by Revenant Wings


It had been so long since he felt like this.

Trees flashed by on either side, some coming to within inches of his flank and threatening to reach out and grab him or scratch him. The biting wind rushed through his tail and made it whip around in the wind, the biting cold tearing through his coat and reminding him how alive he was. He could hear the almost gentle sound the skis made as they glided over the densely-packed snow, almost as though the mountains themselves were welcoming him back.

He never felt so fine and free in his life. This… this is what he was born to do. This is how he’d gotten his talent, how he got his cutie mark. He was special; there were few others who could ride the snow the way he could, and he took pride in that fact.

He skidded to a stop at the base of the hill and looked back over his run. Night Glider had so graciously air-dropped him at the top of the snow-capped mountain, and he’d spent the last three minutes winding his way down his own path. He could still see the trails that he made through the snow, the winding path through the dense forests. Out of breath, he sighed happily and looked down to check his skis.

He looked down and saw a set of parallel bars in the snow. It looked like an equals sign.

In sameness, there is peace. Exceptionalism is a lie.

He shook his head to clear his thoughts. It was bad enough that he lived under that philosophy for almost three years. Now his own skis were betraying him. He gingerly stepped out of the straps and heaved them over his shoulder, beginning his walk back to the village.

Two neat little rows of houses greeted him almost as soon as he walked out of the snow. The sun felt warm on his back but the effect was muted by the presence of grey clouds that dulled the sky. It felt as though the colors of everything were muted, and even his own coat, the bright sparkling white of new snow, felt as though it lost its sheen. He walked down the switchbacks, a whole line of equal bars, from the top of the ridge back into the valley.

The town was setting up for a special occasion. It had been a month since Starlight Glimmer had been run out of town, but now they were coming together to celebrate the start of a new family in marriage and the welcome of yet another, an outcast from another town who came seeking shelter. There were many reasons to celebrate; the marriage was a sign of the ponies forming true and lasting friendships already at one month since their formerly captive state, and the new family were skilled farmers who were already mapping out lands to grow wheat and corn and lettuce. And, according to them, more families were on the way, including more farmers.

Difference is frustration. To excel is to fail.

For a moment, he stood at the entrance of the village, contemplating the skis over his back. Everyone here had something they could do to help the town. There were farmers, bakers, clothing makers, a harrier, construction workers, cooks, seamstresses… They got up every day and rebuilt the town piece by piece, while he… he went outside of town and skied.

He nearly chucked the skis away if it weren’t for the sight of the blue unicorn coming towards him.

“Double Diamond!” the bright blue stallion with a poofy mane called. “How was your run today?”

Double Diamond shrugged. “It was alright. How are things going here in the village, Party Favor?”

“Great!” Party Favor responded cheerfully. “Me and Sugar Belle have been planning what sort of treats we’ll want at the reception, and we’ve already talked to Nicoise about doing the catering. Otherwise, there’s supposed to be a meeting about Wheat Stalk and Lettuce Leaf’s new home this evening, as well as three other homes for new arrivals.”

“Sounds good. I’ll probably head over to the meeting this evening, then.”

“Have you seen the laws Civil Servant and Quick Quill posted?”

“Yeah. Most of them sound pretty good. I liked the idea about redirecting the river to get more farm land. I heard the construction ponies were already working on a plan.”

“Hey,” Party Favor said, nudging Double Diamond with a hoof. “Gotta give credit to the stallion who thought that up. I mean, it really is brilliant.”

“Yeah, sure. It’s just a thought, and I’ve seen it happen elsewhere before.”

Party Favor kept his smile, but cocked a single eyebrow. “You alright there? I mean, I can tell you’re happy about it, but you just don't sound too happy about it.”

Double Diamond shook his head and tried his best to put on a smile of his own. “I’m good. I’ve just been thinking about things.”

“Oh, alright. But hey, you need someone to talk to, you come over any time you want. We’re all friends now. Real friends, too. You can come over and tell me about it if you want to.”

The smile lessened, but now it was genuine. “Thanks. Maybe I’ll stop by later. Right now, I want to clean and polish my skis.”

