Rites of Ascension

by CvBrony

Come to Twilight

“So they got away, huh?” Apple Bloom asked, following the group down the road towards the library.

“Yeah. I got everypony’s things back, but…” Twilight sighed. “I think her clothes were enchanted,  and I didn’t predict what they could do. She slipped free of the irons, which, now that I think about it, is kind of impressive. If I had a lead, I’d go after her.” She shrugged in annoyance. “Well, I do have other things to do while I’m here. Like visit my parents.”

Apple Bloom nodded. “I heard they moved into the library fer some reason. What’s that about?”

“My mom…” Twilight swallowed and cringed, trying to find the right words. “She said something pretty awful and right in front of Celestia. I had to banish her from the city to prevent the Princess from doing something worse. I love her, but, sometimes I really don’t think she understands her own actions. I thought that spending time here would help to change her attitude a little. See other ponies in a new light.”

Apple Bloom’s ears went flat against her head. “Yer mother’s a unicorn, isn’t she?”

“Yeah.” Twilight’s ear twitched at the subtext. “I don’t think it’s hate. At least, not entirely. It’s probably more frustration coupled with a sense of entitlement. And a little booze. That was the first time I’d heard her say what she said, so there’s still hope for her. I just need to open her eyes.”

She couldn’t help but swallow as she saw her old tree home. Her mother would be there. “When I first arrived here, I hated it. But it wasn’t because of anypony’s tribe. It was because I was frustrated over nopony listening to me about Nightmare Moon. I think my mother was frustrated over ‘losing’ me to the town rather than any real tribal issues.”

“So ya sent her here to try an’ change her mind about us?” Apple Bloom asked. Overhead, Rainbow zoomed about in search of the thief while Spike ran around, searching from the ground.

“Yeah. I don’t know how well it’s going to work. But, at the very least, it should erase any thought that it’s something to do with ponies of other tribes—even if she doesn’t find Ponyville as nice as I do. Would you do me a favor, Apple Bloom? I already asked this of AJ and Fluttershy. Don’t hold it against her, and try to be welcoming. We can’t fix this with isolation and glares.”

Apple Bloom nodded. “As long as she doesn’t cast a spell on me or anything, I’m willing to give it a shot.”

“Oh, she doesn’t know that many spells, so I wouldn’t worry about that. She’s not like me.” Twilight sat down outside the tree and sighed. “I am not looking forward to seeing her. Not in the least.”

Apple Bloom put a hoof on Twilight’s shoulder. “Worried about how it’s going?”

All the ponies in this town are crazy!

Twilight couldn’t help but chuckle at Velvet's outburst from inside the tree. “Actually, there might be more hope for her than I thought!”

Apple Bloom took a step back. “Um, I’d say that doesn’t exactly sound encouraging.”

“Yeah, but the first night I was here, I said the exact same thing. You’re heading to the farm, right?”

Apple Bloom nodded and put on her hat. “‘Round about that area. Got some houses going up nearby. See ya there later?”

Twilight put a hoof up to the door, ready for the worst. “Yeah, I’ll do that. Wish me luck!”

“Good luck!” Apple Bloom trotted off, and Twilight waiting for her to be out of sight before leaning on the door.

“Well, time to do this.” She pushed the door in, swinging it open and bracing for the worst. She didn’t see her mother, at least, not at first. Instead, a sniffling, crying pink mare slowly slunk her way out of the library while a white unicorn huffed in anger.

“Pinkie Pie?”

“Hi, Twilight…” She sniffed. “I… I have to go cry in a corner… See ya…”

She ran off before Twilight could say anything but not before her vision turned red.


“Tw-Twilight?” Her mother went from anger to shock, one hoof raised meekly in the air while Twilight stomped up to her.

“You. Made. My. Friend. Cry!” Twilight raged right in her face. “How could you? Pinkie Pie took time out from her schedule in Manehattan to come all the way here to make you feel welcome, and you… you… I don’t know what you did, exactly, but it couldn’t possibly have been good if she ran off crying!”


Twilight silenced her mother by placing a hoof over her mouth. “Before you respond, think, truly think about your words. For two minutes. In silence. Say anything before that, and I’ll fine you on top of your banishment.” She sat down hard on the floor, staring at the clock so she wouldn’t have to look at her mother’s face.

