“Wait, what?” gasped Scootaloo.
“This is way serious!” continued Sweetie Belle. “Plus, Miss Twilight said that she has a special ‘brand-new’ way to get back into Ponyville!”
“Did Ah jus’ hear sum quotation marks ‘r sumthin’ in jus’ now, Sweetie?” asked Apple Bloom.
“I’m pretty sure you did, Apple Bloom” answered Spike. “Mom, like, triple-underlined the word ‘brand’. I didn’t know that Mom was so big into… brands…”
The voice of the Dragon-cub on the other end of the tin can went silent, and Scootaloo’s feathered ears twitched lightly as she tried to make out any further dialogue. Seriously, what was so big about brands that got Spike so suddenly antsy?
The brand sat in a sconce besides an exceptionally plush bed, sending out the occasional shower of yellow-green sparks from the bright-green flame. Illuminated by the green-glowing flames on the brand were polished oak bookshelves stacked with thick-spined volumes of untold contents, a fireplace alight with sun-gold flames, and a gilded birdcage containing Philomena, the red-and-gold phoenix pet of Queen Celestia’s. Beside the Queen’s bed sat a small round table set with rolls of parchment, an inkwell and a single shining-white quill that was most likely one of the Queen’s own wing-feathers. Most absurdly, to anypony who did not know the Queen personally, one could see a radio set beside the inkwell, tuned to a station that was playing a record of the Cheese Sandwich Band.
Twilight Sparkle had very seldom been inside Queen Celestia’s private bed-chambers, at the very peak of Sol Invictus the Tower of the Sun. The first time was when she had turned a dozen-three years old, and she had been taken into the Queen’s chamber for a private celebration of her passage into adulthood. Very few were invited, only Spike and her parents (as unaware as they may have been of everything), and the cake was most exquisite, baked (and mostly ate) by Queen Celestia herself.
But Queen Celestia, Twilight Sparkle and Zecora Mrahaba were not in this bed-chamber for any sort of frivolity or activities of levity. Twilight had just sent a note through the brand of Spike’s magic-fire breath, to hopefully prepare her ward for what she planned next.
“May I inquiry, Twilight,” asked Queen Celestia, “what it is that you plan to do about the Alicorn Amulet?”
Twilight took the green flame torch in her dwimmer shimmer, levitating it in a glimmering aura of pink light.
‘Twilight Sparkle, may I ask,’ Zecora cut in, ‘what do you hope to accomplish with this task?’
Twilight offered a slightly sly smile…
Before flinging the brand into the fireplace, the golden flames instantly flaring out as green. Yellow and green sparks shot out across the chamber, Philomena cawing and flapping her wings in alarm.
Celestia and Zecora’s eyes widened in surprise, the former also bearing an admiring smile.
“Color me impressed, Twilight,” the Queen commented. “You presume to re-enter Ponyville through Spike’s magic-fire breath? I would expect no other solution from you.”
Twilight beamed back at the swan-white Alicorn.
“I try, Your Majesty. I really do. This is the one path back into Ponyville that Trixie has no knowledge of. I mean, it’s not like I’ve never sent things other than just letters to you through Spike’s magic-fire breath. I’ve sent vials of my samples of potions to you in the past as well, and… I definitely remember the time you sent us a live toad for NightMare Night.” Twilight’s tone went slightly accusatory, and Queen Celestia smiled sheepishly. “So anyway, I’ve been meaning to ask him to test this further, but one thing or another keeps either of us distracted. But this is an emergency, so I thought, why not? If it works, then Zecora and I have a fail-safe path back into Ponyville!”
“And if it fails…?” Queen Celestia looked down at Twilight with a dark fear.
Twilight’s ears flopped as she rubbed a foreleg with a cloven hoof.
“I… I’m sure that it’s gonna be fine, but… my real worry is about Spike. He’s never transported anything so large through his magic-fire before. He’s a Dragon, so he should be fine, but belching out Zecora and I might… give him a bad stomachache, or indigestion. And then what kind of mother would I be? If he gets a stomachache, then he might not see me as a fit mother because I let him get hurt like that, and then he’ll hate me, and then he might leave me to go back to Banefold, and the Dragons there will tear him apart to protect their hoards, and…”
The touch of warm primaries brought Twilight back to the Queen’s bed-chamber, and when she looked up into Celestia’s face all that she saw was concern.