“Alright. I’ll probably be at Sugar Belle’s or with Garter Stitch trying to make more banners and streamers; we only had the ones left over from when Starlight Glimmer was around and I wanna try and make a few bright colored ones.”

Double Diamond nodded. “Alright. I guess I’ll see you around then.”

“Later!” Party Favor called.

He couldn’t throw the skis away now, not that Party Favor had seen him with them. He ended up taking them back to his house and opened the door.

The house was small. One room contained a kitchen, a sitting area, and his bed hidden behind a bookshelf. Double Diamond pulled a small chest out from under his bed and opened it, revealing a finely-knit cloth and a small bottle of wax. He gently poured some of the wax onto the towel and pulled one of his skis over to him, stroking the ski and cleaning off the small imperfections that came with gliding through snow at over fifty miles an hour.

Double Diamond looked around his house. He had taken great pains to remove some of the signs of his former life. The windows had plain drapes to prevent the equal shadows being cast on the floor. The bookshelf was empty save one single book, a dusty thing that sat in a corner and had a bunch of short stories in it; the others were burned in a fire, along with all other equal books found in the village. Broken glass still remained in one corner where a picture frame with an equal sign had been smashed to pieces. The hard wood floors had no covering on them after all the equal rugs were taken out. The furniture had been purposefully rearranged so that it didn’t cover the same spots as anypony else’s.

A few liked the original design of the homes, but most had done the same as he had. Sugar Belle purposefully rearranged the tables in her shop. Party Favor’s own house was absolute chaos and the mess of party supplies on the floor was never the same. Night Glider had arranged everything into circles, taking the first opportunity she could to buy a round table and a round bed from the local furniture maker.

But, Double Diamond wondered as he set aside one ski and picked up the other, they all seemed to have moved on fine. Sugar Belle and Party Favor were getting married from their friendship, and they ran a rather more cheerful shop than existed anywhere else that Double Diamond could remember and reminded him of the short time he spent in Rainbow Falls. Night Glider had a beautiful house that recently was changed to have a glass circle in the top, and inside at night you could see millions of stars if you laid on your back and stared up, which Night Glider seemed to do often.

But Double Diamond himself had nightmares that often caused him to wake up thrashing. He wagered he was among the first five that Starlight had found, and he’d fallen for it so easily. Her words had been magnetic, her smile charming, her philosophy wormed its way into his mind so smoothly. For three years, it felt, he was not of his own mind but walked through life as though it was a dream. It was only when Starlight had been revealed as a hypocrite that he became fully and truly angry and woke himself up from it.

Every once in a while he had to pinch himself to remind himself he wasn’t dreaming anymore.

Choose equality as your special talent. Accept your limitations, and happiness will follow.

Every once in a while, if he let his mind still wander, her sayings still echoed in his mind. They nagged at him. They had been welcoming thoughts once, and every once in a while he could still hear a little voice whispering in the back of his mind, trying to get him to come back. He remembered one time soon after Starlight had left that Sugar Belle had come over to see him and found him staring with glazed eyes at his skis on the floor in the shape of an equal sign and constantly mumbling those phrases. He never did that anymore, but he couldn’t rid himself of those voices.

Double Diamond finished polishing the second ski and picked them up. He placed them on the rack so that they formed almost a single line, the two shoes and harnesses for his hooves pointing in opposite directions. The single line, looking like a minus symbol, was a way of reminding himself of what he was trying to do every day: get that part of his life out of him.

A series of short knocks brought Double Diamond out of his reverie. “Coming!” he called. He placed the towel and wax in their chest and put it back under the bed before approaching the door.

Double Diamond opened the door to see Night Glider there, the dark blue pegasus smiling politely and making sure not to show any teeth. It was kind of an unwritten agreement that no one smiled too large because it reminded them of what happened before.

“Hey, Night Glider,” Double Diamond said politely.

“Hey, Double D. You mind if I come in for a moment?”

“Sure.” Double Diamond stepped out of the way and let Night Glider in.

