*…disappearance of the vast majority of the North Equinus Mountain range, which some postulate has…*
*…tired of those pesky cherry pies falling from the sky? Well, you can wipe those stains away with new patented…*
*…songstresses Countess Coloratura and Songbird Serenade have announced a planned collaborative musical project in favor of the Queens as opposed to…*
*…sightings of a strange mass above of Canterlot have caused numerous disruptions among the populace of the capital city. Concerns about the cost this will mean for the wealthy have reached the Queens’ ears…*
Applejack sighed, wings bristling, “Only them white-hitchcollar folks would look at th’ downfall a’ Harmony an’ worry ‘bout how much money they’ve got ta lose…”
“And while we contemplate the riddles that Discord has left us with,” Rarity mused, “we’re left in a rather untenable situation ourselves.”
“Ohhh, let’s not get ourselves stuck in a rut with all these sad politics channels,” Pinkie beamed, turning one of the gumdrop-dials of her diminutive candy-radio again. “I think Tavi’s radio-show’s gonna be on again soonie~!”
Static bursts bracketed numerous half-words broken out of the sentences of almost a dozen ponies across Equestria, filling the sitting-room with the sort of babel that would perhaps befall the whole of the planet if Discord succeeded…
Only to give way to a bizarre electronic thumping noise, interspersed with strains of what had to be a cello.
Pinkie’s eyes twinkled.
“Oooooh I think this is that new type of music that Tavi told me about in her last letter to me~! She said that they’re gonna call it dubtrot~~!”
Rarity’s ears flattened against her head, her lips pursing.
“Well, I suppose if you’re inclined towards that form of musical rendition…”
“I know, right~?” Pinkie Pie grinned, seemingly oblivious to the taut expression on her alabaster friend. “It’s just got so many different applications for different types of parties!”
“Pinkie, could you shut that thing off, please?”
Twilight had strode into the Pie family’s sitting room, a pentagon-shaped book clutched to her chest in her forehoof. Two days without a horn, and already she had adapted to a new alicorn-less lifestyle. Of course, judging from the shadows under her reddened eyes, there was one sort of adaptation she was ill-accustomed towards.
“Twilight,” Applejack said cautiously, “when’s th’ last time ya got any decent amount a’ sleep?”
“‘Sleep’?” Twilight answered crossly. “I have a collection of hitherto unread books regarding the history of the Pie family and the cult that came before it. Considering the proximity of this rock farm to Discord’s defeat in the Descort Fields, there has to be some secret here that could make it easier for us to defeat him again…!”
“Isn’t this the sole reason we’re devoting such time to pondering the riddles Discord left to us?” Rarity asked. “We need to find the Elements of Harmony again in full if we are to have any hope of bringing order back to our beloved and beautiful Equestria!”
Twilight’s eyes boggled slightly, her slightly frazzled mane bobbing as her nostrils flared.
“The Elements of Harmony didn’t stop Discord for good before, mein Freund. For the sake of future generations, we must learn all that we can about he was stopped before so that we can know what to do to defeat him more permanently!”
“Twilight,” said Applejack, standing up and approaching the lavender Earth Pony, “yer gittin’ a mite bit uppity about these books a’ yers.”
Twilight grinned far too widely, “Books give answers, Applejack! You know what they say: ‘Today a reader, tomorrow a leader’! These books, they have got to hold some sort of clue as to throwing down the prospect of Discord’s eternal reign of Chaos und Elend!”
“Twilight, pull yourself together, darling!” gasped Rarity, azure eyes widening in astonishment. “You’re becoming quite hysterical, and you simply must take a rest!”
“I can’t!” the lavender Earth Pony grimaced in pain, her eyes shimmering with unshed tears. “The longer all of this madness of Discord goes on, the longer that Rainbow Dash will be a pathological teller of tall tales, and the longer that my Spike will hate me for…!”
