Dust and Harmony

by KitsuneRisu

All Will Be Well

Constance S. Twilight snorted as she jolted awake, the scent of something odd offending her senses. It was the horrible combination of singed fat and burning carbon, two smells that you never want assaulting you together that early in the morning.

“Aw, shit,” came a voice from far across the room, accompanied by a loud metallic clank.

Twilight blinked her eyes, blurry overlay leaving her sight, as she sat up in bed and let her gaze focus on a grey-and-white mane bobbing behind a counter.

It rose again, and a fork was carried to one of two plates that rested on the countertop. It was dropped into the midst of a pair of crusty, black eggs, a small mound of shrivelled beans, and a crabby-looking corn muffin.

Moonshine breathed out.

Twilight smacked her lips, chasing away the dryness.

Dash remained still, staring silently into the plates, almost cautiously, as if she were looking at something very far away that was approaching at a worrying pace.

“Hey, you lose somethin’ in there?” Twilight asked, her scratchy voice made even rougher by the morn.

“Ah,” Dash said, without looking up. “Naw. I just… I just figgered t’ make you breakfast. Or something. Y’know.”

Her words petered out into a mumble, and she looked away to the side as Twilight approached.

“You cook these?” Twilight asked, peering at the plate. Even the steam rising from the charred food was black.

“Yeah,” Dash mumbled.

“You… got a stove here?” Twilight raised an eyebrow.

“I… got a forge.”

“And how hot does that forge get, you reckon?”

“Um… ‘bout… three thousand degrees?”

“And how many degrees does it take to cook an egg?” Twilight picked it up with a puff of magic, the entire flat piece not bending from its rigid posture.

“Ah, I’ll grab ya somethin’ from the mess house,” Dash quickly offered, eyebrows sloping backward.

“That’s… that’s okay.” Twilight pursed her lips into a look of criticism. “I’ll pick somethin’ up on the way to the doctor’s.”

“O-oh,” Dash muttered.

Twilight squinted. “Uh… you doin’ okay?”

“Y-yeah!” Dash stammered, smiling slightly. “W-why would ya say otherwise?”

“Well, not that I’m gonna complain about th’ hospitality…” Twilight tilted her head to the makeshift cot set up on the floor of the blacksmith’s main store area.

“Aw, it’s… it’s no problem! I mean, after all you done for me, it’s the least I could… do…”

“Well, thank ya, all the same.” Twilight nodded, pulling her hat off a coat rack as she walked to the door of the blacksmith’s.

She winced as she drew it over her head.

“You… gonna be alright?” Dash called out.

“I guess I’m gonna find out,” Twilight said as she left.

The door slammed shut.

A figure popped up from underneath a blanket on a bedroll, somewhere further down the room in a dusty corner.

“Hey. Mornin’.” Spike called, scrabbling to his feet and trotting over to the counter.

“Oh, mornin’, Spike. You were awake?”

“Oh yeah,” Spike said, with the clarity of someone who had been awake for quite a while, let alone in general. “Just waitin’.”

“For what?”

Spike leaned over the plate of charcoal, taking in a deep sniff. “Mmm-mmm. Well, if I were awake, then Twi’d just find a reason ta pull me to the doc’s with her. And then once we got there, she’d make me do a whole bunch of stuff to help her get out of it. And I kinda want her to see th’ doc, so…”

“Well… that makes sense, I guess.”

“You gonna eat that?” Spike gestured toward the plate.

Dash pushed it over.

“Right. So,” Spike continued, cracking his knuckles, “what is botherin’ ya?”

“Uh… w-what’s botheri– nothing. Nothin’s botherin’ me.” Dash ran her hooves up and down the countertop.

“Yeah. And I’m a cactus.” Spike crunched into the eggs, breaking off a large splintery piece that snapped in half like well-cooked glass.

“Nothin’!” Dash re-asserted.

“Alright.” Spike dropped the Egg back onto the plate. He sighed, rolling his eyes up, leaning onto the counter with an elbow. “You have been actin’ mighty nervous since we got here. I ain’t doubtin’ that you really offered us a place t’ stay here at your smithy out of the goodness of your heart, but I do question this right here.”

Spike flicked the edge of the plate with a hardy claw.

“Breakfast?” Dash said weakly.

“See, you ain’t ever cooked breakfast before in at least a couple years. I can tell because this is one of th’ finest Dragonese-style breakfasts I ever had since comin’ here, and over here in these parts they call this type of cuisine an accident.”

Spike looked around the room, taking a few re-affirmative glances.

“You ain’t got no tools to cook, so I’m assumin’ you went out t’ buy this fork some time this mornin’ while Twi and I were still asleep. And if you was out buyin’ a fork, and also them eggs and stuff, I ain’t understandin’ why you didn’t just buy some food that was already cooked.

“You wanted to cook yerself, and that, ta me, smells a bit more’n just plain old hospitality.” Spike tapped the side of his snout. “That smells like you’re plannin’ somethin’.”

Instantly, Dash held up her hoof, as she turned a light shade of forged steel. “S-sir! That accusation–”

“Now,” Spike shook his head, “that ain’t ta say you’re plannin’ somethin’ bad. Sometimes plans can be for defense as well. Judgin’ how we’re both still alive, you weren’t tryin’ ta attack us. So question is – what are ya tryin’ ta defend against?”

“W-w…” Dash sputtered, unable to get the entire sentence out.

“We ain’t the enemy here. But I am Twi’s friend. I got a duty. You understand. But you’re my friend too. So I’d prefer we settle this all civil like,” Spike concluded.

“H… How do you know all that?” Dash shook her head. “I mean… you…”

“Hey, how about we don’t worry about what I know or don’t know, and we worry about Twi for now?” Spike smiled.

“Who are you?” Dash spouted out.

“Furious Spike of House Ling. Dragon. Hungry.” Spike threw the remainder of the shards of egg into his mouth, crunching down on it.

Dash blinked. Once again, the faint memory of that name swept back in, but disappeared back into the fog, floating away on a strange errant breeze.

“Really,” Spike said, with a bit more force, like a foghorn calling Dash back to shore. “Don’t worry about me. I got a free day with you what with Twi bein’ at the doc’s. So all’s I wanna do is get ta know you a bit better. So, let’s sit down and have us a little powwow.”

Dash swallowed heavily – the only response she could give.

Dust and Harmony

Chapter Five :: All Will Be Well

The walk up to the doctor’s office was along a path that stuck out of a main street at an odd angle, a winding road that cut through overgrown shrubbery bordered by strange purple flowers and trees that leaned over the twisting way, like guardians with outstretched limbs.

It sat on a patch of soil that allowed the slight growth of some vegetation; it was a stark difference from the barren reds and browns that made up the rest of Ponyton. But if anything could be said about it, the building’s attempts at communing with nature simply made it more curiously different in how set apart it was.

By all other accounts it was a perfectly normal-looking place, a fairly large building by comparison, and one that would have made for very comfortable living arrangements were it a home.

The first thing that Twilight noticed was how far away the other pedestrians were keeping from the path in general.

The second thing she noticed – and it was a conscious realisation that this should not have been the second thing she noticed – were all the coffins that were stacked up neatly at various points in the garden like grocery crates at Big Mac’s Emporium.

She made the walk down the path as brief as she could.

The door opened to the tinkle of three separate bells, together playing a harmonic chord that sounded almost merry in its singing, as Twilight pushed her way past the black lace that hung over the doorframe and over a rather upsetting doormat that simply read: ‘WELCOME HOME’ in big, facetious letters.

The dry, grey parlor opened up to her – a room that bore no character of its own, but instead took on the life of the crowd. And today, there was none. There were no figures in seats that led up the passageway to the coffin at the end. There were no grieving characters that milled about in their whites and blacks and shawls, no one to cry over the ones taken back to the Dust.

Twilight walked, with a strange caution, to the front of the room, following the shambling red carpet that wound its way to the casket sitting atop a small marble altar.