Night Glider took a few steps in and looked around. She went over to the kitchen, looked at his bed, and sat down on the couch. “Well, you’ve got a nice place,” she said.

“Yeah. It works.”

Night Glider nodded. “Look, I don’t know how much you know, but there’s a meeting on tonight.”

Double Diamond nodded. “We’re supposed to be figuring out where to put the four new families that are supposed to be coming in.”

Night Glider nodded again. “Yeah, but there’s one more thing on the agenda.”

“What’s that?”

“There’s been an almost uniform consensus: Starlight Glimmer’s house needs to be destroyed, along with almost everything in it.”

“Why almost everything? Is there something someone found in there?”

“Archive Record wanted to keep a few books,” Night Glider said, lying down on her back on the couch and staring up to the ceiling. “He found some on Equestrian history and some on simple biology and psychology in there. He has plans for wanting to build a library. But aside from that, some are saying we need to set the place on fire and let it burn to the ground.”

Double Diamond opened a window and looked out at the house at the end of the two rows. No one had stayed in there for a month, and none had even bothered to go in until a few days ago. Double Diamond guessed Archive was one of the ponies that inspected it.

“They also want to try and vote in some new laws,” Night Glider continued. “Civil Servant and Quick Quill are the ones who proposed them.”

“Yeah, they’ve put them up on the bulletin board outside Civil Servant’s house,” Double Diamond agreed. “Most are quite normal from what I remember, and at least it prevents others from trying to pull the same thing without going through a longer process.”

“Yeah. But they posted a new one out there today. And, from what I’ve heard from ponies around town, they’re probably going to be in favor of it.”

Double Diamond turned around and looked at Night Glider. She was still on her back, but now she was facing him.

“They want to put you as the de facto leader in times of crisis.”

Double Diamond’s eyes widened. “Me? No… you can’t be serious?”

Night Glider nodded. “The addendum states that, since you led the charge against Starlight Glimmer when she fled town and because you seem to currently be leading the reconstruction, that you would be the best candidate for—”

Exceptionalism is a lie. Difference is frustration.

“I’m not a leader,” Double Diamond said swiftly, cutting off Night Glider. “I… I’m as flawed as any pony else. I do nothing but ski almost all day lately. My cutie mark isn’t for leading a group of townsponies.”

Night Glider sat up. “It’s more than that, isn’t it?”

Night Glider had arrived soon after Double Diamond had. She wasn’t among the first wave, but rather had been in between the first and second; her arrival heralded another group shortly afterwards. She’d taken to it almost as quickly as he had, but had broken out of it quicker than he had. They knew each other for over three years now, so Double Diamond wasn’t surprised when she already saw through him. He sighed and lowered his eyes from her gaze.

“I don’t have a talent that fits with the others. Everypony else around here seems to have a talent that helps do something. I… I leave town every day and both do something that nopony else can do and do nothing to help this town.”

“Who was it that suggested the idea of town meetings to help us decide on things? Who was it that decided to put everything to a vote? Who was it that helped encourage the marriage of Party Favor and Sugar Belle?” Night Glider looked tenderly at him. “They’re small things, but they’re helping us to move on. No one seems to be complaining about putting you in charge.”

Double Diamond sighed and looked out the window at the lone house again.

“Civil Servant and Quick Quill said they’d be eager to help you. And me, Party Favor, and Sugar Belle are all here for you, as well. I’m sure there’s others who feel the same way.”

Double Diamond nodded. “I… I need time to think about it. I don’t think I can do it.”

Night Glider smiled at him. “Think about it this way. You’re good at skiing. You look ahead and can see obstacles down the road, otherwise you’ll crash and hurt yourself from not paying attention. Maybe you’ll excel at skiing, but it gives you a better chance of leading us than almost anyone else in the village.”

“I don’t see why Civil Servant can’t. He’s older and has more experience.”

“He’s too preoccupied with law and not so much with the finer details. If there was one thing Starlight might have taught you, it was how to run a town.”

“I’m younger than he is, and he’s the one that created most of the laws, from what I hear.”

“True, true…” Night Glider got up and headed for the door. “But he hasn’t yet learned to look beyond their creation.”

