From her perch atop a spire, Rainbow Dash surveyed her surroundings. Tangled forest shrouded the ground for miles around in the immediate vicinity of her vantage point. Farther away, the untamed growth gave way to the more orderly woodland of cultivated orchards. Eventually the trees stopped altogether and were replaced by roofs and streets of Ponyville. At the far end of the town, the faint outline of Twilight’s castle reached heavenward. And beyond, in the far distance, Dash could barely make out the imposing skyline of Canterlot.
Rainbow Dash took in all of the landscape without a second thought. More important to her were the signs of any suspicious ponies approaching. Pinkie Pie had charged Dash with acting as lookout to ensure nopony discovered them. While Rainbow Dash had thought her friend’s Pinkie sense could give them adequate warning, Pinkie had insisted that they do things properly according to the rules and regulations of official kidnappings. Apparently, one of those rules involved boring Dash to death with lookout duty.
Dash gave the countryside another cursory glance. Then she spread her wings and took flight. She descended from the tower in a leisurely loop toward the ground. Circling around the ruins of a crumbling wall, Dash headed toward an open courtyard. With a precision and grace that came from years of practiced flying, she alighted on a cobblestone path without a sound.
And was immediately tackled by a pink blur.
“What did you see? What did you see? Was it a flying muffin? Was it the Super-Speed Cider-Squeezy 6000? Ooh, I know! You saw an evil alternate of Twilight tearing holes in reality and nearly causing Rarity to fall into another world!”
“Pinkie, get off!” Dash exclaimed. She pushed the excitedly bouncing pony off of her and got to her hooves. “No, there was nothing to see. It was just several hours of excruciating boredom with nothing to do.”
With a quizzical tilt of her head, Pinkie responded, “But you were only up there for five minutes, Dashie.”
“Maybe I should take over lookout duty,” Pinkie suggested cautiously. “Perhaps you have a slight tendency to possibly get sorta-kinda bored sometimes when you sit still.”
“You think?” Dash said sarcastically.
“Of course I think, silly,” Pinkie cheerfully replied. “Ooh, or what if I only think that I can think? What if I can’t really think, but I think I am thinking when I’m not actually thinking?”
Dash facehoofed again. “Pinkie, do me a favor and stop trying to think out loud.”
“But how can I be trying to think out loud if I can’t…oh.” Pinkie Pie fell silent.
Rainbow Dash took a moment to savor the brief respite from Pinkie’s incessant babbling.
Then the courtyard lit up with a brilliant flash.
Dash quickly spun toward the source of the light. She crouched low, ready to spring on the intruder. Squinting against the brightness, Dash could barely make out the silhouette of a large pony. Dash tensed for action. Next her, Pinkie Pie put on a pair of sunglasses.
The light began to fade. The shadow of two great wings spread wide as the mysterious pony stepped forward. The imposing size of the new arrival gave Rainbow Dash pause, and she hesitated a moment. Then the light disappeared completely, and Dash was extremely glad she had not immediately leaped at the intruder.
“WHICH OF MY LITTLE PONIES WOULD DARE RAISE A HOOF AGAINST PRINCESS TWILIGHT SPARKLE?” screamed the majestic voice of Princess Celestia. “WERE I TO MERELY BANISH YOU TO THE MOON, THE GENERATIONS TO COME WOULD PRAISE MY MERCY!”
There stood the Princess of the Sun in all her terrible radiance. Her usual gentle demeanor had evaporated, leaving only the burning anger of glory. Celestia’s gentle coat glowed with barely restrained power, and her mane blew wildly in a magical tempest. Her whole body shook. A snarl twisted Celestia’s visage, and her eyes raged with the inferno of a thousand suns.
Rainbow Dash cast herself to the ground. She did not dare to glance up at the fury before her. This had been a horrible idea. Why had Dash let Pinkie convince her to kidnap Twilight? Now they were facing the wrath of the most powerful being in Equestria, and Dash sincerely doubted she would live another minute.
