised as collection of Trixie’s stage props unfurled into the mismatched serpentine form of Discord, standing just behind the former showmare.

Trixie turned to the source of the voice and sputtered, her pupils narrowing to dots in shock. “D-D-D-D—”

With a flash Discord was suddenly wearing a reversed ball cap, hoodie and shades, while he broke out a set of turntables and started scratching out a beat. Inexplicably, Trixie found she couldn’t stop stuttering along to the impromptu beat for as long as he kept scratching the records.

“—D-D, D-D, D-D-D, D-D, D-D-D-Discord?

Another flash and his accessories vanished, replaced with a mischievous grin. “The one and only.” He laughed low and dramatically while Trixie scrambled backwards until she hit the wall.

“Hiya Discord! Are you here for story time too?” Pinkie beamed, waving from the bed like nothing unusual was happening in the slightest. She even offered forward some of her popcorn.

Trixie looked over to Pinkie incredulously. ’The spirit of Chaos just manifested in my wagon! How can she be so calm?’

“Well hello there my little Pinkie. I’m afraid not, though you always do know my favorite snacks!” he chortled playfully, reaching over to squirt a bottle of chocolate syrup on the popcorn only to pull the bucket out from underneath and eat it. Somehow the popcorn remained in bucket-shape regardless, which Pinkie took care of in one surprisingly massive bite.


Discord turned and stepped closer to Trixie, who responded by shrinking down and hiding her face behind her own frazzled mane in a near-perfect imitation of Fluttershy.

“Oh no need to be afraid, my little pony. Why we already have so much in common!” He smiled surreptitiously down at her, vanished, and reappeared behind her, draping an arm around her back and pressing her cheek next to his. “Trixie Lulamoon, formerly The Great and Powerful! Now doing her best to try to, yeugh, reform.” He spat the word like it tasted foul. “Just like me. Why you once even tried to take over the world!” He chuckled, holding up a globe before it popped in a burst of confetti. “Just like me... Though not quite as successfully. Oh yes, so much in common, my dear.”

Discord playfully flicked Trixie on the horn then vanished again, reappearing on the bed next to Pinkie Pie. That simple act made it feel like her entire nervous system had flooded with something spicy and subsequently washed it down with tapioca pudding. A bright pink light flashed across her vision, and when she blinked it away everything was back to normal again—except for a brief craving for chocolate milk.

“W-what did you just do?” she stammered, shaking her head to clear it. Pinkie shot Discord a look of suspicion as well, but he ignored it.

“Just returning a favor somepony insisted I owe you. Nothing to concern yourself about, but now we’re even.” He waved his lion paw dismissively, then clapped his mismatched hands together. “Well then, I do believe you two had some wonderful pranks and mischief to get into. Don’t let me keep you any longer. Ta-tah, out you go!”

“Hey, wait!” “Whee!” Both ponies found themselves swiftly ushered out the door by the draconequus, who closed it firmly behind them and vanished once again.

Trixie stared at the door to her wagon blankly for a minute before speaking up. “What just happened?”

Fog surrounded Twilight as she wandered the streets of Ponvyille that night, cutting visibility to no more than a few meters around her. It was enough.

Broken glass and debris crunched loudly under her hooves. Anytime she approached a structure she just found desolation and ruin: a burned out store; a partially collapsed home leaning atop cracked beams ready to give out; town hall reduced to smoking rubble. Amidst the devastation were signs there had been struggles and… worse. She shivered and forced herself to take a closer look, but she found no ponies among the ruins. Not a soul seemed to exist in this place besides herself.

Just as that thought occurred to her, a cry of terror echoed through the fog ahead. Twilight steeled herself and charged blindly through the fog towards the voice, dodging around the debris that littered the streets. For just a second a pulsating red light lit up the fog just ahead, coupled with somepony screaming in agony.

“Whoever you are, stop this right now!” Twilight heard herself shout, just as she turned a corner into an alleyway made up of rough stone walls.

Near the end of the alley stood Trixie, wearing a pitch black cape and facing the source of the screams. It was Fluttershy, wreathed in a malevolent red glow which held her limp form in midair, matching the red glow pulsating around Trixie’s horn. The unicorn slowly turned her neck to look back at Twilight, and her eyes were simply two blood red pools of light. Cracks of that light were tracing their way outwards from her eyes, and Twilight spotted the Alicorn Amulet around the mare’s throat.

“What’s the matter, Sparkle?” the monster that would be Trixie sneered, “Aren’t we friends yet?”