Before Double Diamond could protest, Night Glider had left.

In sameness, there is peace… To excel is to fail… Accept your limitations, and happiness will follow… Choose equality as your special talent…

Double Diamond woke up in a cold sweat. The sun was only just beginning to cast orange and gold shadows along the walls. Outside, ponies were setting up a stand and a small table for the night’s meeting. Sugar Belle and Nicoise Salad were setting up other tables filled with sandwiches and drinks and cupcakes and cookies, a communal dinner for the weekly town meeting.

Again, he’d had those dreams where the constant voices came to him. He felt their pull, their sway over him. He didn’t want to be better than other ponies, he didn’t want to be the one in the village who had the odd cutie mark. Perhaps things were better when everything was equal, at least then he didn’t have the confusion he had now. Starlight had always known what to do, while he went through life like any other pony would have.

He had to bang his head on the wall to force the still seductive thoughts out of his head.

There was still time before the meeting. Double Diamond left his house and walked down a few houses to where Party Favor’s house stood. A few changes had been made to the front facing the street; a few painted balloons stood on the window, a few actual balloons were tied around the lamp next to the door, and streamers stood at the top of the doorway. Double Diamond knocked on the door a few times and waited.

He wasn’t disappointed. Party Favor stuck his head out the door a few seconds later. “You’re lucky you caught me here. Garter Stitch actually met me here. She left not long ago.”

“Cool. Um… do you have a moment for us to talk? In private?”

“Of course! Come on in.”

Double Diamond stepped gingerly into the house. The bed in one corner was filled with various new multicolored cloth banners and streamers, and the nearby bookshelf held various balloons and balloon animals. Pieces of discarded cloth and popped balloons lay scattered all over the floor, and Party Favor had to clear off a seat on his couch in order for Double Diamond to be able to sit down somewhere.

“So, what do you want to talk about?” Party Favor asked. “I’ll let you decide.”

“I…” Double Diamond groaned and rubbed the back of his head with a hoof. “Oh, man, I feel so awkward saying it. Um, have you… have you ever heard voices in your head?”

“I don’t know. What sort of voices?”

“Like… remnants of…” He didn’t even want to say the name. “…her philosophy.”

Party Favor’s smile vanished to become a rather sympathetic, sober frown. “Yeah. Every night. Sometimes I wonder if it isn’t better to just… not use my talent.”

“Yet you keep making balloons and party supplies.”

“And you keep skiing. Why do you do it?”

“Because I need to keep myself distracted.” Double Diamond slumped over. “I feel like I’ll lose my talent again if I don’t do it every single day. Even simple cross country stuff is enough for me to focus my mind somewhere else for a while.”

“I’ll be honest, I have no idea what that means.”

“Sorry for confusing you…”

“No, no. Don’t take it that way. I like hearing about it. Heck, it even looks pretty fun and I’d try it myself once things settle down a little.”

“…you would?”

“Sure! That’s what friends really do, isn’t it? You’re skilled in one area. According to Starlight, that would cause us to be arguing because of our differences. Instead, I think it’s really cool and would like to learn from you something about it. That’s what Twilight and her friends taught us, isn’t it?”

Double Diamond nodded. “You mean, you really would like to? I mean, I’d love to. It’d be cool to have a skiing partner. Yeah, once things have settled down, and maybe I can take Sugar Belle if you both want to.”

“Sweet!” Party Favor said, pronking in place a few times with a giant grin on his face.

Double Diamond flinched at the sight of the open-mouthed grin. “Please, don’t do that.”

Party Favor closed his mouth and just smiled. “Sorry, I’m just excited. But yeah, I should get back to the original point: if you think you’re alone in trying to get over Starlight’s influence, you’re not. Part of the reason I decided to marry Sugar Belle when you suggested it is because we get along so well. We help each other through the problems, and slowly we’ve both helped the other to overcome our insecurities coming out of that.”

“Yeah, but that’s still only a small piece of us.”