The little trick of her mentor’s to make a student wait before responding was more than just something for her mother, though. She needed time to think and calm down before she made her mother run out crying just like Pinkie. To her mother’s credit, she lasted one minute and fifty-six seconds.

“I’m so sorry, Twilight.” Her mother placed a hoof on her shoulder, and Twilight fought the instinct to bat it away. “Truly, I am. She was just so… infuriating! She wouldn’t stop trying to throw a party for me!”

Twilight ground her teeth and took a deep breath. Don’t explode on her, don’t explode on her… Remember how irritated you were back when you first got here. “Some ponies would be happy at that, Mother. While I understand your viewpoint—” she said the last few words through clenched teeth “—I also don’t think you reacted appropriately. I pray you didn’t use a slur; I will have to report that to Celestia if you did.”

“No! Heavens, no, Twilight. I can’t believe I used it myself back in the castle. Never again shall such hateful things pass through my lips, I promise you.” Velvet held up her hooves, but Twilight kept up her glare.

“Good. You need to wait for her to come back, and trust me, she will come back, and then apologize. Also, accept the party. It’ll be a bit rowdy, but nothing completely out of hoof, and you’ll get to know a lot of the ponies in town. Back before she left for Manehatten, she basically threw a party for every single pony that moved here.”

Velvet put her ears back and traced a little circle on the floor with her hoof.

Twilight raised an eyebrow. “I know that look a little too well, Mom. You’re disappointed with something.”

She looked up at her with doe eyes. “I… I guess you didn’t come to say all is forgiven and I can move back…”

Twilight groaned. “No, Mother. You’re in this for the long haul. Period. End of sentence.”

Velvet slumped down to the floor. “It’s just as well. I was right, you know. I’m already a laughingstock back home. Only a couple of my friends will even return my letters.”

“Well…” Twilight hesitated and sighed. She doesn’t deserve that, and it’s not her fault, but… “One of the Council ponies gave me a warning when I officially completed the ceremony to become Grand Mage. He was speaking of the Council specifically, but with your example, I believe it applies to the nobility in general. He said, ‘Your future actions will earn you no loyalty from those you benefit, only courtesy.’ And loyalty is very important to friendship. That’s why there’s an Element of Harmony for it. There’s a big difference between playing the room and building true friendship.”

Twilight lay down next to her mother, putting a foreleg over her back. “Mom, I know you’re hurt, but there are good ponies here. Ones that will be happy to be true friends. The circles you were trying to break into? I hate to say it, but we were never that rich. Dad’s an excellent doctor, yes, but being a doctor is a far cry from an industry mogul. Even Shiny and Cadence can’t really say they’re individually wealthy. They just have a place to stay in the castle and an expense account. It’s specifically set up that way so they can’t just shower their friends and family with bits.

“Here, though? It’s not about bits. It’s about being a good pony. Even introverts like me find friends here. Lots of them. It’s really not so bad.”

Velvet sighed again, deflating even more. “Maybe you’re right. I’ll… give it a try. And apologize to that pink blur.”

Twilight smiled. “She’s also known as ‘the living sugar rush’ and ‘animated frosting.’ You’ll get used to her as long as you don’t question how she ‘works,’ so to speak. Speaking of work, how’s Dad taking this? Shiny didn’t have much time to tell me about it.”

Velvet put her hooves on her head like she was ducking for cover. “That’s probably the worst part of all this. He’s loving it!”

Twilight jerked her head up. “Really? That sounds like good news…”

“He thinks it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. Maybe it’s because the air is thicker here, but he’s running around singing the town’s praises. Half of his clients are even willing to travel all the way out here just to keep seeing him. He’s like a tourist that never wants to leave!”

Twilight rolled her eyes. “I’m sure it’s not that bad.”

The door burst open and a happy, trotting Lucid Dream all but danced into the room.

He was wearing an “I Love Ponyville” t-shirt.

“Okay, maybe it is that bad.” Twilight chuckled. “Hi, Papa. Mom’s telling me you’re liking the move?”

Lucid smiled and laughed. “Oh, my Night Light, It’s wonderful! I’ve been trying to convince your mother to move out of Canterlot for years now! Zis is the perfect excuse, ya? Can’t ignore a royal order!”