She couldn’t quite figure why, but she felt an urge to look closer.

She held within her a great sense of trepidation, mixed in with a healthy dose of morbid curiosity. She was never a fan of those in the medical profession. It wasn’t that she had no respect for the craft, but rather a combination of associative feelings and the tendency for doctors to be unimaginably creepy towards her.

It was probably something in all those odd fluids they had around the place.

She shuddered as she leaned over the smooth, polished wood of the coffin, almost shiny enough that she could see her face reflected in it, a pale shadow staring back.

The lid of the casket flew open.

Huaraggggh!” Twilight screamed, stumbling backward, and pulling out her pistols, which jittered and jumbled in her magic.

A face popped out of the box.

It was a dour one. One with wrinkles along the eyes and a flare of brown hair falling like a dead willow over a muddy, yellow coat. The unicorn peered down the length of his nose at the sheriff, who was now on the floor, scrabbling for the guns that she had dropped.

“Can I help you?” he asked with a wizened, creaky voice that made him sound like someone was choking him as he spoke.

Twilight froze in place like a child caught with one hoof in the cookie jar. Her leg hovered over one of her pistols as she turned upward to face the speaker.

There were just too many questions.

“I-is this the doctor’s?” Twilight asked meekly, finally deciding on the best way forward. “I was just…”

The stallion in the casket flipped open the bottom half of the lid, throwing himself out with a great billowing of a black cloak, before reaching behind and drawing out a huge black hat from within the box. He took his time to dust himself off, before once again giving Twilight his regard.

“This is the undertaker’s. I am doctor Roderick McShy. What do you need?” the stallion asked.

“Ah… uh. Well,” Twilight picked herself off the ground. “I need t’ speak with you about somethin’, doctor.”

“Yes, most folk who come to see a doctor usually have something to say. The ones who don’t are dead.”

“N-no. I mean. You have something I’m lookin’ for. Can we talk in private?” Twilight frowned. Her eyes couldn’t help but dart back to the open casket.

Doctor McShy smacked his lips, giving Twilight a closer examination.

“What happened to yer horn, there?” he asked, flicking his head towards it.

“Uh… gunshot wound. Last night.”

“Ah, yes. That must make you Sheriff Twilight.”

“That I am.”

“Yes. I had an… unfortunate fellow in last night. Badly burned. Your handiwork, if his screaming your name over and over was anything to go by. You’ve made yourself an enemy, my dear.”

“Yeah, benefit of th’ job. So, anyway. We need to–”

“We need to see about your horn.” Doctor McShy swept past her, leaving her mouth hanging open, as he made his way to the center of the parlor.

“Uh…” Twilight murmured.

“Yes?” The doctor spun around.

“W...what were you doin’ in… in there? If I might ask.” Twilight pointed to the coffin.

“Looking for this.” Doctor McShy pulled out a small glass jar from within the depths of his coat, a green solution within slopping heavily against the stained, semi-frosted walls. There was something oddly bulbous inside, like a pink balloon with tentacles sticking out.

“Why was the lid closed?” Twilight frowned deeper.

“How do you expect me to find it in the light?” McShy shot back. “Now, are we going to get you some medical attention or not?”

Twilight breathed out, her eyes drying by the second. “Yes.”

“Please, wait here. My assistant will be with you shortly. I will need to prepare my tools.”

“Wait, tools?” Twilight took a step back. “Tools for what?”

“To prod and poke. And find out what’s the matter.”

“Now… wait a minute, doctor,” Twilight blurted out, rushing forward. “We ain’t needin’ no tools here! I just want to talk, is all! I ain’t here for no sawbones funny-stuff!”

“Oh, really?”


The only warning to be had was a slight twitch of the doctor’s eyes before the glass jar came hurtling in an arc towards Twilight, who instantly side-stepped and fired off a blast from her horn.

“Ow!” She cried, as the jar slipped through her grasp, landing on the floor and smashing open.

The tentacled blob from within quickly scurried away on odd pink appendages and ran into a hole in the wall.

Twilight squinted through her grimace. “W-what in the Dust?”

“Don’t worry. I’ll catch him again. But you, my dear, you certainly need some sawbones funny-stuff, as you put it. And after you’ve gotten the aid you need… we shall talk.”

Twilight sighed. She wished Spike were here. At least then she could use him as an excuse or something. He was always good with the excuses.

“Fine.” she gave up. “Fine. Let’s… just get this over with.”

“Good.” Doctor McShy squinted. “Now, let me fetch my assistant.”

He cleared his throat.

“Angel!” he called out. “Angel, could you come out here, please?”

He turned, smiling, to Twilight, dried, thin lips curling back over pearly teeth.

“Won’t be a moment. My assistant will help you with all that she can, and if needed, I will step in if… tools are required. But she is perfectly capable in the art of medicine on her own. She has been under my tutelage for three years, and you will be in very good care. My other patients tell me that she is very gentle and kind. And of course, noticing your… hesitance to receive medical help, I can assure you th–” McShy looked behind Twilight. “Ah, here she is now.”

Twilight turned to see a pristine white pegasus in a harshly contrasting black cloak step out from behind a curtain. She was as pure as chalk from head to hoof, a thin sheer of pink hair flowing down one side of her head. She looked at Twilight past a pair of bent, steel-framed glasses that seemed too small for practical use, and the smile on her face was both comforting and non-judgemental.

“Oh, hello there!” she called out with a silky-soft voice, like a cold pudding with caramel on top. “Oh, Doctor, I heard something break earlier, is everything…”

“Gasparde has escaped again,” Doctor McShy said, with a tinge of weariness.

“Oh, that’s terrible! We simply must find him! But ah… is this a patient?” The snowy pegasus tilted her head, her mane bobbing along like flowers in the wind.

“My dear,” Doctor McShy said to Twilight. “This is Doctor Angelique Binnes. Angel, please see to our friend here. She is a very important patient.”

“Oh! Oh! Of course! P-please!” Angel said, stepping aside and pulling open the curtain. “Come in! Come in!”

“She is the Sheriff that you’ve been hearing about,” McShy added, tilting his hat down with a knowing look.

“Oh. Ooooooohhh,” Angel expressed, her eyes growing wide. “Oh. Oh. Yes. Only the best. Of course! Please, Miss Constance. I will take the most absolute best care of you. I-I… please!”

All of a sudden, Twilight felt a little better. The girl was like a little mouse scampering over the floor in search for cheese. She seemed to be easily impressed, and the fact that it was Twilight herself whom she was impressed by made it all the more fear-allaying. Twilight nodded, letting her shoulders de-tense.

“Just step through here, to my room, and we’ll get you sorted out!” Angel chittered, gently ushering Twilight into a well-lit hall.

“So, ya heard’a me?” Twilight asked, as she was led down the hallway toward a room at the end.

“Oh, yes! I’ve heard of you. Amazing work with the Diamond Dog gang. Big Mac spoke very highly of you when he was here getting his leg patched up.”

“Really? I didn’t figure he was th’ kind to speak much.”

“Well, he did mention your name along with the fact that he was bringing his family back. And that’s the most he’s ever said about anyone, so that’s high praise!”

“I… see.”

“And last night’s case? Taking out a criminal like that was just… inspiring!”

“Well, thank you kin–”

“His scarring patterns were so beautiful! The way they spread across his body – it was like… he was a canvas and fire was your paint.”

“I’m sorry, whut was that?” Twilight asked, stopping as her mind ticked back over her line.

“Ah, here we go!”

Angel shoved Twilight through the door.

Twilight’s blood ran cold.

There were… things all over the place. Normally, Twilight could identify the purpose and the use of objects that she saw in day-to-day activities. But these items were lacking any sort of point that Twilight could grasp at, and thusly they remained as things.

As Twilight was persuaded to walk further into the room, she had no explanation for the series of stained machetes that lined the wall. She had no explanation for the small stand in the corner with candles and what appeared to be the heads of various desert animals. She had no explanation for all the jars – and what was it with doctors and jars, anyway – that lined the shelves, all of which carried juices of different colours and objects of various degrees of identifiability.