“Night Glider installed the window in her house because she can look up at the random assortment of stars that aren’t all equal. Nicoise Salad, I’ve heard, never makes the same meals as many as three or four days in a row. Sugar Belle’s never made the same amount each batch. We’re all trying to separate ourselves from it.”

“Well, what do you think we should do?”

“Well, I don’t think it’s right to separate ourselves from it entirely. We need to do something, but something that both reminds us of our past and gives us inspiration to move onward, to do something new, to make new friends, and to make a new life for ourselves. We’re all trying to fight it off alone when really we need to reach out to others.”

Double Diamond looked over at the blue unicorn and smiled. “You’d make a better leader than I would.”

Party Favor smirked. “I’d never take it seriously. So, do you think you’ll take up the offer if it comes up?”

“I don’t know. Maybe. I still need time to think about it.”

“You don’t have much time. The evening meeting starts in about an hour.”

Double Diamond smiled and got up, gingerly making his way towards the door. “I think that might be just enough time.”

In an hour, the sky had darkened. The clouds had disappeared, leaving a bright full moon.

Down in the village, there was light. All of the houses had turned on their lamps and a few extra ones were brought out to make enough light. Foals with and without cutie marks played in the light in the care of two of the mothers chatting happily at a table outside Sugar Belle’s shop. The adults were gathering sandwiches, cookies, and drinks and talking with one another as they ate, mingling around the podium and table where the meeting would be called to order.

Double Diamond’s house was darker than the street and only lit up by a single oil lamp. He was lying on his bed and staring at a mark on the ceiling; the way the boards were connected, it almost looked like there was an equal sign floating mystically above him. He was still at a loss as to what to do.

Free yourself from your cutie mark. Choose equality as your special talent.

No, he couldn’t take the position he knew they were going to offer him. He… he didn’t have the right to rule, not above all those other ponies. He was just a skiing pony who didn’t know how to lead.

Difference is frustration. To excel is to fail.

All he’d done since get his cutie mark was to reflect on the fact that he was so different from the other ponies. Sure, he was a good skier, but what good did that do when the town was so broken? He went off and skied all day and couldn’t do anything to help.

Be your best by never being your best. Conformity will set you free.

Oh, if only he could have been a construction pony or a farm pony. At least then he’d have some talent that might be able to do something. Perhaps it was best he never got his cutie mark back. At least then he wouldn’t have some talent that did nothing to help the others around him.

Accept your limitations, and happiness will follow. Free yourself from your cutie mark.

Double Diamond suddenly felt cold. He was normally used to the cold, but something brought a shiver up his spine. But that was fine; he was the only one who liked the cold before, but if he was cold like everyone else, then that was good. He was just a little more like everyone else, a little more the same as other ponies were.

“Difference is frustration,” he heard himself mumble, his eyes never leaving the strange equals sign floating over him. “To excel is to fail. Be your best by never being your best.”

How much use were his skis if nopony else could ski besides him? Everyone probably got mad at him when he went out and had fun while they stayed behind and worked. Well, maybe he didn’t need to ski anymore. It never brought much use from him anyway. Not like it was when Starlight was around, then he was of use to somepony.

“Conformity will set you free.” Double Diamond shut his eyes, but the equal sign was burned into his eyes. “Choose equality as your special talent.”

There was something oddly peaceful about being the same as everypony else. You never had to worry if you stuck out in a crowd. You never had to worry about seeming weird because everyone else had the same idea. You never worried about making someone mad because no one’s opinion differed.

“Difference is frustration. To excel is to fail. Be your best by never being your best. Accept your limitations, and happiness will follow. Conformity will set you free. Free yourself from your cutie mark. Choose equality as your special talent.”

The words mumbled and slurred and blurred together to beyond the point of recognition until all of them became the same droning hum in the background. His eyes were open but he wasn’t seeing anything but the equal sign that stood over his bed, glowing, burning, burrowing into his mind. A faint knocking sound came somewhere in the distance, but he was too absorbed in the strange procession of words coming out his mouth and the images in his head.

Suddenly, the equals sign was blocked out and above him stood three heads: a blue unicorn stallion, a pink unicorn mare, and a dark blue pegasus mare. Double Diamond blinked and the three faces came into focus; Party Favor, Sugar Belle, and Night Glider were standing over his bed.