After a few seconds had passed, Dash noted that she had not yet been incinerated. She hesitantly opened one eye and stole a quick peek at the princess.
Celestia’s eyebrows twitched. Then her entire demeanor gave way to an uncontrollable fit of laughter.
“You should have seen the looks on your faces!” jubilantly exclaimed Celestia. Her whole body twisted in mirth. It writhed and warped, until Celestia’s form no longer resembled that of a pony. In fact, she looked more like…
Dash jumped to her hooves. “Discord!”
With a final chuckle, the draconequus turned to consider the two ponies glaring up at him. “That never gets old,” he said.
“What are you doing here, Discord?” Dash asked flatly.
“I could ask the same of you,” Discord whispered in Dash’s ear. “Celestia tells me that somepony has kidnapped Princess Twilight, and I, like the good friend I am, dutifully set out to investigate.” Discord casually floated above Pinkie. He wore a halo and held a magnifying glass.
“And imagine my surprise when I find that the culprits turn out to be two of Twilight's so-called friends,” Discord continued. Question marks orbited his head. “Or maybe they aren’t as close of friends as I thought. Perhaps they’re jealous of Twilight’s success?” Dash turned around to find Discord behind her. He sat upon a large pile of bits, absentmindedly twirling a scepter in his claw.
“Silly Discord,” replied Pinkie, popping out the heap of money and sending coins flying everywhere. “We’re not jealous of Twilight. We’re super-duper proud of her. Not to mention, we all have thrones alongside hers.” Pinkie pulled six other scepters out of her mane and proudly displayed them to Discord. The head of each staff bore the image of one of Twilight’s friends.
“Hm.” With a snap, Discord banished the bits and canes. “Well what is it, then? Are you trying to plunge Equestria into anarchy? If you are, I heartily approve.” A saber materialized in Discord’s paw, and he began a sword fight against Pinkie Pie.
Dash rolled her eyes. “Seriously? That’s the sort of thing you would do, Discord, not us.”
“Yes, well I suppose so,” murmured Discord, standing atop Dash’s head and peering down into her eyes. Off to the side, Discord’s abandoned sword continued its duel with Pinkie. “But remember, I’m reformed. And that regrettably includes helping the princesses uphold order and harmony.” Discord spit the last word in disgust, showering Dash in broccoli.
“We’re doing that, too!” said Pinkie excitedly from a perch atop Discord’s head. The two sabers, left unattended, fought on. “We thought if we showed Twilight how easy it was to kidnap her, she might start taking her security seriously. I mean, the royal guards never seem to do anything, but at least they give the illusion of protection.”
“Not to mention,” added Rainbow Dash, “we thought kidnapping Twilight would be the best prank ever.”
“A prank, you say?” Discord’s face lit up with delight (though, Dash supposed, that could just have been the spotlight shining on him). “Well, why didn’t you say so? I’m always eager to support a bit of harmless fun.”
Discord disappeared from Dash’s back, leaving Pinkie Pie to hover in midair. He reappeared in front of the two ponies as Pinkie Pie carefully lowered herself to the ground.
“So, you’re not going to rescue Twilight after all?” Pinkie asked.
“I think,” said Discord, consulting an official legal document, “I will report to Celestia that I was unable to locate her precious student. That ought to give her a good scare. But I expect you two to do a good job of keeping Twilight hidden. I would hate for such a good prank end so quickly.”
“Of course!” Pinkie Pie saluted Discord. “You can count on us.”
“Well, then, I’ll just be going,” Discord said. He raised his claw and prepared to teleport away. But then he paused and tilted his head, as he seemed to notice something. A small smile crept across Discord’s face. “That’s quite clever of you, Twilight,” he mumbled to himself. And with a flash, Discord was gone.
“This is why we need a lookout,” Pinkie commented. “Otherwise anypony can teleport right in here.”