“Twilight… Spike could never hate you. No child could ever despise their mother. And to Spike, you have only ever been his mother. I assure you, Spike would not blame you for whatever happens to him in this regard. But Twilight… I worry for you. You are a much more complicated creature than a toad. Your life, and Zecora’s, might be put on the line if you simply throw yourself into the fire.”
Twilight met Celestia’s eyes.
“I’ll go first. And if I make it through, I’ll send my note back to make it clear that Zecora can follow. But… on the off-chance that I don’t… please do what you can to make sure that Trixie doesn’t hurt my friends.”
Ignoring for the moment the looks of mild alarm on the faces of Zecora and Celestia, Twilight turned towards the fireplace burning with yellow-green fire. She swallowed her fear, took in a deep breath…
“What’s got you so spooked suddenly, Spikey?” asked Sweetie Belle, placing her tin can back inside her saddle-bag. Rarity looked like she was beginning to stir slightly, and she didn’t want to give her big sister an undue aneurysm because of the unsightly sight of a slightly squashed tin can.
“Well,” the mulberry drake began, “you see, Queen Celestia has a brand of my magic-fire breath in her bed-room, and she keeps it lit all the time. And she taught me how to use my own breath to send things to her, and she can send things to me through that brand.”
Sweetie Belle’s eyes widened in fascination “Oooh! It’s like some sort of instant mail thingy!”
Spike allowed himself a small prideful smile at that.
“Well, I do like to think I’ve helped out Mom with some of her assignments from the Queen. It gives her a bit of extra time to squeeze in one last little bit of research before turning it in.”
He looked back down to Twilight’s note in the last fading lights of the Sun, feeling an unsettling curling in his stomach already.
“But… I don’t just send or receive letters. I’ve also received a… a toad on NightMare Night. I mean, it was kinda funny looking back, but… Is Mom thinking what I think―?”
But whatever it was that Miss Twilight was thinking, it was lost on Sweetie Belle, as the small Dragon placed a claw on his belly as if he had eaten too much ice cream. Before the Unicorn filly could do more than take a step towards Spike in concern, the drake heaved and vomited out a shower of green fire and yellow sparks that covered the floor. Sweetie Belle squeaked in alarm and leapt up onto the drawer at the foot of the bed, eyes peeled in terror at the pile of flames on the floor in front of Spike. After several moments, the torrent of vomitous fire ceased, and almost immediately the flames on the floor dissipated, revealing…
“Urgh…” Twilight Sparkle rubbed her head ruefully. “I didn’t know how rough that was gonna be…”
“Miss Twilight!” squealed Sweetie Belle in joy, pronking on the spot.
Rarity stirred fitfully, graying eyes showing through the slits of her barely-open eyelids as she set her gaze upon the small white filly.
“Sweetie Belle… Please pipe down,” she gasped, scratching an ear slowly. “Wait. Is Twilight back…?”
Spike sat up, a claw at his chest.
“Yeah… She is… Wait. Mom!”
He ran up to Twilight and set his claws atop one of her forelegs. The lavender Unicorn smiled at her mulberry ward.
“Yes, Spike. I’m back. And… I’m sorry that you had to endure something so taxing as sending me out of your magic-fire breath.”
Spike coughed into a claw.
“I − I’ll be alright. I just… don’t think I can receive something bigger than a loaf of bread for a few hours.”
Twilight nuzzled Spike.
“You’ve earned a break from receiving things for a while, Spike. But first, I need you to send a letter.”
“Just a letter?” Spike replied, relieved. “Of course! Just… how long do you think it’ll take to write that letter?”
“Not long, I’m afraid,” Twilight replied. “It’s just a little postscript. But you can hang out with Rarity and Sweetie Belle until you think you’re ready.”
Spike hugged Twilight around the neck.
“You’re the best, Mom.”
Twilight smiled back at her son.
“Is everything alright up there, Rares?” called Rainbow Dash’s voice from the ground floor.
Sweetie Belle trotted up to the stairs and shouted down, “Your friend Twilight’s back, Rainbow Dash! She came back through Spike’s breath!”
Rarity veritably sat up from her position in Fluttershy’s bed and cocked shadowed eyes at her little sister.