With a remorse-filled wail, Twilight Sparkle collapsed to the floor of the sitting-room, the book in her hoof falling open as it hit the floor with its covers facing up. On the front cover was a large π symbol within a perfectly drawn circle, along with a pentagon, a set of eight arrows radiating out from a singular point, and several more unfamiliar emblems.
“Umm, Twilight…” started Fluttershy, as Pinkie switched off her candy-radio. “Listen, I’m sure that Spike doesn’t hate you. He’s just… a bit… testy.”
“Mein geliebter Drache,” Twilight sobbed, “he hasn’t spoken to me since Friday! And all because I was trying to brace him for a bad fall about you, Rarity!”
“It breaks my heart to see you so bereft, Twilight,” said the alabaster Earth Pony, “but your pain is not going to be set at ease by pushing yourself into books.”
“We’re all here for ya, sugar-cube,” Applejack said, holding out a hoof to Twilight. “Ya ain’t gotta hold the weight a’ th’ world on yer shoulders. Yer not alone; ya got us as yer friends. If ya need help in gittin’ yer family life back t’gether, all ya got ta do is ask us an’ we’ll come runnin’.”
Rubbing her eyes, Twilight looked up to the palomino Pegasus, that broad and comforting smile spread across her boxy muzzle. Letting a smile cross her own muzzle, Twilight reached up and took Applejack’s hoof in her own.
“Thank you, Applejack,” she said. “I… kind of lost my senses, didn’t I? I should probably get some rest soon; driving myself into insomnia won’t help us take down Discord.” She turned a weary smile towards her alabaster friend. “I might need to borrow your fainting couch sometime, Rarity.”
“As burdened as I am with not being able to control it,” Rarity said with a bowed head, “it would certainly do you some good, so…”
The ex-Unicorn fashionista brought her forehoof to her forehead, eyes rolling back into her head as she threw herself to the floor in an impeccable impression of fainting. In an instant, from beyond the peripherals of anypony in the room, Rarity’s fainting couch zoomed in under its own power and planted itself directly beneath its owner the instant before she would have hit the floor…
Rarity looked up at Twilight with a bright expression.
“Feel free, darling. What’s mine is yours.”
“Thank you a gross times, Rarity,” Twilight said tiredly, stepping past Applejack and collapsing onto the fainting couch as Rarity stepped off.
“So, Twilight-y,” Pinkie interjected, picking up the book from the floor, “what did you read in this crazy bookie here? It looks like a really funny picture-book with its not having any words on the covers!”
“It’s a log of sorts, written by a succession of high-ranking members of the Cult of Pi over the course of some grosses of years,” Twilight explained.
“An’, what sorta symbol is that?” asked Applejack, pointing at a circle with a pair of diametric whirls inside it. “That looks like some kinda yin yang―”
The open window gazing out into the open fields of rocks and boulders proved an alternate function, as Rainbow Dash clambered into the sitting-room from outside. She fell onto her chest before pulling herself up into a sitting position, the cerulean Unicorn’s horn standing out all the more for its position on the diamond-shaped light patch under her forelock.
“What’s Twilight doing on Rarity’s fainting couch?” she asked. “Can’t have been because of that rock-golem attack off on the south ridge that I totally fought off with my Alicorn powers…!”
“I’ve just been tiring myself out from reading too many books in a language that I didn’t grow up speaking.”
“So basically, just flipping around in some useless books, weren’tcha?”
“Rainbow Dash, I swear to―”
Taking a deep breath and exhaling her frustration, Twilight turned her attention back to the query just before Rainbow had quite suddenly dropped in.
“Alright, AJ, let me take a look at that symbol.”
The palomino placed the book on the table in front of the couch on which Twilight rested. The lavender mare narrowed her eyes at the symbol in question.
“Hmm… Well, it definitely bears an uncanny resemblance to the tàijítú of Qín culture, but… I’ve never seen any depiction that placed such ambiguity on which is yīn and which is yáng.”
“How do ya mean, sugar-cube?”