But by far, the most offensive thing was the large bookcase in the corner, stuffed to the brim with tomes of all sorts, reference textbooks and manuals on local flora and fauna.

Twilight shuddered, her breath running ragged.

“Just here, please,” Angel said, smiling, shuffling Twilight behind a pale sheer curtain and to a small, raised bed. “Make yourself comfortable.”

The bed had a small stuffed rabbit on it with a single horn grafted to the middle of its forehead.

“What in the Dust is that thing?” Twilight yelled, pointing at it.

“Oh, that’s a unilope,” Angel explained, shoving it roughly, whereupon it fell to the ground behind the bed with a thunk. “Um… please don’t worry about him.”

“What the heck is a unilope?” Twilight said, a high pitched squeaking replacing her regular voice.

“A… horrible… horrible mistake,” Angel said, as she looked down at her hooves in stark regret.

“So.” Spike carried a small mug over to Dash. Within, the swirling black void of freshly baked coffee found its home. It was the best he could do under the circumstances – the forge didn’t have a lighter setting.

Moonshine had been sitting by herself on a barrel, hunched over, swinging her legs back and forth, drawing little pictures in the dirt with the tip of her hoof.

Spike stood there, holding the mug of coffee, tilting his head at the sopping pegasus.

“O-oh, um…” Dash stammered, looking up at the beverage. “I ain’t too thi–”

Spike raised his eyebrow, taking a sip from his cup.

Dash dropped her head again. “Oh.”

“Right, now.” Spike leaned against the counter once again. “What’s your hash with Twilight?”

“I dunno. I’m just…” Dash kicked at her floorboards. “I mean, Twi… right?”


“Ya say you knew her for a couple years now?”

“Manner of speakin’.”

“So you guys must be… close, right?”

“Sure,” Spike said, casually.

“And you must… uh… know stuff, right?”



“You maybe wanna get to some kinda point, there?” Spike smiled as gently as he could, swirling his coffee around.

“Um… am I… am I gonna die?” Dash felt her veins chill after the question came out. Immediately she bit her lip, punishing herself for saying something so outrightly blatant.

Spike dropped his eyelids into a tired gaze, as he looked off to the side, bobbing his head up and down as he hummed a nameless song. He placed the mug of coffee down, using the same hand to tap himself on his temple a few times before waggling his finger at Dash.

“That all depends, don’t it? Do ya have any cause t’ believe that you’re gonna die?”

“I d-don’t know. Maybe…” Dash struggled, her face scrunching up in on itself like an old sock.

“Alright, look. I’m gonna dig in my spurs for this one conversation, so go right ahead and rustle me up somethin’ good. I’mma hear ya out. So let’s just cut to it.”

“I… I’m sorry, Spike. I’m just… I’m scared.”

“Scared’a what?”

Dash breathed out, sort of sighing, sort of buying time. “Have you ever heard of the term… gearhead?”

“Heard it floatin’ around,” Spike replied, words hissing smoothly from between his lips. “They somthin’ I should be worried of?”

“Well, Lune…”

“Yeah, heard she was one or somethin’.” Spike turned his palms upward. “What’s they all about?”

“Well, ah…” Dash scratched behind her ear, which was twtiching with discomfort. “We whisper about them here in these parts. They’re uh… said to be unicorns what have more magic’n the others.”

More magic?”

“Yeah. Ain’t nothin’ proven t’ how, but they can make machines run and lamps light and… they can do things with steam and the like.”

“Like make a train go?” Spike asked innocently.

“I… I guess so. I mean, not that we know how it works, really. Surely you got somethin’ like that back in Dragan? People with… special powers?”

“Well, not really.” Spike shrugged. “I mean, all dragons are kinda magical already, but in different ways. But you already know that, don’t ya?”

“Yeah. Yes. Guess so.”

“So why’s them gearheads so scary?”

“It’s part of th’ curse.”

“A curse, now?” Spike asked, rubbing his chin.

“Yeah. Gearhead magic hits ya in your thirteenth year. I mean, I ain’t know too much about unicorns, but that’s what rumours say. You get these strange new magics, and your heart shrivels. That’s what they say.”

“No kiddin’. Shrivelled heart.”

“Yeah. All of ‘em turn into somethin’ scary. Tongues of gold, minds of lightnin’. The only way we ever done know about if a unicorn’s a gearhead is when they let us know. But by that time, it’s already too late.”

“No way to tell otherwise, huh?”

“Well, as it goes, legend is that whenever they do their thing, there’s this bright light what burns like the sun itself. Hotter than any forge. More dazzlin’ than any lamp. And then after that, bad things happen. Really… bad things.”

“Sorta like maybe… somethin’ blows up?”


“Sorta like how the sheriff’s office sorta burned down last night, huh.”

Dash lingered on what she was about to say next, a sudden look of worry crossing her brow. Spike filled in.

“You were there last night, weren’t ya?” Spike gave her a look.

“I… uh…” Dash started rubbing her forehooves together.

Spike rubbed the back of his neck.

“So… how… how long have ya known Twilight?” Dash squeaked out.

Spike left her in silence as he leaned back, folding his arms across his chest, as he focused on something very important on the ceiling.

Dash’s shoulders fell even more. “Listen… I… I ain’t… I mean, I’m not sure what I…”

“Shush for a moment,” Spike held out a finger. “Lemmie think.”

“W-well… I… I don’t mean t’ be throwin’ around accusa–”

“Oh no, Twi’s a gearhead,” Spike said suddenly. “I’m thinking about other things.”

“Wait, what?” Dash yelled, albeit weakly.

“I’m thinking about how to get you t’ calm down once I said that,” Spike muttered.

“She… oh… oh shit,” Dash dropped her head to her hooves. “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit.”

“Hey now,” Spike asked, as calm as the Ponyton air. “Why’re ya squawkin’ around like a chickabiddy?”

“Because she’s a gearhead! And… and you knew! Ya knew!”

“Actually, I kinda found out last night, too.”

“What? You… you saw…” Dash stammered, hoof out.

“Oh, naw. I arrived much later than you.”

“Then how…?”

“I asked her.”

“You what?”

“I asked her. I sorta figured stuff. So I asked her. And she said yes.”


“Alright.” Spike pushed himself off the counter. “I got what I need, so lemmie clear somethin’ up. I know about gearheads. I just wanted t’ see what everyone else thinks. You know, from a non-gearhead point of view. So, thanks for fillin’ me in.”


“Hey, Dash. Back with me.” Spike snapped his fingers in front of her face.

She jolted, the loud, sudden sound causing her mind to regain control over her rampant thoughts.

“Hi,” Spike said, his voice taking on the tone of seriousness. “Right. So. Here’s where we are. Twilight is a gearhead. However, gearheads don’t seem to have a good reputation. Seems to me like they were done bad by stories. Lots of ‘em. Lots of really mean ponies running around doin’ bad things. So, sure – can’t be helped that rumour slowly becomes fact.”

“What are ya tryin’ t’ say?”

“I’m glad I had the chance t’ talk to you first, is what I’m sayin’! Now, I ain’t mighty pleased with yer thinkin’, but I can’t rightly blame you neither. But if you told Twilight all this, I don’t think she’d be anythin’ but downright sad.”


“Yeah! Do you think she’s any different from the girl you met two weeks ago? You know, she actually likes ya. I said I known her two years, right? In all them two years, she never once made friends back at Cantermore. I ain’t never seen her talk to nobody, go out with nobody, or even give a smile to anyone she didn’t need ta. Now, given what I just told ya, why d’ya think that might be?”

“I… I don’t know, I mean…” Dash mumbled, wiping her brow.

“You know damn well.” Spike stated.

Dash looked down.

“And she ain’t never did nothin’ bad. But two weeks ago, when she come here, she start talkin’ to ya more than she ever done. She come here first thing when her home burns down. She trusts you, Dash. And she maybe don’t know it yet herself, but she consider you a friend.”