“Please pipe down, Sweetie Belle,” she said crossly. “Your big sister’s in a bad spot and she needs peace and quiet.”
Sweetie Belle shrunk slightly, her ears flattening.
Twilight strode up to Rarity, taking a shriveled hoof in her own.
“Rarity… I’m so sorry that this had to happen to you. And I’m sorry that… I couldn’t make you young again…”
Rarity smiled feebly.
“That’s alright, darling. You tried your best for me, and I truly cherished the time that we spent together. There is so much still that I would have liked to have done, but these past three months have been so much more than what I could have imagined. I can rest now, knowing that I have been helpful to somepony.”
“No, Rarity!” Twilight said in a raised voice. “I won’t let you go! I think I have a way to get that Alicorn Amulet off of Trixie, a way to reverse what she’s done!”
“You mean… I could be young again?”
In a startling flash of motion for the elderly Unicorn’s part, Rarity practically flipped out of the bed and onto the carpeted floor.
“Rarity, you’re feeling better!” beamed Sweetie Belle.
“Better? Sweetie, I feel positively brimming with vim and vigor,” returned the alabaster Unicorn. “Far better than I’ve felt the past few hours. Now that the path back to my youth and beauty is clear, I can most assuredly woo Duke Prince Blueblood and make certain my family’s prosperity!”
Twilight wanted to make it clear to her Unicorn friend that the Duke was most assuredly not to be wooed, that Prince Blueblood was not the sort of pony to appreciate the act of seduction by any pony who possessed lesser wealth than his stockbrokers. She made to warn her,
“Well, what are we waiting for?” interjected Spike, leading Rarity to the steps only hooves away from the foot of the bed. “Let’s get everypony together and put a stop to Trixie!”
“Oh! Twilight, darling,” asked Rarity, a hoof down the steps already, “what is it that you plan to do to put that wretched Unicorn in her place?”
Brought back to the greater objective, Twilight took in a deep breath and said,
“The Elements of Harmony.”
Sweetie gasped, “I’ll tell Apple Bloom to tell Applejack to gather everypony up!”
Twilight smiled softly as the little filly pulled open her saddle-bag, Rarity descending the stairs with Spike on her heels. Then, curiously, Sweetie Belle started to screw up her face, as though she was trying to remember something gnawing at the back of her mind. The grooves in her stubby alicorn let out intermittent flashes of a pale harlequin-green.
“Uhh, do you need help with that?” Twilight asked, taking a step forward.
“Nuh-uh! I got this!” replied Sweetie Belle, despite the fact that she was sweating mildly, tongue sticking out between her teeth. Sighing and smiling sadly at the filly’s determinacy, Twilight allowed herself a few moments to seat herself just behind the little Unicorn, her leonine tail curling around her forehooves as Sweetie Belle sagged with a ragged sigh.
“I don’t got this,” breathed Sweetie Belle. “Can you help me grab the can with magic, Miss Twilight?”
“I can try. I think of myself as more of a student than a teacher, though,” replied Twilight. “The trick to taking something in your dwimmer shimmer, is to use your horn to reach through the mana in the air. Use your horn as a conduit through the mana, and draw the can to yourself through the mana.”
Eyebrows creased in confusion, Sweetie Belle nonetheless looked down upon her open saddle-bag. Her expression became tense with concentration as she stared down at the tin can in the recesses of her bag. Her horn flickered a pale green, and Twilight beamed to herself at the sight of an identical greenish glow in Sweetie’s bag. Sweetie Belle must have noticed it as well, for her face lit up like the Sun.
Twilight smiled, but said nothing. Silence had worked with her when Queen Celestia first taught her the basics of a Unicorn’s psychokinesis. It was not apathy, but allowing her to figure out the technique of how to do it on her own without undue criticism or prying encouragement. Of course, Twilight was not naïve enough to presume that this was the only technique that Queen Celestia had used when training her Unicorn protégés, but it was simply the one she was the most familiar with, and so the first one she was keen on applying.
And, judging by the wondrous look on Sweetie Belle’s face as the tin can hovered in front of her in a pale-green shimmer, it was the right sort of teaching method for Sweetie Belle as well.
“Rarity, look!” Sweetie Belle squeaked, galloping down the steps as fast as she could, her saddle-bag left behind beside the bed. Shrugging slightly, Twilight followed Sweetie Belle down the stairs with her letter to Spike held in her dwimmer shimmer.