“…huh? What are you guys doing here?” Double Diamond asked weakly.

“Oh, thank Celestia!” Sugar Belle exclaimed. “We thought you’d gone catatonic.”

“What happened?”

“Meeting’s been going on for about fifteen minutes,” Night Glider said. “Two laws have already been voted in. Suddenly, when they tried to call you for your opinion on the land, you didn’t respond. We figured you probably were in your house and came to check on you.”

“The door was unlocked,” Party Favor added. “We saw you lying on your bed, staring off into space and drooling with your mouth moving like you were saying something, but nothing made sense. We were about to try and wake you up by throwing a bucket of water on you.”

Double Diamond sat upright and looked around. Sure enough, in the corner was a small metal bucket filled with water.

“Are you alright?” Sugar Belle asked. “Your eyes are all red like you’ve been in here crying.”

Double Diamond sniffed. “I can’t be leader. Won’t everyone be mad at me because suddenly I’m better than they all are? And aren’t they mad at me already because I leave town and go skiing instead of helping out around here?”

“No one’s mad at you,” Sugar Belle said sweetly. “We all know how hard it is to get Starlight’s philosophy out of our heads. We’re all trying to find ways to get by it.”

“But while Starlight used us being the same to hold us back,” Night Glider added, “what we need to realize is that we’re all different but working towards a common goal and moving forwards. You’re not the only one suffering from what happened back then.”

“And no one’s mad at you for leaving to go skiing, either,” Party Favor said, putting a hoof around Sugar Belle and Night Glider. “That’s your talent. It’s what you know how to do. No one’s gonna be mad just because you’re actually using your talent. What matters is that you come to us – your friends – for help trying to get over it instead of just doing it on your own.”

Night Glider went over and wrapped Double Diamond in a hug. “Sometimes it’s okay to be the same on some things. But we don’t have to let that define us.”

Double Diamond was in shock for a moment, but then he realized they were right. He’d been trying to break free from Starlight’s influence all on his own, when really what he needed was to go and talk to his friends about it. They were all in the same predicament, but maybe with each other’s different ways of attacking it, they might all be able to get out of it together. And with that, he hugged Night Glider back, with Party Favor and Sugar Belle joining in shortly afterwards.

“Thanks guys,” Double Diamond said. “Maybe if they do elect me the leader, you guys could all help me out if I don’t know what to do?”

“Any time,” Sugar Belle asked. “You can ask us for help whenever you need.”

Double Diamond nodded and smiled. “Then… I guess I’m ready to go out to the meeting, whatever happens.”

After acknowledging a short break, the meeting resumed.

At the head of the meeting was Civil Servant, a middle-aged earth pony stallion with bags under his eyes and a little grey in his mane with a cutie mark of a scroll wrapped in a ribbon, standing at the podium in front of the crowds of ponies gathered around. To his right were Double Diamond and Quick Quill – a younger unicorn stallion with bright blue eyes and coat with a quill with a line coming from it as a cutie mark – sitting at a table, Quick Quill sorting through small pieces of paper and placing them into two piles.

Double Diamond didn’t like the spotlight. But there he was by request of… well, the majority of the town. A few dissented, but he figured he was happier than if they all agreed.

“And so that wraps up the voting of the new laws to be taken into effect,” Civil Servant was saying towards the end of the meeting. “However, we have two final issues to take care of, and so we shall decide on them.”

The ponies listened with an open ear attentively.

“The first is the election of a new mayor to take over in Starlight Glimmer’s absence.” Civil Servant arranged the stack of papers sitting on the podium before him, and tapped them together to straighten them out. “There have been only two candidates selected for the position. The first is myself, and the second is our own Double Diamond.” Civil Servant motioned over to the stallion sitting next to him. “We had put this to a vote at the beginning of the meeting, and the ballots are being counted. Quick Quill, please come up and present your results.”

Quick Quill put on a pair of glasses and carried the little piles of papers up to the podium. He coughed a few times and adjusted his glasses once again.