Dash swallowed heavily, her mind being torn into two halves, both sides fighting for the truth over what was known and felt. It was an ingrained feeling that fought against logic. It was knowledge fighting against logic.

“But she’s dangerous!” Dash argued, mostly due to the unreasonable urge to let her fears have a voice. “You saw what happened yesterday!”

“Well then, ain’t it good that she’s on our side? If she’s as evil as you consider, then why is she fightin’ so hard to save everyone in Ponyton?”


“You know, you can point a gun at a good guy or a bad guy, Dash. You yourself know this best of all, I think.”

“Y-yeah. I hope you’re right, Spike.”

“She ain’t gonna hurt ya, ya goat!” Spike clicked his tongue. “She ain’t no evil blackheart. She never hurt me, and she preferred to live hard just so she weren’t gonna hurt no one else. Now, I want ya to imagine for a moment that you would’a told her what you just told me. That you were scared again that she were gonna kill ya, just because of what she is more than who she is.”

Dash let her eyes flutter shut. She shook her head, leaning her face against the back of her hoof. “I just… you gotta understand, Spike.”

“Yeah, and I do. That’s why I ain’t gonna worry too much. Like I said, I was just happy you had a chance t’ talk to me first. This way, you can get it all out, and then you can talk to Twi later and both of ya can do whatever it is girls do when they make up. Like kiss or whatever.”

Dash’s head jerked up. “W-what?”

“Yeah! Kiss her! You wanna kiss her, don’t ya?” Spike shrugged.

“No! I never… what? I don’t…”

“Oh. Right.” Spike rubbed his chin again. “Sorry. Must’a been wrong about that.”

Dash stared, eyes wide, not a word escaping her lips.

“Please, Miss Twilight, you need to hold still,” Angel lilted, wing gently placed in the crook of Constance’s leg.

“But it’s going numb, Doc!” Twilight yelled.

“Yes, it’s supposed to feel that way. Now, just hang on a little more. There’s nothing to be worried about.”

A feather – a sensitive piece of natural equipment by its own right – was laid gently across a vein,  Further up the leg was an odd bladder of some kind, made out of a strange, rubbery material that confused and bewildered Twilight. It was made in the shape of a ring, and was inflated around her limb to the point where everything started to tingle and all physical sensation ran away to better climes.

Angel, with her other wing – oddly more dexterous than Twilight had ever witnessed before in a pegasus – let out a squirt of air from the inflatable hoop.

“Mmm hmm,” Angel said.

More air was let out.

“Ah…” she muttered, checking the balloon.

Feeling started to return to Twilight’s leg, along with that familiar prickly pear sensation of when your body had just been strangled by lab equipment.

“Ohhhhhhh,” Angel concluded, releasing the final bursts of air from the thing and yanking it off Twilight’s leg. “Mmmm.”

“Uh… so….”

“Your blood pressure is extraordinarily high, Miss Twilight. That’s not a good sign.”

“Blood… what?”

“It’s the new science. Please, tell me,” Angel continued, not giving Twilight a word in edgewise, “did you get a good rest last night?”

“Well, I was shot in the head and my house burned down.”

“Mmm hmm.” Angel wrote something down on a sheet of paper. It was completely illegible. “And did you have anything to eat this morning?”

“No. I can’t digest charcoal.” Twilight frowned.

“Of course.” More scribbles. “And would you say that you have a stressful occupation?”

Angel looked up from her notes to beam at Twilight.

Twilight scowled back.

“So, very stressful.” Angel made a note of it.

“Doctor… I gotta ask…”

“Hm? Yes. You are at risk of many problems, including occlusion of your blood vessels and various other heart complications.”

“Heart complications?”

“You could have a sudden heart failure, or a stroke.”

Twilight threw her hoof up. “Now, wait a minute, I ain’t never had no stroke before. I ain’t that kind of girl–”

“Also, you could just drop dead!” Angel chuckled.


“Just like that!” The doctor snapped her hooves together.

“Just… dead?”

“Yes!” Angel bounced in her seat.

Twilight looked mildly concerned.

“So try not to be so stressed at work, okay?” Angel smiled. “It’s unhealthy.”

“I don’t understand… any of this,” Twilight said.

“It’s the new science. Now, please tell me what’s making you feel nervous.”

“Uh… look.” Twilight’s eyes darted left and right. Behind the thin white scrim of the curtains that segmented their little check-up area from the rest of the room, she could still see the oddly shaped grotesque silhouettes dancing behind – random items in the room lit up by the flames of candles – each shadow twisted into macabre shapes that all somehow looked like little stabbing gnomes the more Twilight thought about them.

“I really… have to talk to Doctor McShy, and…”

“Miss Twilight!” Angel gasped. “I am your doctor! So please, anything you say to Doctor Roderick, you can tell me! I will take care of you, I promise! I made a solemn oath never to hurt a single living soul except for the ones I have to kill out of mercy!”

“Uh…” Twilight rubbed at the side of her head. She hadn’t noticed how hot the room had become. “Okay. I’ll try to be… uh… less stressed. Can I go now?”

“Absolutely not! We have to see about your injuries! That’s why you’re here, aren’t you?”

“Well, not exactly, but…”

“Now. Horn injuries can be very… personal. And I understand this. But don’t you worry one little bit, because it’s my job to care for them. Now, please. Just bend over, and let me have a good look at it. I promise, I won’t bite.”

“I really weren’t afraid of you bit– whuagh!”

With surprising strength, or at least through the art of catching one unawares, Angel pulled Twilight towards her roughly by the shoulders, tilting her head downwards until Twilight’s broken horn was directly in front of her nose.

Right there, twinkling back up at her, was a shimmering haze, a sort of misty grey fog speckled with random blinks of rainbow-coloured lights, each pulsing faintly as they died away, all trapped within a core of bone that had now been splintered away. It toiled up over the edge, like a silent pot of boiling water, exploding into small bubbles of mist that left microscopic glitter to disappear into the air.

Angel’s expression tightened as she pulled away, allowing Twilight to return to composure.

“You’re quite lucky, miss Twilight,” Angel said, picking up her pencil. “The damage appears to be superficial at best. Your wick is fully intact, although I can see signs of trauma.”


“Yes. It’s suffered through a sudden shock of some kind. But, I think we both know where that’s from.” Angel smiled softly, genuinely.

“Bullet’ll do it, huh?” Twilight asked stoically.

“Don’t worry, though. Your horn will regain full functionality with time. The bone won’t grow back, but there are things we can do to help patch it up to keep your core safe. Tell me, are you experiencing any trouble with casting?”

“Uh… yeah. Sure.” Twilight coughed. “Bit of pain an’ all that. When I float things.”

“What’s your strength?”

“Uh… seven, last I checked. Been a while though.”

“Alright, no troubles.” Angel stood, sliding back a part of the curtain slightly.

Behind it was a rope and handle that was attached to a pulley system of sorts. The other end of the rope was tied to a large block weight, and the whole thing rested next to a vertical ruler with notches cut into it at decreasing distances apart as it went up the piece of wood.

“Please,” Angel gestured.

The object wasn’t something foreign to Twilight. It was that one thing that was a common sight specifically for unicorns, found from school to places of work.

Twilight reached out, past the veil between reality and mystical power, and grabbed hold of the handle with a miasmic glow. She pulled as hard as she could.

Twilight’s attempts to hide her pain and discomfort didn’t slip past Angel’s observant gaze.

The weight rose until it hovered around the five-point-five mark, at which it fell back to the ground with a crash.

Twilight hissed at the result.

“That’s a little under normal, but quite expected, considering the injury,” Angel observed, looking over at the fractured horn again. “You might have a little disc slip in there. Something’s off alignment. We’re going to have to try to re-adjust it to get rid of the pain.”

“Uh… what… whatcha gonna do, Doc?” The sheriff felt her heart quiver with the bad sort of apprehension.