In the living room she found clusters of all sorts of brush-animals huddled around, from mice to badgers to bushwoolies. Chittering and chirping and such filled the room, mostly drowned out by the sounds of Rainbow Dash punching a pillow with her forehooves, trying to reach around her endlessly flapping belly-wings.
Twilight was startled. She had never seen the cerulean Pegasus so agitated, not even when her wings had been replaced by fins when she went to Aquastria. Her eyes were red, and the fur around her eyes looked matted and damp. Her teeth were ground together and her lips drawn back, the molars visible behind the bars of her mouth.
“What’s wrong with Rainbow Dash, Spikey?” Sweetie Belle asked timidly, the tin can clinking to the floor forgotten.
“Search me,” shrugged Spike. “I’m just wondering where Fluttershy is…”
Twilight tentatively approached the Pegasus tied to the couch. How had that happened? It was good, perhaps, to keep her from flapping all about the place and potentially hurting herself or others. Looking closely at the knot-work, Twilight wordlessly filed Spike away as the most likely candidate for tying Rainbow Dash down. Putting these thoughts out of her mind, she addressed the Pegasus,
“Flutters broke off the engagement.”
The pillow flumped to the floor as it rolled off of Rainbow’s extended forehoof. Even the chitter-chatter of the animals around the cottage went silent.
“I… I’m so sorry, darling,” said Rarity, a sympathetic look on her elderly face.
“Yeah, well, doesn’t look like she is,” Rainbow Dash grumbled, her eyes shifting towards the front door.
“She’s outside?” Twilight asked, and Rainbow nodded. The lavender Unicorn pressed, “Did she say why she wanted to break up?”
Rainbow smacked at her flapping wings in a huff.
“She said some horse-apples about how my saving Rarity with a Sonic Rainboom meant that I saw her only as a friend, and that we were moving too fast, which is total horse-feathers ‘cause she was the one who proposed to me!”
“Rainbow Dash, Rainbow Dash, Rainbow Dash,” sighed Rarity. “Do you truly understand a lady’s heart? Fluttershy’s proposal was not because she wanted to enter your life wholesale, but because she wanted your life to become one with her own. Love and marriage is about give-and-take, and if one party feels that there is an imbalance in what is desired… well, perhaps dear Fluttershy would rather just be friends.”
“But where did this come from? Why’s she saying all this now?” asked Rainbow Dash, unable to keep a pleading tone out of her voice. “I mean, it’s been a month since NightMare Moon and everything is peachy-keen!”
“I think,” interjected Twilight, with a hoof on her chin, “that that might be why she cut things off with you, Rainbow. I can’t really speak for her, though, and she…” Twilight looked towards the front door. “She really must be hurt to have done this.”
“Yeah, it did take her a bit to get it out,” Rainbow Dash breathed, with a slight shrug of her forelegs.
The rope tying Rainbow to the couch lit up pink, the knot unraveling and coiling to the floor. Rainbow Dash slid off the couch onto the floor, her wings sweeping at the round carpet. She looked up at Twilight with an unusual look for the brash Pegasus: wonder.
Twilight offered a sympathetic smile.
“Go talk things out with her,” she said shortly. “I’m sure that she still wants to be in your life, still wants you in her life.”
Flipping and struggling because of her misplaced wings, Rainbow nonetheless made it to the front door (which opened at the glow of Twilight’s dwimmer shimmer). Settling for an odd traipsing sort of canter, Rainbow Dash stepped out into Fluttershy’s garden, the door closing gently behind her.
“I’m sure they’ll be fine,” Twilight said, ostensibly to Spike, Rarity and Sweetie Belle. Of course, Twilight knew that she had been wrong before, many more times than she would like to admit. She could only hope that she was not tempting fate with such a statement.
With a sigh, she placed the letter upon Fluttershy’s table and procured a quill from a side-table.
Fluttershy was hunched over by the chicken coop, staring blankly at a dark patch in the dirt. Some hens were pecking about for the odd bit of feed that the others had not touched; Rainbow did not recall most of their names, though it seemed that Elizabeak was not amongst them. That particularly willful hen seemed to be cooped up in the… well, in the coop. Putting errant chickens out of her mind, Rainbow Dash stepped up behind the slim Pegasus mare.