“Somepony shoot me…” Velvet grumbled.

“Oh, really?” Twilight grinned like a cat at her mother, who cringed. “I hadn’t heard that, but I’m glad it worked out.”

“Even better! A charming young mare just invited us to a welcome party tomorrow night! Heh! In Canterlot, ze only time zay throw a party for you is ven you make your first billion bits!”

Velvet groaned. “Let me guess. You accepted…”

Lucid tilted his head. “Of course! Vould be terribly rude to say no, ya?”

Twilight smirked. “Ya, it would! Don’t worry about bringing anything; Pinkie Pie will take care of it.”

“Pinkie—” Lucid blinked. “But, how did you know zat…”

“Papa, of course it’s Pinkie Pie. But, if you must know, not only did I see her leaving the house, I also asked her to come here to help you guys feel more at home. AJ, Fluttershy, and Pinkie all agreed to help as well. For Pinkie, that means taking time off from her schedule in Manehatten. I asked Rarity too, but she’s always crazy busy, so she had to decline.

“And Mother? I expect you to treat them all with the utmost of respect. Clear?”

“Of course, Twilight. As I said, I regret my words earlier.”

“I’m glad to hear that.” Twilight looked to her father and asked, “Papa, may I talk to Mom in private?”

“Of course, I have some more setting up to do anyvay. I vill be upstairs if you need me.” Lucid trotted up the stairs, nearly tripping at the top.

Velvet fidgeted with her pearls. “I wasn’t looking forward to this.”

“Yeah, well, it has to happen, Mother. Come on. We’ll use the kitchen.” Twilight led the way, moving to the other room and sitting down at the table with her mother close behind.

“So…” Velvet swallowed. “I suppose you have something you want to ask me?”

“Yes. Yes, I do.” Twilight rested her forelegs on the table. “Mother, what were you thinking yelling at the Princess like that?”

“I…” Velvet’s ears went flat against her head. “I admit, I had a little too much to drink that night, but it’s no excuse. I just… I wanted my daughter back.”

“I never left, Mother,” Twilight retorted, anger seeping into her voice. “Not in that sense, anyway. One could make an argument that you were the one that left me!”

Velvet’s eyes widened with shock. “What? Me? Twilight, I would never! I’m your mother!”

Twilight opened her mouth to yell, but stopped short, locking her lungs down to stop the scream. Use the Voice in here and you’ll break every single window above the basement. She took in a deep breath, restraining her anger through clenched teeth. “Let’s back up a step. What, exactly, do you mean by ‘you want your daughter back?’”

“I…” Velvet looked away at the sink. “I want to know that I still have a daughter that loves me.”

Twilight’s stomach lurched like she’d been punched. “Mom… Listen to me. I do love you, but dammit… You seem to always know exactly what to do or say to tick me off! Or push me away, or make me feel like I’m just some… some kind of furniture you show off to your friends!”

Velvet nearly fell out of her chair. “Twilight, I never meant—I mean, I never intended for you to feel like that. I thought you were happy reading your books!”

“I was! I just… Argh…” Twilight covered her face in her hooves. How to word this…? “You know what my favorite memory of us is? My first memory?”

Velvet froze for a minute, leaving the room in an awkward silence before shaking her head.

“It was when I was about four.” Twilight took in a deep breath and let it out along with her memory. “Shining read me a bedtime story since you were getting ready to go out. He showed me the book, and instead of simply following his hoof, I went ahead and started reading bits of it without his help. I can remember him getting all confused and excited because I could read so young. He asked if I wanted to show Mommy. Obviously, I said yes. I was excited that he was excited, and I wanted to share that with you as well.

“After that, I could hear you two arguing with each other in the living room. He yelled at you for ignoring me all the time and said that I was gifted and it was special, and that you should be there to guide me since he was going to leave to go back to the military academy. Then you grounded him for yelling at you, and he said he didn’t care. He said that if you were any kind of mother, you’d be dropping everything to go read with me yourself.”

Velvet was the one to lurch backward like she’d been kicked this time.