Red lightning erupted from Trixie’s horn into Fluttershy. Twilight looked on in horror as the pegasus screamed in agony.


Twilight jolted upright with a start, her heart pounding in her chest as she frantically looked about. Gone was the nightmarish fog, replaced by the soothing sight of bookshelves and soft, golden daylight. She took a deep breath and placed a hoof on her chest, feeling her fluttering heart begin to calm down. As she tried to slow her labored breathing to a normal pace, she recognized her familiar work desk beneath her—not that she’d had much work to catch up on lately.

Since her current crisis had begun, the princesses had put Twilight’s already gradual introduction to the duties of royalty on hold. The fact that Equestria’s newest princess had lost most of her magic was now a state secret being kept closely under wraps. Not even the guard or her family knew anything had happened.

Where her head had been resting lay papers showing Rarity’s suggested ‘royal renovations’ to the library—including a tower and parapets—along with a small drool stain in the corner. She blushed a little and wiped it away; it certainly wasn’t the first time she’d dozed off at her desk, and likely wouldn’t be the last.

“Just a nightmare...” She thought aloud, before the knocking of hooves on the front door caught her attention.

“Twilight! Hey egghead, you in there?”

“Dost thou normally address Princess Twilight as such?”

“Well, yeah, it’s what I’ve always called her. You should try it!”

“Ah, a term of endearment! Most intriguing.”

Twilight smiled groggily and straightened her mane a little. ’Sounds like Rainbow’s back, and she brought Luna with her.’ “Spike, would you get the…” She looked around the room but saw no sign of the little dragon. ’Oh right, I remember, he went off to help Apple Bloom with something.’

She shook off the rest of the sleep as she trotted over to the door and opened it, revealing the very ponies she expected. Rainbow looked somewhat haggard, but had a smile on her face nonetheless.

“Greetings, Princess Egghead!” Luna boomed with a bright smile, while Rainbow struggled to contain a snicker.

“I see Rainbow Dash has been a good influence on you.” Twilight deadpanned, running a hoof down her face—much to Luna’s confusion. Rainbow covered her mouth, though it did little to prevent her intensifying snorts and giggles from escaping.

Twilight shared a nuzzle with the lunar princess, which returned the smile to her face. “Rainbow was just pulling a little prank, your highness. There seems to be a lot of that going around today.” Twilight smirked, then waved them both inside. “It’s wonderful to see you again!”

“And you as well, my friend. Though we would remind you that you may call us Luna.”

Twilight’s face flushed slightly, and her smile turned a little sheepish. “Right. So, I guess since you came here personally, that means you’ve found something?”

“Indeed we have. With the brave assistance of Rainbow Dash, we believe to have developed a method to adapt thy portal to allow the passage of others.”

Rainbow puffed out her chest proudly. “Aw, it was nothing. I mean, okay, the first few misfires were a bit rough, but that’s why you needed a tough pony like me to help!”

Twilight’s eyes lit up with awe and started talking a mile a minute, her voice getting progressively nerdier as she went. “That’s amazing! You’ve got to tell me how it works! What sort of testing was involved? Did you find some books that I didn’t have? I know I checked out almost everything on old artifact magic and didn’t find out anything about who made them, so I’m not sure where you would even find the theory behind—oh wait, of course, Princess Celestia analyzed it when she was here. Silly me, of course she’d know how it works now. So how did you account for—”

Luna smiled slyly down to the rambling princess, raising a hoof to interrupt. “Perhaps it would be simpler to show you. Please, retrieve the Element of Loyalty and lead us to thy gateway.”

“Oh, right, of course, just a second.” Twilight beamed and trotted to the display case which contained the Elements, which rested against the stairs up to her room. Her horn lit up and a magenta glow enveloped the large glass cover. It resisted being lifted, however, so she puffed and strained, putting all her effort into trying to lift the glass. Unfortunately she only managed to raise it a centimeter before it clacked back down into place and her magic evaporated.

“Huff, hoo… that’s… that’s heavier than I remember…” Twilight panted in defeat.

Rainbow looked over at her worriedly and put a hoof on her shoulder. “No worries, Twi, I got this.” She trotted up to the display and grabbed it with her front hooves, grunting as she tried to lift the glass. They watched her strain against it for half a minute before she stopped to pant and look over her shoulder. “Oof, wow Twilight, is this made of glass or lead?”

“Well considering how often ponies come crashing through here, I had them make it out heavy duty glass so it wouldn’t break,” replied Twilight, rubbing the back of her head with a hoof.