“Please go away, Dashie,” snapped Fluttershy without looking up. Her voice was cracking, and her eyes were closed. “Please go, before I hurt you more.”
Rainbow furrowed her eyebrows.
“I’m not going anywhere, not until you stop acting so sappy.”
Fluttershy opened her eyes. A faint cyan glimmered in her irises; she was Staring at nothing in particular, but every time a hen crossed her line of vision, it quailed, let out a frightful cluck and darted away.
“I don’t want to lose you, Dashie, but… after NightMare Moon, I didn’t feel so scared about losing you. I clung to you when I thought that we would die from the cold and hunger. And without that, I just…” She collapsed onto her barrel, burying her face in her mane and forehooves. “I’m so sorry I put you through that, Dashie!”
Rainbow sat herself down beside the shaking mare, running her primaries through the pinkish down in the small of Fluttershy’s back. The shivering hiccuping sobs started to ebb.
“I’m sorry, too. I… really shouldn’t have been so forceful. I was just so happy to be so in love with somepony, especially somepony I’d known for all my life. You’re such an awesome pony, Fluttershy, way more awesome than I am. I’d have never been able to keep my cool sandwiched between a chimera and a manticore, but you did it. I’d never have been able to stand my ground against a hemolupe, but you did it. Me… I just fly fast. I’ve got scars and bruises I’ll remember, but that’s just to try and get my flying moves ready to impress the Wonderbolts. You got your scars…” Rainbow Dash paused to look over the scratch and bite scars all over Fluttershy’s frame, earned over a lifetime of animal care. “You got yours helping out all your favorite little critters − and even some big critters like Harry. If that don’t take guts, I don’t know what does.
“Plus, you had the guts to tell me when enough was enough. I might be, like, the Element of Honesty, but I don’t know if I’d have had the guts to do that. I’m so quick to tell Twilight when her egghead is showing, but… I have to struggle to admit to others that I read Daring Do.” She rolled over onto her back, letting her wings beat at the evening sky. “I’m spineless.”
Fluttershy’s divine face appeared upside-down over her. Was she smiling? The corners of her mouth were curved towards her eyes…
“You’re not spineless, Dashie. Nopony else would have stood up for somepony like me against Hoops and his gang. Your parents practically adopted me when mine were… less willing to accept me for me. You kept me going all over the world when we were helping Twilight out with the whole NightMare Moon disaster. And… you are one of the bravest ponies I’ve ever met. Nopony else would have dove off that cliff to save somepony else who they’d been fighting with.”
Rainbow Dash smirked sadly.
“You give me way too much credit.”
Fluttershy shook her head.
“You’re selling yourself short, Dashie. I… well, I love you for… I mean, I just… I…”
Emboldened, Rainbow Dash lifted herself up and pecked Fluttershy on the lips.
“You talk too much.”
Blushing pink and smiling demurely, Fluttershy attempted to draw her mane over her eyes. Rainbow Dash felt a shoot of hot affection in her chest.
“You… you need to brush your teeth more often,” Fluttershy murmured.
Rainbow Dash laughed, “Like Mary hasn’t told me that a million times every time you’s drag me out to Smith-Noir Dental.”
Fluttershy giggled behind her mane, “It’s because I care about you.”
Rainbow looked up at Fluttershy.
“So,” she asked, “we’re still friends, right?”
“Mm-hmm. Still friends.”
“And… is that all we’ll ever be?”
Fluttershy looked off towards Ponyville.
“I… don’t know. We’ve only ever been with each other. I know it hurts to stop this thing we have, but… I think you need to see other ponies, Dashie, see if I really am the one for you. And, if you still want me after all of that… you know where I’ll be waiting.”
Rainbow brought up her forelegs and wrapped them around Fluttershy’s neck − a difficult task with the new placement of her wings courtesy of Trixie − and she nuzzled the shy Pegasus with a broad grin.
“You’re the best, Flutters.”
I made it fine. Stay with Queen Celestia, though. I’ll be back with the Amulet… I hope.
PS: Don’t answer back. Spike’s gastrointestinal system needs a break.