“Well, you see, yīn is dark with a light circle inside it, and yáng is the reverse. This… I can’t tell which side of the tàijítú is supposed to be dark and which is light. And neither half has a circle inside it. This one has a pentagon, and the other… it looks like a golden apple.”
“Oooooh an apple~?” Pinkie interjected, fluttering up to Applejack’s face and rubbing her cheek against the burlier Pegasus’s. “And since Twilight found this in my family’s dusty old buried library deep beneath the rock farm, does that mean that me and AJ are really really really distant cousins~~? ‘Cause that’d be so cool because then the Pies and the Apples could have one big and happy and big family reunion and have, like, dozens and dozens more friendships between Apples and Pies and―”
“Pinkie, Entschuldigen Sie,” Twilight grumbled, “but I was talking, and I could do without any interruptions.”
The pink Pegasus’s ears drooped slightly as she smiled nervously, “Oooh, sorry there, Twilight.”
Twilight cleared her throat.
“But, as I was saying, this is a very unusual tàijítú, and I don’t recall ever seeing it anywhere in my readings on Qín. This has to be an emblem of the Cult of Pi’s devotion to Discord…!”
A cold stillness fell over the room as the words settled into comprehension. Pinkie’s wings stopped flapping and she remained suspended in mid-air with a slack jaw, and she wasn’t the only one. Dropped jaws and wide eyes swept the faces of everypony in the room, save Rainbow Dash.
“Heh, well that makes, like, way too much sense,” the faded-cerulean mare said with a snide tone and wide grin. “I mean, those guys were everywhere when I went to deal with Discord to get back my Element…!”
Twilight sighed; in the days since the return from the High Eyries, she and her band of friends had learned that contradicting Rainbow Dash’s so-called accomplishments would lead to a bout of rage-filled aggression that made Limestone Pie seem sweet and agreeable. So, until such time as their Elements of Harmony or some magic of Discord allowed for Rainbow to return to her normal self, they would have to collectively endure the lies.
“So, you’re saying that our family are a bunch of supporters of that dragon-guy freak?”
Limestone Pie stood in the doorway, evidently having finished a shift of crop rotation judging by the spattered layers of dirt and rock-dust… and wearing an expression of utmost fury and indignation. Behind her stood Marble Pie, along with their parents Igneous and Cloudy.
“Ohh no no no no no, Miss Pie!” Rarity said. “Twilight was just saying that―!”
“I didn’t hear it from you, girlie!” Limestone shouted in interruption, turning her mismatched eyes upon Twilight. “I heard it from the bookworm! You did not just accuse us of palling around with that dragon guy that twisted my little sister’s head around! I did not just hear that out of your mouth…!”
The firstborn Pie daughter’s face was contorted, baring her teeth at the lavender Earth Pony and seeming like a giant despite being within a few inches of Applejack’s height. Belying this wrathful expression, however, were the tears prickling at the corners of her eyes.
“Miss Limestone,” Twilight began, all tiredness forgotten, “I swear that I wasn’t saying that your family was in cahoots with Discord at all!”
“Really?” The burly Earth Pony mare looked like she didn’t believe Twilight at all. “Because from what I heard, you were just talking about the ‘Pies’ devotion to Discord’ just now! I literally heard it just as Marble and me’d come back in from working the fields! Marble, you’re with me on this, right?!” She rounded on her youngest sister.
Marble Pie looked back and forth nervously, glancing between Limestone and the ponies surrounding her twin, and the pair of ponies behind her. Her lips pursed and her eyes widened.
“Limestone Pie, leave thy youngest sister be,” Cloudy Quartz said curtly, “and let our guest speak her piece.”
“And preferably,” Igneous Rock added, “in more than simply simple sentences.”
Limestone nearly looked mutinous, but her mother’s eyes took on a steely sheen, and she faltered. Taking a deep and slow breath in through her nostrils, Limestone faced Twilight with a begrudging sigh.
“Very well, I’ll hear you out,” she said, before pulling down the lid of her green eye, “but you better not be pulling my leg…!”
