Panting, Spike finally arrived at the castle. He had just run across Ponyville because Rainbow Dash had inexplicably flown him to the entrance of Sweet Apple Acres. On his way back across town, Spike had thought he had glimpsed Dash carrying a large box into Sugarcube Corner, but he must have been mistaken. When he had gone into the bakery to ask Rainbow Dash what was going on, she was nowhere to be seen. Pinkie had suggested that Dash was probably too busy plotting a felony to talk to Spike. Typical Pinkie Pie.
So Spike had decided to head home, without any quills and without any explanation of why Dash was behaving so strangely. He was rather nervous about what Twilight might do when she learned they wouldn’t be getting any quills until tomorrow. If she couldn’t check off “buy list-making supplies” from her comprehensive list for making all lists, her entire list-making procedure would be irrevocably thrown off. Spike shuddered at the thought of what an alicorn princess could do to a poor dragon who told her that she wouldn’t be able to make more checklists.
Spike finally located Twilight in the dining room. She sat at the table staring at a lovely arrangement of flowers in a crystal vase. Frowning at the brightly colored centerpiece, Twilight turned to consult a book she had propped open next to her.
“Um, Twilight?” Spike began hesitantly.
“Yes, Spike?” Twilight glanced from her book to the flowers and back again. “Did you pick up more quills at the sofa shop?”
“Um, about that.” Spike gulped before continuing. “Well, you see, through completely unpredictable circumstances that may have involved a rampaging hydra destroying half of Ponyville without anypony noticing until Fluttershy managed to calm it and convince it to move very far away from here—and I would like to point out that your faithful assistant was completely unaware of this catastrophe until Rainbow Dash told me after the fact—what I mean to say is that, um, it wasn’t my fault, but, well, you see…” Spike trailed off before finishing really quickly, “Iwasn’tabletobuyanyquills.” He ducked behind a nearby chair and peered cautiously at Twilight.
“That’s ok, Spike. I’m sure they’ll have more quills soon. Just make a note to go back to the store tomorrow,” Twilight replied. She turned a page in her book and leaned down to read.
Spike cowered behind the chair for a few moments before responding. “Ok.”
After another minute without Twilight exploding, going berserk, or even glancing in his direction, Spike slowly tiptoed around the chair and approached Twilight. “You took that way better than I was expecting you to.”
“That’s nice, Spike,” Twilight mumbled.
Spike thought for a moment. Then he crept up next to Twilight and poked the book she was reading, just hard enough to make it tip over and fall closed on the table.
“Ah!” Twilight suddenly twitched and fell over backward. “Spike!”
“Sorry,” Spike said, “I had to do something to snap you out of your reading.”
“Well, next time just get my attention by talking or something,” Twilight said crossly as she picked herself up and returned to her seat.
“Because that always works so well when you’re reading,” Spike muttered. “Anyway,” he continued, “how come you’re so busy studying? I thought you said you were going to write a report on the social and political effects of the Grand Equestria Pony Summit.”
“Yes,” replied Twilight, “but I was interrupted by the arrival of these flowers. The mailpony said that they were an anonymous gift for the princess.”
“So you put your government business on hold to admire a nice bouquet?”
“Don’t you see, Spike? I wasn’t sure at first, but my research confirmed my initial suspicion. These flowers here are poison joke!” She pointed to a couple of blue buds hidden in the bouquet.
“Poison joke?” Spike stared at the plants uncertainly. “You mean that hilarious flower that does something different to each pony? You know, creating Flutterguy and Apple Teeny and all that?”
“Exactly. But what I don’t understand is why somepony would send me a bunch of flowers that contained poison joke. Don’t they realize how dangerous this plant can be?”
“Maybe they didn’t realize it was poison joke,” Spike reasoned. “Perhaps they just picked some pretty flowers and sent them to you.”
“I suppose so,” Twilight responded, though not sounding completely convinced. “Well, I need to visit Zecora to get the cure. Unfortunately, I touched the flowers before I realized what they were, so I’ll lose my magic in a few hours unless we can make the remedy first. And I’ll need to get some extra, too, for the mailpony and for anypony else who might have touched the poison joke.”
Twilight galloped toward the castle entrance, Spike scampering along behind her in an attempt to keep up. Twilight paused at the door to grab a bag before heading out to find Zecora.
“Oh, and Spike?” Twilight looked back at him as she left the castle. “Be sure to pick up some more quills while I’m gone. I noticed that we’re running low again.”
Spike just groaned.
Twilight and Zecora stood around the zebra’s cauldron. While Twilight carefully measured out another ingredient, Zecora bent down to stir the brew. The green bubbles rising in the potion indicated that it was almost ready.
“Thank you again for making the remedy, Zecora,” Twilight said. “Though I still don’t understand how somepony could accidently pick poison joke flowers without realizing what they were.”
“You think this was an accident,” replied Zecora, “a harmless deed without intent.”
Twilight considered that for a moment. “Wait, are you suggesting somepony did this on purpose?”
Zecora paused to taste the brew before responding. “You are an alicorn princess pony. That this is a coincidence strikes me as phony.”
Twilight levitated another ingredient over to the cauldron. “So you think somepony did this because I’m a princess? What would they possibly gain from sending me a flower that causes my horn to…oh.” Twilight’s eyes widened as she realized a new possibility. “Maybe somepony wanted to stop me from being able to use magic. But what are they trying to do, if they thought my magic could interfere with their plans? We need to finish the remedy quickly so I can return to Ponyville and stop them.” Twilight frantically started pulling more ingredients off of the shelves.
Zecora chuckled. “I do not know what they seek to do; though now I see you have a choice, too. You could stop them with magic, if you feel so bold, but you have the advantage now: why not let events unfold?”
Twilight ceased her frenzied potion making to ponder the advice. Zecora was right. Twilight had noticed the poison joke before it was too late, and that gave her time to respond to whatever was being planned by the mysterious pony who had sent her the flowers. Even if this was just an accident, a cautious response could be quite prudent. But how could she surprise whoever might be behind this without prematurely alerting them to what she was doing?
Then Twilight grinned as an idea occurred to her.