Twilight continued. “I went to bed that night scared, alone, and confused. I thought I did something wrong. But the next day… The next day, Mom, you took me to the Canterlot Library and told me I could read any books I wanted all day long. You stayed with me the entire time, reading with me, helping me with words I didn’t know. And... And you looked so proud. Not proud to show me off, just proud of me. There are very, very few times in my life when I’ve been that happy.”

Velvet was already slumped over to lean on the table, but this had her burying her head in her forelegs as she sobbed. “I was wrong. I was so wrong…”

“Mom…” Twilight lowered her ears, looking off at the wall for a moment or two as the sound of her crying mother battered her psyche. Damnit, Mom, you pull the guilt trip so often I don’t know what’s real anymore

“I… I didn’t go to those parties just to ‘network,’ Twilight.” She lifted her head just enough for Twilight to see the deep red eyes. Velvet’s lungs heaving punctuated the sobs.


“I went… I went there to defend you. You wouldn’t believe the things that they said. The rumors that they spread. I had to protect your reputation! Shining's, too! Stars, Twilight. I had to report some of them to the Guard for what they said should happen to you!”

Twilight’s eyes opened wide. “Wait… Report to the Guard? Were they threats?”

Velvet nodded her head. “Half-hearted ones, maybe. Like, 'Somepony should...' I can't even finish it. I was so scared for you… I didn’t want you to know. You were a foal! You deserved your foalhood. Even after that, I didn’t want to worry you. I didn’t just try to get you dates or jobs. I did it to keep you safe! And keep doors open for you if Celestia ever let you go!”

You became important to me. That’s all the justification these… despicable beings need. We have ten ponies in the war room alone working in shifts around the clock just on you to analyze and thwart their plans before they ever get close.”

The memory echoed in her mind like it had been shouted with the Royal Canterlot Voice. “So you went there to fight for me.” Twilight swallowed, her dry throat feeling scratchy.

Velvet put her head back down. “I should’ve listened to Celestia. Damnit, Princess, why didn’t you tell me about all this?!”

“About… You mean my ascension.” Twilight sighed, leaning back in her chair. She didn’t tell you because you’re a huge gossip, Mom. But I get your point.

Velvet lit her horn, floating over some tissues in a flickering telekinetic field. “I suppose she did, in her way. She told me not to worry about the nobles. I thought she was being too lax with your safety. With your future. I didn’t realize how much of this she had planned out. I bet she knew. About everything. The threats, the rumors. She didn’t worry about your future, because she knew you’d outlive them all by centuries.”

“Millenia, more like.” Twilight closed her eyes, steadying her breathing. I need to tell her… “Mom, Celestia didn’t take my safety lightly. I found out a few months ago. There’s an entire team in RGIS that works on keeping me safe around the clock. Even before the fort went in, there were dozens and dozens of undercover Royal Guard here in Ponyville. A lot of them are probably still here.”

Velvet groaned and sobbed, burying her head again.

Damn. Was that the right thing to do?

“Go to her. Give her a hug.”

Twilight stood up from the chair and wrapped her forelegs around her mother, who returned it with a few more sobs. “It’ll be okay, Mom.” She shifted in her spot, feeling the cold metal of the torc pressing against her chest.

“I’ve lost you… I’ve… I’ve lost my baby!”

“No, Mom. I’m here. I’m right here.” She patted her back, letting out a few tears of her own. “I’m right here.”

“No. I’ve… I’m never going to be able to… I should’ve spent that time raising you! Not… Not thi-i-i-is…”

“No, I mean, yes, you should have. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love you. I’m still here.”

“I’m… I’m a—”

“Mother!” Twilight pulled out of the hug and grabbed her mother by the shoulders, looking her in her eyes. “Mom, it’s true we didn’t exactly have an… ideal relationship in the past. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make things better in the future, okay?”

Velvet took in a breath as if to respond, but just nodded and wiped her eyes.

“Okay. This… This is good. Good that we had this talk. But Mom?” Twilight lifted her mother’s chin up with a gentle hoof to see her eyes again. “Mom, I need you to promise me something. No more looking down on ponies, and no more trying to get into the nobility. If they were that mean to me behind my back, I don’t even want to think about what they’d do to you if you tried.”