Taking a deep breath herself, Twilight reached onto the table and pulled the five-sided book closer to her.
“Now, let me preface anything that I say right now,” she began, “by saying that I am making no assertions or accusations against anypony alive or present in this room. As far as this log indicates, the Cult of Pi dissolved many grossenturies ago.”
“The ‘Cult of Pi’?” asked Limestone, eyeing the wordless cover of the book that Twilight pulled open. “What in the world is that?”
“Mm…?” Marble asked with a nod of her head.
“It was an organization that originated in these parts, and was in essence the precursor to Holderton and to our Pie family itself.”
Numerous pairs of eyes locked onto Igneous Rock, the patriarch of the Pie family holding a forehoof to his chest.
“That’s… more or less true, Mr. Pie,” Twilight restarted, feeling mildly astonished, “but the salient fact of the matter lies in where the Cult of Pi’s allegiance was: to Discord and to what he preached.”
Igneous Rock and Cloudy Quartz both nodded.
“Pa, this can’t be true!” Limestone growled. “This has to be a lie!”
“‘Tis not a lie, Limestone,” he replied. “It was the ancestral origins of our family, of the settling of this region at the dawn of the Second Age of Equestria, that sought to worship chaos and sanctify madness.”
“But hold thy peace, daughter,” Cloudy Quartz cut in, raising a hoof to forestall the irate retaliation Limestone meant to offer, “for we do not say that this must be what our family is to be forever remembered for. By all rights, the meaning of the Pie family life does not lie in madness or chaos, but in rocks, does it not?”
“Well… yeah, it does,” Limestone conceded.
“Mhm,” nodded Marble.
“And in parties, don’t forget in parties, too~!” added Pinkie, bounding up and over the back of the couch to peer into the book at Twilight’s hooves.
“Yes. Yes, of course not,” said Cloudy Quartz, pushing up her glasses.
“Now, if thou wilt please, Twilight Sparkle,” offered Igneous Rock.
“Thank you, Mr. Pie,” Twilight said brightly, drawing a hoof-line along several archaic words in the text. “Now, based off of the text of this and some other books that I’ve procured from your archives…”
The sitting-room door swung open again, allowing the entry of another party into the room:
“I swear, she’s been lobbing rocks and books about rocks out the window and into the hall all day long, you’d think that somepony wouldn’t have so many rocks or books about ‘em…”
Spike came to an abrupt stop as he noticed Twilight in the room, the lavender mare and the mulberry drake locking eyes for several moments…
Before he turned and took his spot on the far end of the room, where the party’s saddle-bags had been set. He kept his eyes fixated at some point on the ceiling, a neutral expression on his face.
Of course, Twilight thought, trying to fight back the pain. He couldn’t have forgiven me in the short time since… no. Wait a second. How long was I reading those books again?
A sapphire forehoof slowly found its way to Twilight’s forehead.
Twilight, hast du Koprolith im Kopf? she thought. You’ve made your bed, now you’ll lay in it.
Shaking away the heartache, Twilight turned her eyes back to the Cult of Pi’s log book.
“So… this entire log is written in Old Equus, meaning that its penship dates back to the early Second Age of Equestria. The muzzlescript changes several times as it delves deeper into the back of this log, indicating that it was written by a great many ponies over the generations.”
“What’s it all written about, then, Twilight?” asked Applejack.
“It’s mostly a log relating to cult activities, such as recruitment methods and the origins of their cult. There are a lot of blank spaces and holes in the narrative these logs present, but I can piece together a decent enough history of the Cult of Pi for us to work with.
“During the Age of Discord, there was a colony of Earth Ponies who had elected that it was better to pledge allegiance to Discord than to allow themselves to be his toys. According to the logs, Discord was more than happy to have worshipers, but based off of what we know of him, I think we can guess that he just found them to be a laugh.”
“Heh, of course Discord would be like that,” Rainbow Dash interjected brashly. “I mean, Discord did time-travel me and the Wonderbolts back to the past before I totally whooped his butt and―!”