Luna stepped in and her midnight blue aura enveloped the display, lifting the lid easily and floating the necklace emblazoned with a red lightning bolt jewel onto Dash’s neck.

“Heh, thanks Princess.” Dash smiled, and Luna nodded to her.

Twilight led everypony downstairs into the lab. There the portal lay dormant, the doorway appearing as an ordinary mirror in its deactivated state. She’d kept it deactivated and hadn’t touched it since their last little jaunt had landed them in a hostile world.

She noticed Luna eyeing the burn marks on the wall warily as they descended the stairs—the fallout of their tumultuous return. “Oh, um, don’t mind that. Turns out magic or energy can pass through the mirror, even if most ponies can’t. I’m sure it’ll buff out! Eheh...”

“Has this been a common occurrence?” Luna raised an eyebrow and turned to Twilight. “We worry for thy safety, Twilight Sparkle, and that of your ally.”

Twilight waved a hoof to try to dismiss her concerns. “Oh, no, that’s the first time anything like that happened. Really most of these trips have been pretty safe and normal. I doubt we’ll run into that situation again.” ’Seriously,’ she thought, ’that was impressive technology, but I really hope to never hear the words ‘Cutie Mark Crusaders Ghost Catchers, Yay!’ again so long as I live…’

“Kay, that’s fascinating and all, egghead, but shouldn’t we get this show on the road?” chimed in Dash. She had to stop and stifle a yawn, and Twilight finally took notice of the deep bags under her eyes. Rainbow caught Twilight staring at her and smiled weakly. “Yeah, heh, kiiinda need a nap before I’m ready to go anywhere else.”

Twilight raised her eyebrows in concern. “Are you sure you’re okay? We can wait a day or two if you’re too exhaus—”

“Nuh-uh-uh, I’m fine, Twi.” She held up a hoof to silence Twilight. “You’ve got too much on the line for me to leave you hangin’! I just need a quick nap later, is all. I’ve still got enough in me to get this over with, so let’s get this over with already!” She punctuated her statement with a brisk stomp of her hoof, and Twilight knew there’d be no talking her into resting.

“Very well,” spoke Luna, striding over to the portal. “Let us proceed.”

The lunar princess’ horn lit up with her signature midnight blue aura, and she cast a trio of large, crescent-shaped slivers of moonlight around the mirror. The crescents swirled and danced around it in a smooth gyroscopic pattern, bending and turning at higher and higher speeds, always gracefully curving to avoid touching the frame as they encircled one another. Luna closed her eyes briefly, and when they opened they had been replaced by glowing pools of white, while the glow around her horn intensified. Electricity started to crackle between the crescents and the topaz which topped the frame, and she turned to Rainbow Dash.

“Approach the mirror,” she commanded.

Rainbow took her cue and walked past Luna towards the mirror, cautiously treading one hoofstep at a time closer to it. Twilight watched in rapt fascination from Luna’s side, and took note when Rainbow stopped just a few meters in front of the mirror, halfway between it and Luna. ’They must have practiced this part...’

Blue light arched out from the mirror’s enormous gem and connected with Luna’s horn, the light surrounding it intensifying with the connection. Twilight could barely make out pitch black runes trailing through the midnight blue beam towards the princess. Luna then sent out another beam which connected to the back of Rainbow Dash’s head, who stiffened and flared her wings from the contact but held her ground.

The crescents of light stopped, then flattened out and connected tip to tip to form a complete circle around the mirror. Twilight could see it was spinning rapidly when it began to oscillate, and the electricity arcing around the topaz suddenly shot out towards Rainbow. It hit her square in the throat, and Twilight heard a restrained yelp from her friend, but Luna lowered a wing to prevent Twilight from rushing forward. She looked up and saw intense focus on Luna’s face, and even a few beads of sweat forming on the alicorn’s brow.

Twilight looked back to Dash and saw two rotating beams of electricity pulling away from the pegasus, taking the jewel from the Element of Loyalty with it. The bolt-shaped jewel was lifted into place against one of the five wooden prongs radiating from the topaz’s setting. The element glowed radiant red, accompanied by a soft sizzling sound and the smell of burning wood. Finally, everything simply ceased. Luna released her spell and all the magic and energy weaving itself through the air dissipated.

The topaz rapidly shifted colors from amber to blue, lavender and finally red, holding the red glow for just a few seconds longer before fading back to its natural color again.

Luna smiled, wiping her forehead with the edge of her wing. “It is done.”

“Cool…” Rainbow wobbled and turned around slowly to face the two of them, a giant goofy grin on her face and an empty necklace around her throat. “Nap time...”

Then she collapsed.