“The candidates were allowed to select between Civil Servant or Double Diamond, or to provide a third option. The results of the ballots have been tallied, and the majority vote wins the election.”

He adjusted his own paper before him and read from it.

“Voting for ‘other’: three. Voting for Civil Servant: twenty-six. Voting for Double Diamond: thirty three. Double Diamond wins the majority vote, and thus the election.”

A cheer went up from a good part of the crowd and Double Diamond whispered to Civil Servant.

“I wish it was you, rather than me.”

Civil Servant smiled wisely. “Many ideas I spoke of came from your thoughts and ideas,” he said. “You know more than I do about this town, and perhaps more of what we need to avoid.”

“Would you… would you be my advisor?”

Civil Servant nodded. “Gladly.”

“Can I… explain about my ideas, when the time comes?”

“I would find that satisfactory.”

Double Diamond smiled and got up and walked to the podium. The cheers died down as Double Diamond looked at the crowd of ponies looking eagerly at him.

Free yourself from your cutie mark. Choose equality as your special talent.

“This is not what I would have expected, coming out of a situation like we were once in,” he began. “Once we were all bound by equality. Now, we have our differences and have come to accept them to build a stronger community. Even in the face of this election, both Civil Servant and I have recognized the strengths of the other despite our differences, and hope to work together to help us rebuild this town and our lives.”

Be your best by never being your best.

“However, many of us face the trouble of finding our way. What Starlight Glimmer once brought, we have difficulty finding now she’s gone. We had stability, we had companionship, we had security, and we had some sort of purpose. Even without Starlight Glimmer, some of us may have trouble letting go of the ways we know and once abided by for years.”

Difference is frustration. To excel is to fail.

“But now, as we exit and start life anew, we have something more important: friendship.” Double Diamond looked at Party Favor, Sugar Belle, and Night Glider, seated in front of him, and felt his strength renew. “Through our friendship, we will have stability, we will have companionship, we will have security, and we have purpose. But we have something more: we have support as well as stability. We have bonds as well as companionship, we have safety as well as security, and we have drive as well as purpose. With Starlight Glimmer, we stayed the same, but with friendship we now have the means to progress forward and develop our selves once again.”

A short applause came up from the crowd. Double Diamond let the applause die down before he continued.

Accept your limitations, and happiness will follow.

“And so, I have two propositions to place to a vote before you. Firstly, I propose that we destroy Starlight Glimmer’s house, but that we construct a memorial in its place to remind us of who we once were and of our past, but also to remind us what we strive for. A memorial that reminds us not only of the horrors of our past, but of the light of hope that comes by moving forward.”

Conformity will set you free.

“Secondly, I propose that the new entrants to the town may choose to build their house wherever they please. I know that certain designs and positions were offered and selected, but I think they should have that choice. No longer do we need conformity on everything. Let them choose their own land. We once were bound by an equals sign, but now we need to focus on other things, our differences and how they come together to make us stronger.”

Each of my friends has taught me something different about myself. The words of Twilight Sparkle, who helped expose Starlight’s ruse, was like a breath of icy cold air, like an invigorating ski run. It was their unique gifts and passions and personalities that helped bring out the magic inside of me.

“We are all in the same position of trying to overcome what happened to us before. But with our different talents come different strengths and different means of solving the same problem. What we need to remember is that our strengths might be different, but we are working towards a common goal, and only by utilizing our individual strengths will we progress and reconstruct our once broken lives into something better.”

There was a moment of silence, but it wasn’t long before the crowd was clapping and cheering. Even the foals had stopped their play to listen and were jumping up and down excitedly. Civil Servant leaned over and whispered in his ear “I couldn’t have said it better myself.”

But it was the sight of his three friends in the crowd, smiling and applauding along with the rest, that truly made Double Diamond feel happy and smile along with the rest of them. He would help the town rebuild. He would help them move on with their lives. He would teach Party Favor and Sugar Belle how to ski, and lie under the stars with Night Glider.

It had been so long since he felt like this.

But now, he was sure there would be more moments like this later on.