“Rainbow Dash…!” Fluttershy snarled, approaching the cerulean mare with hunched shoulders and gritted teeth. Rather, it was the other Fluttershy, the brutal and assertive mare that normally dwelt in the dark recesses of Fluttershy’s mind. Her pupils constricted as she threw back her mane, her three horns standing out quite starkly now.
“Rainbow Dash,” the other Fluttershy growled again, “just… shut up! We don’t want to hear those idiotic lies of yours! You’re being the exact opposite of helpful right now, and I have half a mind to deck you in the face so hard your skull will heal concave!”
The yellow mare’s nostrils flared, but at the sight of the dull-cerulean mare’s look of astonishment, she let out a soft gasp, her posture relaxing significantly.
“Oh no… she came out again, didn’t she?” Fluttershy asked in a timid tone.
Rainbow Dash nodded swiftly, her muzzle scrunching up and her pale-cerise eyes wide.
“Well,” Limestone groused, “guess that’s one way to get her to tell the truth.”
“Or maybe,” Pinkie interceded, flapping about the room with a wide-eyed look herself, “Dashie is lying so hard that it’s looped back around to the truth again! She’s pulling a double-lie! But, wouldn’t that kinda make double-lies the truth? So does that mean that lies are only half-truths? My mind is totally blown!”
“Well, unblow your mind for a few minutes, alright?” grumbled Twilight. “I haven’t finished expositing on this clan that lived under Equestria’s nose for grossenturies, because it’s a sobering narrative.”
“What good is that gonna do anypony, Twilight?” Spike growled from his corner.
“I…” Twilight hesitated. “This… This clan that worshipped Discord, they must have known something about Discord that he let slip to them… Something we can use while we’re looking for the rest of the Elements…!”
Rarity nodded, “I concur. It may not have even been a week since Discord has arisen − Hurricane has not yet given way to Puddinghead yet − but he is already terribly subverting everything we hold dear!”
Applejack, Pinkie Pie, and Fluttershy all nodded in agreement; Rainbow Dash shook her head, which the party took to mean consent as well. Spike looked torn; if he agreed with Rarity, he would find himself agreeing with Twilight. He settled with curling up in the corner, facing away from everypony.
“Well, if it helps fix what that dung-head did to my little sister,” Limestone snarled, “I’m all for it. Lay it on us, bookworm.”
Twilight inclined her head lightly.
“Alright then. But from what I’ve read thus far, it’s been penned by some truly deranged ponies. With no bearing on the ponies who’ve so kindly granted us shelter,” she added with a
The lavender Earth Pony took a deep breath, opened the book once more, and began to translate:
The Greyfaces laugh at us who have Followed since the eighty-seventh Year of Our Lord Discord. But we care not; He befits us mercy as He does to nopony else. Because we do indulge Him in His whims without care, but with a laugh and with mirth. And though He made appearance that He was perplexed by our actions, in time did He plainly demonstrate His jollity at our piety.
And so did He, Discord, grant us many blessings, and we who survived such beatitudes were all the more reverent of Him. This was the greatest of pleasures to Him, and we did kiss Him at His hoof and claw. For though He had lost the favor of those who would hold Him to the greatest of praise, He found solace in our adulation.
The Recalcitrants grow in number behind the Feral and the Deceitful, their many eyes turned upon Him with a disdain most vile. They defy Him with His sacred notions of the year of five months each of seventy-three days; of the infallibility of anypony who He bestows papal rights upon; of the sacred Hodge and Podge, half and half of the Sacred Cow; of the holiness that is the letter five.
We have followed Him to the east, to this flat land which He leaves pock-marked with many a fallen rock from the sky. T’is our purpose in His guise to move these rocks about the plains, and to spread His gospel of Chaos to any who pass through. And so, because the number ‘π’ is divisible by five according to the Law of Fives, we shall call ourselves ‘Pi’.
The room hung in silence, save for the continuing commotion above in Maud’s room as she continued her de-stoning activities.