“Don’t worry. Don’t worry at all, Miss Twilight.” Angel placed her hoof on top of Twilight’s reassuringly. “Everything will be fine. We’ll just straighten your wick, and all will be well. It might be a little uncomfortable, but nothing horrifically painful.”

“Are you sure?” Twilight murmured.

“Absolutely, Miss Twilight.”

“A-alright.” Twilight sighed, slouching. “Listen, I… don’t do too good with Doctors, alright? So… thank ya for bein’ kindly.”

“It’s my job, Miss Twilight.” Angel gave her hoof a little squeeze. “I’m here to heal. So I want you to be free of pain, sickness and injury.”

Twilight nodded.

Angel nodded, pulling her hoof away. “And definitely no blood fountains.”

“Blood f–” Twilight stammered, spitting all over the bed. “What in the Dust are blood fountains? Why would ya say that?”

“Because they won’t happen!” Angel smiled. “I just wanted you to know, in case you were thinking about it!”

“I wasn’t thinking about it until you said it!”

“Please, try to stay calm! It’s not good for your health to be this stressed!” Angel frowned, clicking her tongue.

Unnnnnnnnnggggggggghhhhh,” Dash moaned.

She had moved around quite a lot in the previous few minutes, jumping from her barrel to the corner, to staring at the forge and back again.

At the present, she was lying down on her back in the dirt, her wings spread out, her foreleg over her eyes, and she was emitting a low moan as if she were dying of the desert trots.

Spike had been very calm about it all, letting her wheeze and gripe and get it all out of her system – all her fears, her concerns, her anxieties, and one by one, he shot them down like a true partner of the people.

But right now, Spike wasn’t too sure if she was coming back from this. He was on his third mug of coffee-flavoured water, and she had been moaning for quite some time.

But even patience couldn’t last forever.

“Hey, listen, Moonshine,” he said. “Ya gotta snap outta it.”

The moaning stopped. Her mouth hung open like a flytrap.

“Moonshine,” Spike repeated. “Hey. It ain’t such a big thing. You can take it, huh? You’re a big girl.”

“Can I?” Dash groaned. “I dunno.”

“Yeah. You can. Get up, though. You’re makin’ yerself look miserly.”

“I wanna drink, Spike.” Her other hoof flopped out, unfurling from her body and falling to the ground beside her like a dead snake.

“No you don’t.”

“Don’t I?”

“No. You’re thinkin’ t’ run again, ain’t ya?”

Dash didn’t move.

“Maybe,” she finally croaked out.

“Yeah. Well, stop that. You can’t be runnin’ always. You made yerself a bad habit, there. Gotta un-make it.”

“Maybe,” she said again.

Spike took a drink.

“How d’ya know all that?” Dash asked, suddenly.

Spike raised an eyebrow. “Beggin’ yer pardon?”

“All… all them s–” Dash burst out into a few harsh coughs. “All them… stuff.”


“Yeah. Come on. You know ‘bout everythin’. But you never say nothin’. What’s that all about?”

“Huh.” Spike stared into his mug. He wasn’t expecting the conversation to turn so quickly into another topic. But at this point, it was something that she was probably using to distract herself, and it was something he could use.

“Okay, tell ya what.” Spike snapped his fingers again. “You get up off the ground, go brush yourself off, and I’ll tell you about it.”

“Ngggggh,” Dash groaned. “Don’t wanna.”

“Do it, you fool.”

“But it’s embarrassin’,” Dash whined.

“Get up, you idiot!” Spike growled.

Fine, fine!” Dash complained, pulling her leg off her face and sitting up. A whole new collection of odd animalistic noises poured forth from her mouth as she got up in a daze, rubbed the red out of her eyes and tottered to a basin in the corner with a bucket of fresh water drawn beside.

Spike shook his head at the child he had to contend with. “Right. So what do you want to know?”

Dash splashed water on her face, pulling back and giving her mane a shake. “You. I wanna know ‘bout you.”

“What’s there to know?”

“I seen ya actin’ around Twilight. And I see ya now. And I don’t know why you ain’t the same both ways.”

“What’s about me now that’s so different?” Spike asked.

“You smarter. Ain’t ya? Smarter than you wanna show.”

“Well, Twilight’s plenty smart too, right? Ain’t no need for me t’ be smart around her, she’s plenty smart for the both of us.”

“Naw. Naw. She’s smart but in a diff’rent way. There’s another word for that, I reckon. She’s smart like in… she knows tricks and things. But you. You’re smart smart. You’re smart like a book is smart. Like a teacher. Or rich folk.”

“If you say so, but what’s the problem?”

“Problem is you figure stuff out better’n Twilight, don’t ya? But you don’t like to do nothin’ but stand around and make jokes.”

“Maybe that’s what I like to do.” Spike shrugged.

“So, where’d ya learn how to do all that, anyway?”

“Do what?”

“Figure out big things from small things? You look at my breakfast and you can tell what I’m thinkin’?”

“Ah, well.” Spike scratched his forehead crest. “My dad, back in Dragan. He did sorta the same thing too. Guess it passed on or somethin’. But he’s the real smart one. I’m just his son.”

“Smart dad?”


“Of… House Ling?”

“Yeah?” Spike raised an eyebrow.

“I swear I heard that name afore.”

“Ya probably have,” Spike shrugged quickly. “Ain’t too uncommon. You know how there’s a billion of us with the same family name over there.”

“So, why’d you leave Dragan?”

“Well, that’s a question right there, ain’t it?” Spike laughed. “Let’s say I’m lookin’ for a new life.”

“A new life, huh?”

“Yeah. You left your family too, right? To do what you wanted? Same as all your brothers?”

“Yeah, that’s what I said.” Dash nodded in agreement.

“Same thing for me too, in a way.”

“But ain’t that different for Dragan families? Y’all like t’ stay together always, don’t ya?”

“Yes, I s’pose,” Spike shrugged. “But sometimes things change.”

“Yeah. They sure do,” Dash said, her lips turning downward again.

“Well,” Spike quickly stepped in. “I just wanted to get a life where I didn’t need ta think so much. Sometimes, if ya think of the wrong things, it can swing round and shoot ya in the leg. It’s always best to know when to stop.”

“That sounds… like a bit of a waste, though. If I could, I’d be thinkin’ of things all th’ time.”

“Well, not like that’s bad or nothin’. It’s about knowin’ how much t’ think.”

“And what about now? How much am I supposed to be thinkin’?”

“Just enough, I reckon. On one side, you’re scared of them gearheads. That ain’t a bad thing. Probably is what’s gonna keep ya alive. But on the other side, you know Twilight ain’t bad. She just happens to be a gearhead, too. You gotta just take the best from both sides and walk straight down the middle.”

Dash nodded, her eyelids dropping. “You’re right. Ain’t ya? Always right.”

“So later, all you gotta do is just talk t’ Twilight when she comes back. That’s all ya need to do. And things’ll work out, as long as you’re gonna stay calm and as long as you don’t judge her.”



The room dropped into a low mood as the forge gently glowed with drying embers. Spike walked over, tossing the remnants of his cup into the ash, sending a sickly sweet smell of burning beans through the blacksmith floor.

He stared into the twinkling lights, lost in a memory.

“Hey, Spike?” called out Dash from behind.

“Yeah?” he turned.

“I just wanted to say… I appreciate it,” Dash said as she stood awkwardly in the middle of the room.

“Yeah. No problem. Do me a favour, then.”


“Don’t need t’ be tellin’ no one ‘bout this talk. And of course, you’ll be keepin’ Twilight’s secret a secret.”

“Yeah. ‘Course.” Dash nodded earnestly.

“Good. Don’t want nothin’ ta change.”

“Hey, Spike. Uh… I got kind of a… weird question for ya.”


“How come you can’t read?”

Spike spun around fully, half-smirk appearing. “Should I know?”

“I mean, you ain’t dumb. Surely readin’ ain’t a problem for ya.”