“That’s it?” Spike asked, quirking a scaly eyebrow at the addendum his mother had made. “That was the postscript you were talking about? Only you could write a postscript within a postscript…”
“I suppose. Now, if you would do the honors, Spike?” she said, passing the scroll to Spike in her dwimmer shimmer. Taking it in a claw, Spike smirked as he breathed a cloud of green fire over the scroll, which erupted in a cloud of yellow sparkles and disappeared in a cloud of bright-green smoke.
Spike wiped his claws together with a smile on his face.
“Good job, Spike,” Twilight smiled back. “Even if Owlowiscious is taking up a lot of your more menial jobs as Number One Assistant, there are just some things only you can do.”
“Hey Apple Bloom, you there?” Sweetie Belle said into her tin can.
“Pickin’ ya up loud an’ clear, Sweetie Belle,” came the drawling twang of Apple Bloom’s voice. “Anythin’ happen on yer end since ya cut out?”
“Is Rainbow Dash there? Can I talk to her? What’s going on?” interjected Scootaloo, so loudly that the can actually shook with her voice.
“Girls,” Sweetie Belle rubbed an ear painfully, “something big’s happening out here. Spike just spat out Twilight in a cloud of green smoke and―”
“Twilight’s back?” interrupted Apple Bloom.
“Yeah, she is, and she needs to get the Elements of Harmony all together to give that Unicorn lady the boot!”
“Ah gotta tell Applejack ta git ev’rypony t’gether… an’ not ta git stepped on.”
The tinny sound of scampering hooves and a slamming door came from Sweetie’s tin can.
“So, uhh,” came Babs’s voice, “I guess I’ll foal-sit dis heah can till Apple Bloom gets back.”
“Aww, don’t be like that, Babs,” cooed Sweetie Belle. “What could possibly happen to a tin can at Sweet Apple Acres?”
“Well, uhh… a goat could chew on it.”
“Actually,” Twilight cut in, “goats don’t eat cans. That stereotype is derived from multiple sightings of goats chewing the paper and paper adhesive off of tin cans. Goats are also actually very picky eaters; they’d sooner urinate on hay than to eat it.”
“Ugh, way to put me off of hay forever, Book-Horse,” came a scratchy voice from the front door.
Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy had strode back in, a spring back in the cerulean mare’s step that did not just come from her displaced wings and a serene joy in the movement of the yellow Pegasus.
“Rainbow Dash… Fluttershy…” Twilight chuckled awkwardly. “So… How was your talk, may I ask?”
Fluttershy smiled at her fellow Pegasus.
“We’re just fine.”
“She means that we’ll just be friends,” added Rainbow Dash, flapping shakily into the air.
“Is that Rainbow Dash? the tin can said in Scootaloo’s voice. “You guys are gonna get the Elements together so you can kick Trixie’s flank, aren’t ya? You go get her, Rainbow Dash!”
Rainbow Dash smirked at the tin can perched on Fluttershy’s table and said, “You bet that I’ll do that, squirt! But wait. What was that about the Elements of Harmony?”
“I’ll explain at the Golden Oak Library. I don’t sense any anti-winking wards inside this bubble, which means that Trixie just wants to prevent anypony from getting in or out. So it should be safe for me to wink out there.”
“And the rest of us?” asked Rarity.
“You can wink out with me to the Library, Rarity; the fewer of our group seen gathering in one place, the less suspicious Trixie will be. You’re with me too, Spike. I’ll wink out behind Sugarcube Corner and collect Pinkie Pie. You two can meet me there after you’ve…” She cleared her throat. “Picked up Applejack.”
“Wait, what about me?” Sweetie Belle asked indignantly.
“You,” answered Rarity, “are going straight back to Mother and Father. There is no way I am leaving my little sister here alone with all of Fluttershy’s animals.”
“Oh, come on!”
Spike and the six Bearers of the Elements sat around the table in the center of the Golden Oak Library. Owlowiscious hooted beside the agave and cactus at the window. Candlelight flickered about the room, keeping the proceedings well-lit, glinting off of the golden carcanets four of them wore, and the golden tiara worn by the head of their party.
“So, I figured that if the Elements of Harmony could expunge a negative possessive influence from Queen Selena,” Twilight explained, “they can very easily be used to remove the Alicorn Amulet from Trixie Lulamoon.”
“Sounds right plausible ‘f ya ask me,” answered Applejack, seated on the edge of the table atop the ruby of the Element of Loyalty. “An’ darn-tootin’ if it couldn’ come fast enough. Ev’rything’s jus’ too dang big like this!”