“Well, those fellas sound like they were a buncha lunatics!” mused Applejack, a pale eyebrow creasing down over one eye as the other brow arched up.
“There is a sort of demented logic to them,” Twilight remarked, trailing the edge of a cloven hoof into one of the dry pages and gingerly twisting it open, “but all in all, it seems as though everything that they were set about to do by Discord was simply to provide him entertainment.”
“It surely must be,” Rarity commented. “I mean them no ill will whatsoever, but may the Maker explain why they believe a cow of all things is sacred.”
“Ohh sorry, it must’ve sounded quite silly to say that, didn’t it?” Twilight said, turning back to the page that held that passage. “Because, it’s really now a ‘Cow’; it’s spelled C-H-A-O, but there’s a notation at the bottom of the page indicating that the ‘H’ is silent, for the purposes of… well, it says ‘education’, but I get the feeling that ‘indoctrination’ was nearer the mark.”
She looked about at the herd of ponies in the sitting-room.
“I know it’s selfish of me to say this,” the lavender ex-Unicorn said softly, “but I need to catch up on my rest. Once I’ve gotten my energy back, I’ll tell anypony who’s interested more about what I’ve uncovered about this Cult of Pi.”
Laying her head down upon the hoofrest of the fainting couch and rest overtaking her, Twilight barely registered the sounds of ponies shuffling out of the room… but not the scratch of Spike’s claws against the wooden floor.
Rarity found herself stepping out from the homestead, standing under the gray overcast sky. A wind from the west had carried wild Everfree clouds out over Holderton and the surrounding fields, casting a dreary pall about the area.
This did little, though, to mask the dark and hazy silhouette looming up above the North Equinus mountain range, which would surely cast a shadow of night upon this place as the sun passed midday.
Rarity sighed, bringing a hoof to the base of her forelock. How dearly she’d missed her alicorn, the ability that she had to detect gemstones by aligning the matrixes within it just right. It was a talent she had developed shortly before acquiring her cutie mark, to find the gemstones she would need for her dresses. It was then, really, that she had begun to discover her talent for creating truly gorgeous dresses and dress-saddles for anypony who called for it. Though, if Rarity could be frank with herself, it was a curious matter that Rainbow Dash’s Sonic Rainboom could have been the catalyst for the six of them all earning their cutie marks within hours of one another.
The alabaster Earth Pony looked down at her cutie mark, the three powder-blue diamond shapes, and wondered what good her talent would be in the grand scheme of thwarting that ruffian Discord.
I mean, she thought, it’s not as though being able to manufacture dresses will be able to help him see the error of his ways. Maker knows, he hardly seems to have any redeemable qualities whatsoever…
Looking back further, Rarity thought back to mere months before she had found that giant ‘dumb rock’ which was subsequently smashed by what was apparently the first Sonic Rainboom in grossenturies. Back to when she was a very different foal. Back when she was a…
A glint in the corner of her eye.
Rarity turned to look down into the quarry. Was it the fragments of the olden Holder’s Boulder…?
No. It was…
Was that… her cutie mark on the wall?
Overcome with curiosity, Rarity treaded cautiously down the rugged slope into the excavated earth, passing around the cloven halves of the giant geode of pinkamena and trotting towards the enigmatic sight. How could a set of three diamonds cut exactly to the shape of her cutie mark possibly be floating seemingly of their own power, glowing of their own light…?
Taking a step towards them, Rarity was taken aback when the gems floated off as one into the nearby wall, revealing the far greater shine of an even greater collection of diamonds.
Rarity’s world dissolved into a tunnel around her, focused entirely upon that which was HERS. She brought her hooves up and began to dig.
It felt as though she had been asleep for weeks, even months. Twilight’s eyelids were heavy and slid back slowly, almost defiantly. As the waking world came into focus around her, the lavender mare made out a pair of voices that she’d heard before; it was a stallion and a mare who ran a certain radio-show and spoke of some particularly astonishing and exasperating headlines. Pinkie’s candy-radio was apparently playing again, with the occasional little snicker from Limestone and… Marble?