“Well, like I said. I ain’t interested in stickin’ my neck out too much. So I just never learned, so that when it comes down t’ it, people won’t bother me so much.”

“Oh. But then why… why don’t ya just learn and pretend you can’t?”

“Well, let’s put it this way. Remember that day a couple weeks back that we caught ya and you were cuttin’ up shines?”

“Ah… yeah. I ain’t… gonna forget that.” Dash adjusted her jacket collar.

“Right. So, we rightly thought you were drunk. But I rightly saw you clearly readin’ that scroll before you claimed you didn’t know how. It’s like this – all lies are best closer to the truth. You have a lot more experience bein’ drunk than not knowin’ how t’ read.”

“All lies are best closer t’ the truth, huh?”

“Yeah,’ Spike said, turning back to the fires. “Yeah.”

“Release me! Release me now!” Twilight demanded, squirming against her bonds. But the leather straps cut into her legs and torso, and the metal clamp with the hole in it secured her head very firmly to the metal table.

Somehow, she had been convinced to do this a few moments ago, but it now seemed like an incredibly bad choice. Twilight was not too used to being tied down in compromising positions. And when Angel had started working, a whole wave of feelings and emotions suddenly hit Twilight, and the flood showed no signs of subsiding.

“Now, I know this is difficult, but please try to keep calm,” Angel said, strictly. “It’s for your own good.”

She sat at the head of the operating slab, staring through a convex glass piece that was mounted to a band that she wore around her head. In either hoof she held a pair of metal rods that the strange mists from Twilight’s horn were slowly gravitating toward, which left the insides of the horn somewhat clear for her wings to work on – wings that were deftly wrapped around a very specific set of tools meant for this very specific circumstance.

They were unlike anything that Twilight had ever seen before, with their weird pokey bits and their sharp edges. They looked like something on the business end of a ferocious animal, and Twilight hadn’t any idea what they could possibly be used for.

The curtain swung open suddenly, a tall, dark figure sweeping in.

Twilight’s eyes darted over to the figure.

“Ah! Doctor McShy!” she cried out. “Help!”

“Yes, yes. You’re getting help,” the doctor said impatiently. “Angelique, is everything okay here? I heard screaming.”

“Yes, Doctor,” Angel spoke while she continued to work, prodding at Twilight’s insides. “The patient is having an adverse reaction to her environment. Also, I am working on her wick.”

“Yes, yes. Very good. Please keep me updated,” he said, preparing to go.

“Wait!” Twilight cried. “Doctor! I need to talk to you! It’s about Harmony!”

Roderick stopped in mid-turn, his hoof lingering on the curtain. “Pardon?”

“Harmony! Ow! Watch it, you stupid creepmouse!” Twilight growled at Angel, whom ignored her. “I’m here to fetch the piece of Harmony from you!”

“Angelique, dear,” Roderick said, turning to her. “This conversation is not taking place. Do you understand?”

Angel didn’t respond, merely continuing to dig around in Twilight with a soft scraping motion.

“Doctor! Nyearrrerrggh!” Twilight squeaked like a small puppy. “Celeste sent me! I need to get that piece! Also, please let me go!”

“Lune’s returning?”


“Oh, dear. Oh very dear,” Roderick muttered, placing a hoof on his chin. “And do you have proof of your claim?”

“The – ngnggkk – letter… burned down in the fire yesterday, Doc! But you gotta believe me! Please!”

“As… much as I am inclined to believe you, what with your current… disposition,” Roderick said, “I am afraid I cannot do much without the official writ. Angel, please finish up. I must leave now.”

“No… wait! Doctor! Get me out of he–”

Doctor McShy disappeared behind the curtain, away to the rooms beyond.

“There there,” Angel said. “Shan’t be long. If you didn’t struggle, we’d have been done quite a while ago.”

“Do you know how this feels?”

“Oh, no. Not really, but I’ve had plenty of things put in me before, so I can imagine.”

“Let me go, or I swear, I’m going to shoot you in the wings, woman!” Twilight spat out, almost as if she couldn’t stop herself.

A voice floated up from above Twilight’s head. “Now, there’s no need for that, Miss Twilight. We are civil people here.”

“Civil? Don’t make me laugh. You’re a doctor.”

“And are doctors any worse than anyone else?”

Twilight stared at the ceiling, blinking the sweat out from her eyes. The words poured forth from her mouth like lava. “You are the worst kind of people!”

“Ah, that explains the anxiety.”

“Anxie-whatever! You and your fancy terms! That’s just the start of it!”

“And pray tell, what have doctors done that gets you all nervous-like?” The tone in Angel’s voice was unreadable.

“It’s all this freaky weird stuff!” Twilight cried out. “You’re weird and scary and you have sharp things and you’re weiiiird!”


“Like tyin’ up yer patients!” Twilight pulled sharply at her straps to no avail. “And stickin’ things in me, and makin’ my leg go numb!”

“Well, I’m sorry you think that way, Miss Twilight.”

“And what’s with all them animals? What’s with all these things all over the place? Why do ya keep smilin’ at me? Only ones who smile so much are the ones who’re gonna put a bullet in yer head!”

“That is an interesting way of seeing things, indeed,” Angel said calmly. “Just a bit more and we’ll be done.”

“See? That’s what ya keep sayin’, but I know that t’ be a lie! You ain’t even – whuh?”

“All done!” Angel chipperly sang, the sound of metal tools hitting a metal bowl ringing out from above Twilight’s head.

All at once, an odd sensation burbled up into Twilight’s mind. It was like the feeling she had with her arm earlier, except with her brain, as something missing started to come back.

“Wh-whuzeeee?” Twilight blabbered.

“You’ll feel slight disorientation for just a while, but you’ll be back with us in no time!” Angel stood up, walking around to the side and loosening Twilight’s bonds.

Mrephgehearh?” Twilight asked.

Angel pulled the metal vise off Twilight’s head, helping her struggle to a vertical position. “Feeling better?” Angel leaned over, smiling straight into Twilight’s confused mug.

“Wh...what jez…”

“I’m glad to say the operation was a success, Miss Twilight. Go on,” Angel nodded to the side at the strength-testing machine, “give it a go.”

Twilight moved on automatic, blankly grabbing the handle with her horn and giving it a quick tug.

“Seven. Back to normal,” Angel read out. “Good!”

“Uh… what just happened?” Twilight asked, as the memory of what she had been yelling about came back.

“Mmm. The wick is connected to your emotional center of your brain,” Angel explained. “I had to re-align it, and that meant that your emotions would be slightly unstable for the time that I was poking around in there.”

And finally, it landed. Twilight’s pupils shrank as she realised everything that happened; every tiny sordid word she uttered; all the little injustices that came forth from a part of her heart that only half-believed the words.

“Uh…” Twilight mumbled, face growing hot. “I… think I might have…”

“You said some very interesting things, Miss Twilight.” Angel went back to her desk, jotting a few more things down. “And since you seem to be one who finds value in the truth, I’ll admit right now that I did in fact, hear everything.”

“Ah. Oh. Um…”

Angel giggled. “I’m not offended, Miss Twilight. You’re not the first unicorn I’ve had to work on, you know.”

“But still, though. I don’t really know… why I said those things. I don’t… really believe…”

“Miss Twilight, we all have opinions. We all have beliefs and thoughts. Maybe that’s not something you think about all the time, but it might have just been something lurking around in your soul. So.” Angel put down her pencil. “Allow me to respond.”

Twilight looked at the desk, staring at the pencil.

“I know I might come across as odd to you. And perhaps to others. Us doctors have to surround ourselves with quite a lot of odd things. And I suppose it rubs off. Did you know that in medical school, we have an entire class on just how to talk to others without coming across as scary or rude? We have to be taught that.”

“But… did it work?” Twilight asked.

“And I guess I have some quirks. But still. At the end of the day, I still do what I have to do without letting other people bother me or get in my way. Which is why, sometimes, I have to tie a patient down for their own good. You protect people, don’t you?”