Pinkie Pie nodded vigorously. The poor mare had not taken well to being muted. Her mane, ordinarily frizzy, was now almost lank and flat despite her colors still being as vibrant as ever. Her ears laid flat against her head, and she continually massaged her throat with a forehoof, occasionally nibbling at an errant feather around her fetlocks.
“Our little circle has been quite ill affected by that Alicorn Amulet,” Rarity said, “but from how you described it, darling, it sounds as though dear Trixie is the most wounded party here. To be so consumed by a trinket that you wear… It’s just wretched to consider!”
“Oh, like you don’t get consumed by the clothes you wear,” Rainbow Dash quipped, earning a wrinkly glare from the aged Unicorn.
“Oh, come off it, Rainbow Dash. Being devoured by clothes… that sounds like some absurdist cartoon out of Neighpon!”
“Umm…” Fluttershy cut in. “Umm, shouldn’t we be getting the Elements to Trixie?”
“Fluttershy’s right,” Twilight said. “The sooner we get that Amulet off of her, the better. Spike,” she addressed her mulberry drake son, “You’re going to stay here and safe from Trixie. Things could get messy.”
Spike sighed. “Sure thing, Mom.”
As it turned out, it was not terribly difficult to locate Trixie. She had spent the past few hours in Town Square, apparently setting off great magical blasts in every direction, testing the limits of her power and declaiming her greatness and powerfulness. Crimson flashes betrayed her location, which may have been what she wanted; she craved attention, after all. The Mayor of Ponyville and Queen Selena were now joined by Diamond Tiara, in a golden cage locked with a silver key.
Trixie looked terrible. Her coat had paled to a faint silvery blue, her mane and the skirt of her tail now white and wispy. The whites of her eyes had faded to darkest gray. Her cape on her back flared up now, looking more like star-spangled bat’s wings than anything how.
“Behold, you foals!” she shouted, her voice echoing through all of Ponyville. “Behold the absolute power of The Almighty And Legendary Equivoque! Behold!”
The formerly azure Unicorn cocked a faded eyebrow at the lavender mare standing indignantly in the middle of one of the offshooting roads. Around her stood (or flew) four other mares, and a golden necklace set with an apple-shaped ruby laid around a miniscule palomino.
“You never left, then. You continue to irk Equivoque with your presence…!”
“Come off it, Trixie,” Twilight snapped, “if that’s even really your name. Take off that Amulet.”
“Yes, dear,” added Rarity. “Your neck was more fair without it.”
Trixie let out a high laugh.
“Equivoque could never part with a piece of herself, not even to a figment like you! You have no idea what power it is that the Almighty Equivoque has, but then… nopony truly knows power save what Equivoque Herself knows!”
“Git off yer high horse!” squeaked Applejack’s voice. “That Amulet’s no good fer anypony, not even one as no-good as yerself!”
“Equivoque is the only good! Without Her, there is nothing! No laughter, no joy, nothing! It is only when She comes that anything means anything! Even the gaudy trinkets you bear are only so gaudy because Equivoque demands that they be too good for any of you!”
Twilight glanced back at her friends.
“There’s no reasoning with her while she wears that Amulet,” she said. “Alright, girls! It’s time for Harmony to shine!”
The six Bearers closed their eyes and concentrated on their Element, and the gemstone set into each golden trinket began to glow with their inner light. Trixie gazed apathetically at the rising glow of the half-dozen colors of the Elements of Harmony. In a flash of bright-white light from six pairs of eyes, a brilliant six-colored rainbow blasted out in a parabolic arc from the Element of Magic, high into the air over the highest buildings of Ponyville and descending down onto Trixie.
Light filled all of Ponyville, and most everypony had to shield their eyes.
Blinking away spots, Twilight looked at the dark cloud of smoke that now emanated from where Trixie had stood. What had happened…? This wasn’t like what happened with NightMare Moon… was it? She and her fellow Bearers were knocked out in the moments after the Miasma was defeated.
The smoke swept itself up in a whirlwind, pale-blue lightning crackling across it as it fizzled away. Trixie stood there, completely unaffected, the Alicorn Amulet glinting in the starlight.