Twilight shook her head inside; there were some things about ponies that still surprised her.
“Heeheehee, that story was a real doozy, wasn’t it, Marble~?” Pinkie’s voice asked.
“Mhm,” replied Marble’s small voice.
Sitting up from Rarity’s fainting couch, Twilight spotted that Pinkie and her sisters − excluding Maud − seated at the family couch in the corner, the rosy mare’s candy-radio perched atop a coaster on the oak table. Spike was also seated at the couch, atop one of the hoofrests and facing away from Twilight.
“Man, that was really messed up, that story…!” said the mulberry drake, claws resting on his knees. He looked as happy as he had ever been since arriving at Holderton.
“I know, right?” grinned Limestone, her mismatched eyes flashing. “These dung-brains just do the same stupid things every week. They just make Headline Hunter’s job way too easy…”
Marble looked past Spike towards the couch Twilight rested on, and the lavender mare smiled sheepishly at Pinkie’s twin. Spike turned in the direction that Marble was facing, and did a double-take at the sight of his caretaker.
“M-Mom! You’re…?” Spike coughed to interrupt himself, and his first happy, then shocked, air was quickly substituted with one of sharp irritation.
“Hmph. Of course you had to wake up, Twilight.”
Twilight found herself scowling.
“Spike, you don’t have to play coy with me. I’m not stupid; I know that you were happy listening to this show… that you are far too young to be listening to, might I add.”
“Oh come on, Twilight, it’s not like I’m the only kid that listens to it. There was that one filly barely older than me who sent in a card to them that―”
“That got mentioned on the air, I got it. But that doesn’t give you an excuse to listen to such vulgarity and idiotic tales of the dumbest of ponykind. I didn’t raise you that way!”
“Ohh, I suppose you didn’t; you raised me to crush all my dreams of a future with the mare I love!”
“You don’t love Rarity like that, Spike; you just think you do!”
“What do you know about being in love?”
Twilight faltered. What did she know about being in love? She did not want to lose face in front of Spike, not when such an argument could give her drake the wrong impression about what constituted “winning” an argument. And though she thought of herself as not being capable of feeling such affection for somepony, a very particular face began to float to the surface of her mind…!
“Twilight, yer awake?” asked Applejack as she came through the open door.
Twilight found herself flushing. That was certainly unexpected for the palomino Pegasus to trot in like that, just when she was thinking about…
She stopped herself. Did she think of Applejack that way…?
She shook her head vigorously. She couldn’t think about this now; there were more important things at the moment…!
Applejack cocked an eyebrow with a wry twist to corner of her mouth, “Really, Twi, ya can’ fool me, Ah cin tell thatcher risin’ an’ shinin’.”
“Oh AJ, I was just… nevermind. I was just having a word with Spike about…”
Rather than finishing, Twilight shot a cross look at Pinkie Pie, who had already switched off her candy-radio with a nervous smile.
“She was giving Spike grief for listening to us listening to What In Celestia’s Name Is Wrong With You?!,” Limestone explained lowly.
“But, more importantly,” Twilight interjected, facing Spike with a raised voice, “I was going to address the fact that he was enjoying himself while doing so.”
“Ohh, so now I’m not allowed to enjoy the radio anymore? What good is it being your son, anyway?” Spike snapped, his voice cracking and his eyes shimmering at the corners.
“That was not what I meant, and you know it, Spike! You’re smarter than that!” Twilight continued emphatically, ears flattening. “I mean that you’re only forcing yourself to be miserable whenever I’m around, to punish me for telling you that Rarity isn’t interested in you like that!”
“Why, though, Twilight?” Spike pleaded, claws curled up and mouth wavering as the tears he held back began to stream freely. “Why doesn’t Rarity like me like I like her? Is it my claws? Is it my breath? Is it―?”