“Sometimes they don’t understand why you have to shoot someone, or why you do what you do, don’t they?”

Twilight looked to the side, her mane falling across her face.

“We’re not so different, I think. And if anything, I quite respect you a bit more in fact!”


“Yes, at least, you have strength of conviction. That’s really rare in our world. It’s a different kind of magic. You stand firm behind your beliefs, don’t you?”

“I don’t know ‘bout that.”

“Well, be that as it may – the only thing I hope is that your views are still open to change.” Angel winked. “Especially about us doctors.”

“I’m sorry, Doctor Binnes. I acted right shamefully,” Twilight said, holding her head up.

“Just call me Angel,” she replied, with a grin.


Twilight still couldn’t help but shudder at the casket at the front of the room as she was led back down the hallway, after being given a clean bill of health and a few other things she would need. The bill came to a meager seven dollars, a bargain compared to what Twilight was expecting.

She looked over her shoulder as Angel disappeared back into the hall, off to do paperwork or to lobotomize a desert critter or something.

Some thoughts were assumptions. Some were misinformation. But the thought that doctors were a bunch of creepy weirdos was most certainly founded, if not outright proven. Although that might not necessarily be a bad thing.

And there he was, standing like a statue, ready to meet her as she left the medical wing.

“And how did it go?” Doctor Roderick said, sliding up to Twilight.

“Jus’ about as good as it ought ta.”

“No complications?”

“None, thank ya.”

“Good, good.” Roderick beamed. “See, she does good work. What did I tell you?”

“Yeah. She does. She’s ah… nice.” Twilight nodded. “She… ah… has a thing for animals, don’t she?”

“Oh, yes. It’s her hobby. She loves stuffing them.”


“Sometimes she even waits for them to die first.”

“Greeeeeeat.” Twilight narrowed her eyes.

“And this is for you.” Roderick threw something, as he did before, a jar with liquid and a bunch of metallic objects swirling inside.

This time, Twilight caught it with no effort, and no pain.

Doctor McShy nodded at the improvement. “Look at that. Great work. Great.”

“What’s this?” Twilight asked. Yet another jar.

“It’s the trigger assembly,” Roderick explained. “For Harmony.”

Twilight raised an eyebrow. “But didn’t you say…”

“Well, yes. So I just made a trip to the telegraph office and asked Celeste directly.”

“Oh,” Twilight said. “Oh yeah. You could just… do that, couldn’t ya.”

“Yeeeeeeees. And I did!” Roderick exclaimed. “She’s very pleased with your progress so far. She also wanted me to tell you that she has that Bagtail chap locked up in her cells. He will be tried in the coming days and sentenced. She will require a full report from you to do so, however, and asks that you send her one as soon as you can.”

Twilight rolled her eyes. “Fine. Writing. Whatever. Anyway, thank you for this.”

The pieces sloshed around in the green goop of the jar.

“I gotta go now. So thanks for everythin’. And give Angel my regards,” Twilight said.

“Oh, ‘Angel’, is it?” Roderick said with a look of mild astonishment.

“Uh… what about?”

“Doctor Angelique said to call her that?”

“Uh… yeah. Is there… a problem?”

“No, no! Not at all! Be on your way now, my dear. Be on your way,” Roderick chittered like an excitable mongoose. “Mmm, yes.”

Twilight didn’t bother responding, merely sufficing to frown to herself in deep thought before pushing back out into the great wild Ponyton commons.

It was already late afternoon as she left, but the permanent clouds hanging over the building that she walked away from made it feel like permanent dusk in that small localized area.

She shook her head as she walked back down the path to the blacksmith.


Creepy weirdos, one and all.

Spike was the only one to greet her as Twilight returned to the blacksmith’s. She eyed her surroundings as she pulled off her bags, dragging them tiredly across the floor.

“Where’s Moonshine?” she asked, upending her wares onto the countertop.

“Whoa, what’s this?” Spike said, picking up the jar.

“Gun part.”

“Pretty. And how are you doin’?” Spike asked.

“Good. They done fixed me up. Said t’ try to rest my horn for a day or two. Not use it unless necessary. The usual.”

“Sounds great,” Spike muttered, shifting through the other items like a magpie. “What’s all this other stuff?”

“Got this thing I need Dash t’ make for me. It’s a cap for my horn. Got the diagram right there.”

“And this?” Spike held up a book.

“Stupid doctor gave that to me. For I can learn ‘bout doctorin’.”

“What’s it say?” Spike ran his claw across the title.

Medicine and Deciding Who Should Live,” Twilight rattled off dryly.

“Right. I’mma borrow this, okay?”

“What… for? You don’t know how to read.”

“Not yet.”

“Uh… okay. So…”

“Dash is out back. She’s waitin’ for ya. She’s got somethin’ she wants to discuss.” Spike jerked his thumb toward the door that led to the back of the store.

A sour look fell over Twilight’s face.

“Yeah, don’t worry,” Spike quickly said. “Ain’t nothin’ bad. It is about what you reckon. But, listen. I already had a talk with her, and this is just… gettin’ stuff out. Alright? So lemmie give you a rundown of how this is gonna go, and then you can go out there and make peace.”

“Alright, Spike.” Twilight nodded.


Twilight found her pacing. Thinking to herself. Kicking a couple of branches that had fallen off a desert willow that found its way into her property.

Dash stopped as soon as Twilight showed herself, looking over at her as if she were a complete stranger.

Twilight returned the look with her own, her lips pursed into something more than worry and her eyes soft with expectations. But still, she kept her chest up high, ready to ride it down to the bitter end.

For a while neither of them spoke.

Twilight felt a claw poke her in the rear. But when she turned back, Spike had already half-disappeared back into the shop.

“Right,” she said. “Spike said you wanted t’ talk about somethin’.”

“Uh… yeah. I got somethin’ I need to come clean on.” Dash said, pulling her frame up as well, matching Twilight’s posture.

“Alright. I’m listenin’.”

“Have you ever thought of a group of people in one way, but then learned somethin’ new to change yer mind?”

“Yeah…” Twilight rolled her tongue around. “Funny, but somethin’ like that happened quite recently.”

Dash drew in a big breath through her nose. “Well. It ain’t easy. But… I’m tired of runnin’, Twilight. I’m tired of bein’ that girl. I can’t hardly call myself loyal if I ain’t gonna steer myself straight. So I’m here t’ say… I’m on your side.”

Twilight’s eyes flickered down. She knew what this was about, and she knew that this speech was more for Dash’s own sake rather than her own. But she never imagined that this conversation would ever take place. In her mind, every time she imagined it happening, it always went the other way.

“Yesterday, I was there at your house. I saw you fightin’ with Bagtail through the window. And I saw you use magic. And I ran. I ran instead of helpin’ ya. And I don’t… I don’t expect ya to forgive me for cowardice. But I want that… to be the last time I run,” Dash declared, frowning with intense concentration.

“So, I don’t care what happens after this, Twilight. I just wanna say… I’m gonna stop runnin’ from anything from now on. And I wanted to thank you, and I just wanted t’ say that you will always be–”

“Oh, fer Dust’s sake,” Twilight yelled, stopping Dash in mid-parlance. “I’m glad you ran, you idiot.”


“You’da gotten hurt. That guy was up to no good. And you… look at you. It’s a good thing you escaped while you did. What if you’d been caught up in the fire?”

Dash swallowed.

“Just… look,” Twilight said, her cheeks flushing furiously. “I ain’t no good with all this stuff, okay? So… let’s just leave it there.”

“So you… you don’t care that I ran?”

“I care more that you’re here ownin’ up to it.”

“And you don’t care that I know?”

“I care that you would still wanna talk to me after knowin’.” Twilight lowered her voice, her misplaced anger subsiding.

“Well, you… you ain’t like the others, right?”

“There’s a lot like me,” Twlight growled, looking around as a matter of habit, hushing up further. “But we ain’t so ready to blurt it out on account of a couple bad eggs ruinin’ the basket.”