“I… I don’t want… I mean…”

“Mom, listen to me.” Twilight followed her mom’s gaze off to the door and moved her head to get back in her front and center. “You don’t need to fight this battle anymore. It’s over. You’ve won. You might not be nobility yourself, but your foals made it. I’m Grand Mage; your son is Prince of the Lost and untouchable under Princess Luna’s protection. Any foals he has are guaranteed their own titles, too. If any of those jerks so much as say one bad word in your direction, in ten years’ time or less, all you’ll have to do is say to them, ‘My daughter is an alicorn. Go kiss a lit stove.’”

Snrk…” Velvet lurched forward and covered her mouth with a hoof.

A little smile grew on Twilight’s face, and she pulled out a tissue from the nearby box to give to her mother. “I think I got you a little there, didn’t it?”

Velvet nodded, blowing her nose. “Oh, ugh. I… You’re right Twilight. I’m just… I’m so sorry I did this to you.”

“It’ll be okay, Mom. We just have to work at it, okay? Come here.” She pulled her into another hug, moving her shoulders forward to support the weight. “It’ll all be okay. You’ll see.”

Velvet sighed and deflated a little, slumping onto her daughter. “I know. Thank you, Twilight.”

Twilight turned and pulled out the chairs for them. “Here, let’s sit and talk for a bit. Just talk, no more drama stuff. And I’m sure there should still be some tea or coffee or something left here.”

“Okay. That… that sounds like it would be… a nice change of pace…”

“So, wait, you’re telling me she can always tell when something’s going to fall on her? How does that even—?”

Twilight cut Velvet off with a wave. “I told you, don’t think about it. You’ll just wind up getting chased by a hydra and going nuts with rage. That’s a lesson of experience.”

Velvet froze still for a moment and then rubbed the bridge of her nose with a hoof. “I’m not even going to ask about the hydra. Something a mother shouldn’t know, I think.”

“Then I guess I shouldn’t mention the dra—”

“No. No, you shouldn’t. Honestly, Twilight, I know you’re in a dangerous new job. I understand that. But, as your mother, I really don’t want to know about any of the dangerous specifics, okay? Especially after knowing about everything else you’ve already been through…”

“Alright, alright.” Twilight held up her hooves in defeat and took a sip of her coffee. “Speaking of, I should really get back to work.” She stood up and stretched out, starting for the door.

“So soon? But you just got here!”

“Yeah, but I still have a lot to do. And now that I’m thinking about it… Papa, could you come in here please?” Twilight called out to the other room, the trio making their way into the living room.

“Is zere something wrong, my Night Light?” Lucid asked, raising an eyebrow. “You never use zat voice unless zere’s something wrong.”

“Actually, there kinda is. There’s a thief going around town at the moment. A highly skilled thief. So be careful when you’re in town, and keep the doors and windows locked outside of library hours.”

Velvet’s ears perked up. “A thief? Here? I thought this town was safe.”

“It generally is. For some reason, though, this thief has decided to target Ponyville. I nearly caught her, but she’s got more tricks up her coat sleeves than I thought. She broke right out of the shackles. Like I said, be careful.”

“Coat? In this weather?” Velvet sat up and tapped her chin. “Is it? It couldn’t be…”

Twilight raised an eyebrow. “Do you know who it is?”

“Maybe. My tabloids—”

Twilight rolled her eyes. “Not those again.”

“Ahem!” Velvet stomped a hoof. “My specialist newspapers sometimes talk about a thief called ‘Phantasm.’ A pegasus mare that’s eluded police for over a decade. Dark mane, wears a big hat?”

Twilight’s jaw dropped. “That… That might be her!”

Velvet smirked. “Oh, will wonders never cease? My little girl finding my kind of reading useful?”

“Maybe.” Twilight huffed. “It gave me a name. That’s all I need to start.” She charged her horn, lighting up the room with a purple flare before firing it up through the roof and into the sky.

Lucid stepped forward and under where the flare went up, staring at the ceiling. “Intangible spell? So it vill go through ze roof? But vat was it for?”

Twilight stared at the clock. “Give it another twenty seconds.”

Some time passed, with only the sound of the clock ticking to intrude on the waiting ponies.

The door swung open.

“You needed me, Twi?” Spike asked.