“What…?” Twilight gasped with jaw agape. “But… How could the Elements of Harmony not do anything…?”
“That was a very pretty light-show, Twilight Sparkle,” she sneered, “but if you were hoping to impress The Almighty And Legendary Equivoque, then you were sorely mistaken. She will be merciful, though, and allow you to remain in Ponyville, under Her gaze. Equivoque will not be so cruel as to banish you from Her presence; She is not petty as you are, Great Enemy Twilight Sparkle.”
“You’re tricking us!” snapped Rainbow Dash, attempting to fly up and gain high ground on Trixie… a feat made all the more challenging by her uncooperative wings. Despite her wobbly posture in the air, she maintained a strong glare at the errant Unicorn. “You have to be, you… you trickster!”
“Do not stand above Trixie, you fool!” snarled Trixie, sending a bolt of red light at Rainbow Dash, whose belly-wings disappeared in a flash of light. The cerulean Pegasus dropped to the earth, and it quickly became clear that she was not completely de-winged. Rather, her wings had taken the place of her ears, tiny little things that flapped ineffectually.
“Rainbow Dash!” cried Fluttershy.
Rainbow Dash gave no indication that she had heard Fluttershy; had she lost her hearing with her ears?
“What did you do, Trixie?” she snapped. “I can’t hear anything, you pansy! Make me hear things again!”
“The Great And Powerful Trixie suffers no neighsayers! Flying is clearly on your mind a lot, so Trixie has placed your wings upon your head!”
“Hey, One-Trick-Horse, I can’t read lips,” Rainbow growled, her head-wings twitching. “Mind fixing my ears?”
“Trixie,” Twilight pleaded, “you’re going to be in so much trouble. Please take of the Amulet and let Queen Selena go.”
Trixie lazily rubbed a hoof along the Amulet.
“Trixie is not answerable to anypony, not when such power lies at her beck-and-call. Who can possibly challenge The Amazing Hocus-Pocus?”
“Stop callin’ yerself all diff’rent sortsa names!” hissed Applejack, pointing at Trixie from atop the Element of Loyalty.
“The Amazing Hocus-Pocus is an enigma, a shroud to all. She does not answer to a single name, not for all those who have seen her magnificent performances. And now that She has achieved her true power by reuniting with this lost piece of herself,” she grinned down at the Amulet, its crimson light reflecting in her pupils, lightning arcing through her mane and skirt, “she will show all of the fools of this world that they are themselves the greatest illusion of all!”
Twilight cowed slightly, a pink dwimmer-shield unconsciously raising itself between herself, her friends and Trixie. This mad mare, literally mad with power, with profound identity issues to boot, was not content with merely humiliating Twilight anymore. No…
Equestria, and all of Harmonia, would not be safe, if Trixie lasted longer than the Alicorn Amulet would allow…
Zecora looked down upon Ponyville through a telescope on Queen Celestia’s balcony. The item in question had been enchanted to allow the user to clearly view whatever it was that they gazed upon in perfect clarity, as if in a perfectly clear day.
Her brow furrowed in concern.
“What is it?” Celestia asked worriedly. “Is my sister alright? How is Twilight?”
‘The time to come bodes ill for all,’ Zecora breathed, ‘for the Alicorn Amulet did not fall. The power of Harmony was not enough, and Trixie’s reigns grows ever more rough.’
Queen Celestia hung her head.
“I should have thought that this would happen,” she sighed. “The Alicorn Amulet drives its wearer towards absolute dominion. Dominion, order, harmony… of course the Elements would not be effective against it.
“The Alicorn Amulet is never worn; it is the pony who is worn by the Amulet. And to ensnare a pony’s soul, it requires that they use its unmatchable power. The more a pony uses it, the deeper they fall into its thrall. And I fear that Trixie may be in too deep to emerge unscathed.”
‘Has anypony escaped its grip?’ asked Zecora. ‘Or did all it wore into its maw slip?’
“Not all who wore it were so far gone as to be unaware of what they’d become,” Celestia answered, “but the act of removing oneself from the Amulet… has never ended well. Death would be preferable to those who removed it in the past.” The queenly Alicorn shuddered. “There is no such pain that I would wish upon anybody.”
Celestia set her eyes upon the captive hamlet of Ponyville.
“Our options are running dry. I shall summon the Concord Flame to our aid.”
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