“I’ll try to learn,” Dash nodded.

“Take yer time,” Twilight grumbled.

“But tell me, please,” Dash implored. “How does it work?”

Twilight glowered, as if Dash had just asked her if she could fart in her soup. She stepped forward, grabbing Dash by the neck, and drew her down into a small huddle.

“It’s fuel,” she whispered.


“Yes. All it is is that we can turn our magic into whatever it is that makes things go. Oil, electricity. I don’t know how it works, but anything that can use it to run will use it to run. The wrong thought is that we can start fires or whatever with it. That ain’t true. We can only keep a fire burnin’, but we don’t have the power to start something that ain’t started already.”

“Magic… fuel…” Dash parroted. “That’s… that’s a thing, ain’t it?”

“Yeah. So now you know. Not that scary, is it?” Twilight released Dash, throwing her back.

“But that means…” Dash mumbled. “Wait... “

“Now what?” Twilight frowned.

Any fuel? What about things like… gunpowder?”

“I guess. Something like that. Had to blow some idiot up recently. All it takes is a spark to catch it on fire.”

“And… what about pressure?” The gears in Dash’s head started whirring.


“Like… steamworks?”

“I made a train go, once. What about?”

“It works.” Dash gasped. “It works!”

“What? Wait.” Twilight paused. “What?”

“Twilight!” Dash yelled, grabbing her by the back and pushing her toward the door.


“No! Listen!” Dash cried, shoving Twilight back into the blacksmith’s hut.

“Calm down!” Twilight growled, as they spilled out onto the shop floor.

Spike turned to look at the commotion, pulling away from the book he had borrowed.

“The gun, Twilight! The gun! It works!” Dash cried, flying to the safe.

“The… gun? You’re talking about Harmony?”

“Don’t you get it?” Dash said, stopping after failing to open the safe in her excitement. She slumped over the door, putting her face to it like a mother cradling a child. “Twilight, the gun’s a gearhead weapon.”

“Wait. When did you figure this out?”

Just now! Why didn’t you see it before?” Dash yelled excitedly.

“Well, I dunno!” Twilight yelled back. “I don’t know how it works, do I? Are you sure about this?”

“It has… it’s gotta be. The way it’s made… the bullets have no gunpowder but have a hollow cavity in ‘em. The gun itself… it has no firing pin. No trigger. No need,” Dash rattled on, wobbling back to Twilight’s side. “But there’s a small chamber inside for… something. Pressure?

Dash turned to Twilight all of a sudden. “How much magic can you stuff in a small compartment?”

How… small?”

“Like… quarter of an egg?”

“Plenty. You can stuff a load of magic into a small thing. More’n air. The more you shove in, the bigger the boom. That’s what happened with the lantern back at the office.”

“Compressible!” Dash threw her legs up. “It’s compressible! That proves it!”

“You’re tellin’ me that this gun is meant to be fired by a gearhead?”

“And only a gearhead!”

“Dash, the gun was commissioned two years ago by Mayor Celeste…”

“To fight Lune! She knew! Only a gearhead can stop another gearhead!”

Twilight raised a hoof to her brow, massaging the space between her eyes. “Do you even understand what yer sayin’?”

“One of two things,” Spike cut in suddenly, face still in between pages. “Mayor Celeste is a gearhead herself.”

“Whoa there.” Dash said. “That’s… some claim.”

“Or it could be the other thing that’s even more worrisome.” Spike finished.

“The… other thing?” Dash asked. “What’s more worrisome than Mayor Celeste herself bein’ a gearhead?”

Twilight’s jaw shifted.

“Twilight, when were you promoted to deputy again?” Spike asked, calmly.

Twilight didn’t answer.

“‘Bout the time when that whole business with Lune started, weren’t it?” Spike said. “And weren’t it also the case that Mayor Celeste were the one who accepted you as a junior in the sheriff’s squad despite all them… rumours?”

“I don’t like this,” Twilight said.

“Or you know,” Spike peeked over the top of the book, “could just be that Celeste’s a gearhead herself. But it’s kinda funny how she so quickly sent you here, weren’t it?”

“What are you gettin’ at? I trust her,” Twilight said.

“Don’t mean nothin’. Nothin’s gotta change. Just means she ain’t playin’ her full hand, is all. Don’t mean that she’s hidin’ cards up her sleeve. Slight difference. You still gonna protect the town, ain’t ya? You still wanna make sure Lune don’t come killin’, don’t ya?”

“Of course.”

“I think the only thing that’s changed is that mebbie Celeste ain’t the one gonna fire the gun.”

“Wait,” Dash interrupted. “Does that mean she was intendin’ us t’ find out?”

“Can’t say,” Spike shrugged. “All I can say is that we did. And Twilight, you still got a duty. Do you intend t’ see it through?”

“Of course!” Twilight said.

“Then that’s that. Now if you don’t mind, I need ‘t finish this book here,” Spike patted the cover.

“Uh… you can read?” Dash asked.

“Gettin’ there. Figurin’ stuff out.”

“In… ten minutes?”

“Sure. I already know how t’ speak the words, and a phonetic system is far easier than what we got in Dragan. You guys only have 26 of them letter things. Do you even know how many characters Draganese has?”

“Um… that’s…” Dash muttered.

“Quiet, please, I’m trying to try to read.”

Twilight shook her head. There was a worrying shift in the wind. Something was changing again, and she felt it run down her spine.

Trouble was coming.

“Please, Doctor?” Angel begged, smiling and batting her eyes.

“Angelique, this might be a bit too dangerous. We’ve discussed this before.”

“But this isn’t like the others! She can protect me! And I’ll be there to patch her up! I do think she’ll need a lot of patching!”

“I… would agree with that,” Roderick said, sniffing. “But I do so worry for you. What if you get shot?”

“It’s called field experience for a reason, Doctor! I mean, you’ve worked out in the front lines before, with the caravans.”

“That was a long time ago, Angelique. A long time ago and a different stallion. I am very thankful now for my practice.”

“Please, Doctor. I’m ready. I want to see the world. You’ve taught me so much, but now it’s time for me to leave the nest and learn new things! Think of all the help I can bring to the people!”

“But why her? Of all people? I recommended that other nice young chap a few months ago, remember? The miner?”

“Oh, no, Doctor! That won’t do! Imagine me, stuck in a mine, sawing off legs every day due to silly rock accidents. No, I need variety. I need… a challenge!” Angel shook her hooves in front of her. “She’s been here only two weeks and already we’ve had one severe burning, one death by head shot, one death by being blown up to small pieces, and one who was just a small pile of mush.”

Angel shrugged. “Granted, that last one was Big Mac’s work, but it was enabled…”

“Angelique Binnes,” Roderick coughed. “Are you certain that this is all you are chasing after?”

“Whatever do you mean, Doctor?”

“I know you enjoy medical research. Some might say to an unhealthy degree. But perhaps there is something about this Twilight character whom you find… appealing?”

“Ah. Yes. Well.” Angel coughed as well, taking up a brave voice. “I believe she is brave, forward, and together. I believe that she will be able to teach me in ways that you could not. I believe she can teach me how to be a true woman.”

“Will you re-think your phrasing, my dear?” Roderick sighed. “You must watch that.”

“I mean… I think… I won’t get bored with her, Doctor. I think I quite like the danger. A little.” Angel smiled gently, a bit guiltily.

“Oh, Angel…”

“I will be back. I promise. Of course I will. It won’t be for too long.”

Doctor McShy waved his head around in defeat. “Fine. Fine. I can’t say no to you, silly bunny.”

“Oh, thank you!” Angel squealed. “Thank you! Take care of Gasparde for me!”

“But you’re going to have to convince her yourself, you hear?” he waggled his hoof. “I’m not getting involved with that.”

“No problem, Doctor,” Angel said, yanking a black cloak off a rack. “I’m sure she’ll be happy to have me.”


Twilight shivered in a phantom cold.

Trouble was coming.