Twilight smiled. “Nineteen seconds. Not bad. Yes, I need you to send a note to the Princess. I need her to have RGIS forward all information on a thief known as ‘Phantasm’ via your dragon mail. I think that’s the assumed name of the mare we ran into earlier, and I’d like to confirm it.”

“Ah! A lead! On it!” Spike dropped his backpack and pulled out a pen and paper, quickly scribbling away a note before torching it out the door.

Twilight started again for the door. “I think that’s going to take a bit to get back to us since she’s in Court right now if I remember correctly. We might as well get going to Sweet Apple Acres. Ready, Spike?”

“Do you still want me to keep looking for the thief?” Spike asked, picking up his bag.

“Not until I have more information on her. Oh, Mom?” She stopped and looked back with a smile. “Thank you.”

It was the first time in years she’d seen her mother genuinely, warmly smile at her in return.

“Howdy Twi— No, not that one! The east field! The east!” Applejack bellowed out to the field, practically jumping up and down with frustration. “No, that’s the west, ya varmit! Get over there! Ugh!”

Twilight and Spike chuckled, walking up to Applejack next to the cider stand.

“I take it the help isn’t quite as ‘expert’ as Celestia thought?” Twilight smiled. “If they’re substandard, I can pass that along to the Princess if you like.”

Applejack covered her face with her hat and sighed before putting it right back on. “No. Honestly, they’re better’n most that we get. We’re headin’ face-first inta cider season, and fer once we’re ready fer it. Sorta.”

“Is that why the stand is up already?” Spike asked.

Applejack chuckled. “Actually, that’s mah brother’s bright idea. We’re gonna sell cider ‘pre-orders.’ He read about it in some high-falutin’ business magazine er somethin’.”

“Pre-orders? Like, taking names and deposits?” Spike tilted his head. “You can do that with cider?”

“Well, it’s like this here. See, there’s always this huge line fer the cider, right? Well, if ya pay early, we take down yer name. And you don’t have to wait in the line, jus’ hang out nearby an’ wait for yer name ta be called. Ya don’t have ta camp out none or worry if ya just wanna run an’ stretch yer legs!”

Twilight laughed a bit under her breath. “And, you get the money right away, which you can earn a bit of interest on even if they cancel.”

Applejack tapped her nose. “My brother’s a smart cookie, ain’t he? We’re takin’ pre-orders startin’ tomorrow fer all our cider. Fresh, bottled, and hard. Fresh has the best flavor, but we ain’t gonna turn down business, ya know?”

Twilight pulled out some bits from her back. “Care to allow the Crown first access?”

Applejack hollered in laughter. “Well, now, don’t that beat all! Twilight using her powers fer evil? Rarity’d pull out a faintin’ couch!”

Twilight dangled the bits in front of her. “I’ll pre-order six cases of bottled and two of hard if you make the exception. Just have them sent to the castle, care of Twilight Sparkle.”

The farm pony started to get sweaty. “I don’t know… Doesn’t seem right.”

“Integrity. That’s you, AJ, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Well, how about this. I’ll give you the money now and tell my parents to swing by and place the order formally later on. They’ll just put the names down since you’ll already have the money. That way I’m not jumping in line, but I can get my name down even if I’m not here personally for it.”

Applejack tapped her chin and looked at the sky for a moment before nodding and taking the bits. “That’ll work. Much obliged, Twi!”

“You’re welcome! Spike? Add that to the checklist, would you?”

“Already done!” He finished a line on the parchment just after Twilight turned her head to talk to him.

“While we’re on the topic of my parents, if you have time, try to drag my mother out of the tree every now and then. She’s… going to have at least as much trouble as I did fitting in. Probably more. My father, well, he should be more outgoing, but I’m afraid he’s every bit as quirky as everypony else here.”

“We ain’t got a shortage of quirky here, Twi. He’ll be just fine. And don’t worry none ‘bout yer ma. I made my promise back at the castle. I won’t hold her words against her. She just needs ta really learn what Ponyville is all about.”

Spike laughed. “Crazy ponies and frequent improbable incidents which nearly destroy the whole town?”

“Half the time caused by Twi herself?” Applejack smirked.

Twilight facehooved. “Yeah, well, now my mother gets to take that title from me and accidently nearly destroy the town. Have fun with that. You—” Twilight’s jaw dropped.

Applejack raised an eyebrow. “Y’all okay, Twi? Ya look like yer seein’ a ghost.”

“Yeah, what’s the—” Spike’s jaw dropped too.

Applejack scratched her forehead. “What’re ya lookin at—” Now it was Applejack’s turn as she desperately felt her head and neck then looked all around her on the ground. “My… My hat! It’s gone!”

Twilight pulled on her magic and went back into her magic sight, looking all around her. A leyline roared near the town and into the Everfree, and ambient magic from the farm bathed the land in a warm green glow. Yet, there was no sign of a hat or anypony with it.

“Oh, now you’ve done it!” Twilight screamed to the sky. “I don’t know who you think you are, but nopony messes with my friends! Come on, Spike, we have a thief to catch!”

“Thief? Somepony went and took my daddy’s hat? Off my head?” Applejack pulled off her hair tie. “Who? They got too many teeth in their head, and I need to make that number a bit smaller!”

Spike, it seemed, was too busy holding his gut in pain to follow. “Uuuugh… Stomach… Hurts… Uuurp!” A blast of green fire shot into the air like a miniature volcano, and a large stack of papers dropped almost all the way to the ground before getting snared in Twilight’s magical grasp.

“Finally! Don’t worry, AJ, this thief’s number is up. Let’s see who we’re dealing with.” Twilight flipped through the pages, absorbing their contents as fast as she could.

“Twi,” Applejack said through clenched teeth. “Who took my hat? Who was it?”

“A thief we think is named ‘Phantasm.’” Spike coughed and heaved a bit, still doubled over. “Ugh. She already got away once. Don’t worry. We’re gonna nail her. Twi’s on it. Just… Ugh, lemme… catch my breath...”

“Well, we’re in luck.” Twilight tucked the files in her saddlebags. “Based on the description in this file, I do think we’re dealing with Phantasm. Odd that her colors change, but I bet that’s camouflage. Apparently she doesn’t normally stay in one town very long. One, two heists tops, and always targets high-value, irreplaceable items.”

Spike took in a deep breath and let it out before standing the rest of the way up. “Then what’s she doing stealing random junk in Ponyville?”

Applejack grabbed Spike with a foreleg around his neck and squeezed. “You take that back! My daddy’s hat is priceless!”

“AJ, let him go. He didn’t mean it like that. He’s just saying it’s not something she’d go after. Your father’s hat might be valuable to you, but I mean things like artwork masterpieces, so this is definitely outside of her M.O.”

Applejack stopped enough to blink and let Spike wriggle free. “M.O.?”

Twilight smiled. “Modus Operandi, or method of operation. In other words, what she normally does. How she usually works. Ponyville must be a special case for her for some reason.”

“Yeah, but why?” Spike rubbed his neck. “And if we can’t use her past actions against her, how are we going to find her?”

“Hmm… Give me a moment.” Twilight closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and thought. Time to think about this. Just like Celestia taught you.

Phantasm targeted this town for some reason, but she isn’t stealing like her M.O. would normally suggest. She’s taken my checklist, a watering can, a lyre, my torc, and AJ’s hat. What stands out here?

My torc, obviously. AJ’s hat has sentimental value, true, but that doesn’t earn any bits in the black market and has no value to anypony but her. My torc, though, is worth more than the whole town. But nopony but me can use it! I’m missing something here.

Let’s rethink this. Save the torc, she’s gone after sentimental items so far. Not only that, but she’s targeted my friends. Lyra, Spike, AJ, Roseluck, all ponies I know and all items of value to those ponies specifically. It’s certainly enough to make it personal. She even said, specifically to me, that she’s going to ‘pick this town clean.’ Why? What’s so special about this town, especially with Canterlot so close by?

I’m here. The Grand Mage of Equestria. Is it a political angle? To make me look bad? I doubt it. Her file suggests no allegiance to anypony other than herself. There’s no reason to go to the trouble unless she owes somepony or wants something. So what does she gain by going after me?

Twilight’s eyes shot open, and snapped back to the town. “I think I have an idea, guys. Don’t worry, AJ. I’ll get your hat back. Come on, Spike. We have a thief to track.”