“Spike, listen to me,” Twilight said with powerful tone, taking the mulberry drake up in her forelegs, fighting her own tears. “Listen, mein geliebter Drache. You’re not doing anything wrong. You’re perfect, just the way you are. The thing is, Spike, that you’re just not Rarity’s type. You’re young, too young for a mare like Rarity, and you have all the time in the world to find your special soul-mate. I know it sounds like something you’d read in a book―” (“Which you probably did, to be honest,” Spike quipped.) “―but it’s still true. And who knows, you might not even grow up to want to be with anyone when you grow up. It’s your choice, my big boy, but I don’t want you to hurt yourself by chasing after an impossibility.”
Spike put his claws up on Twilight’s forearms, his slitted pupils dilating until they were almost perfectly round, his nictitating membrane blinking back his tears while maintaining eye-contact with Twilight. For a moment that lasted forever, it seemed like the grief that had come between them was to be dissolved, nothing but a distant memory…
“EVERYPONY! LOOK AT ALL OF THESE MOST LUSCIOUS AND SPARKLING DIAMONDS THAT I FOUND!”
Lavender ears flattened against Twilight’s skull, as she swiveled her head over to the sitting-room doorway to spy a very very dirty Earth Pony, her mane no longer coolly swept nor her hooves cleanly filed. In addition to the manic expression on her face, offset by the fact that she was missing her false eyelashes from her right eye, she carried herself in the awkward position of walking solely on her hind legs, her forelegs cradling a large collection of…
“Uhhh, Rarity, those are just a bunch of rocks.”
“You don’t know anything about my babies here!” she screeched at the mulberry dragon-cub, stomping her forehooves down on the floor with a resounding crack from the wood… and the clatter of several stones as they inevitably slipped from her grip and spilled all over. Her eyes stared down with disbelief at the fallen rocks, before she glowered down at Spike as though he were villainy from the very deepest Tartarean circle.
“Now look what you made me do, you ugly little lizard!” she snapped, her eyes popping out so quickly that the false eyelashes on her left eye drooped down onto her cheek and muzzle, making her look even more deranged. She adjusted her posture so that she stood over the rocks, perpendicular to the door frame. “You made me do that on purpose so you could get your greedy little claws all over my diamonds!”
Spike spread his claws out in prostration, “But I wasn’t trying to get my claws on your… diamonds?”
Immediately Twilight could see what had given Spike pause. While most of Rarity had become matted and ridden with earth and shards of rock, there was one spot that shone far brighter than ever before. Her cutie mark seemed to be sparklingly luminous… except, on close inspection, they seemed to be actual diamonds, embedded in place of the facsimiles which had previously graced her flanks. They looked cold and alien on Rarity’s body, but Spike seemed to be thoroughly hypnotized by the sight of them, his pupils narrowing to thinner slits than they ever had before…
“Spike…?” Twilight ventured.
“Li’l guy…?” asked Applejack.
“Spike want!” the mulberry drake snarled as he lunged at Rarity’s gem-speckled hindquarters, which swiveled out of the way as the alabaster Earth Pony practically pirouetted on her forelegs and rose to a fierce rearing posture.
“You will NOT touch anything that belongs to me, ruffian!”
Twilight instinctively tried to reach out with her dwimmer shimmer and keep Spike from ripping out the diamonds from Rarity’s flank, and Rarity from busting Spike’s skull in, but recalled with dismay that she was still an Earth Pony. In an instant, she leapt up from the fainting-couch Rarity had bequeathed her, preparing to spring between them…
“DID I JUST HEAR ROCKS FALLING IN THIS HOUSE?!!”
A great slate-gray shape barged in through the doorway, throwing Rarity clean over Twilight’s head and onto the couch she’d just vacated. Spike’s claws sunk into the fur along one of its forelegs. The faded eyes of Maud Pie stared down at the piles of rocks that had fallen from Rarity’s grasp, lines darkening as she scowled more and more deeply.
“HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO SPELL IT OUT?!” she bellowed. “I! HATE! ROCKS!” She stomped a hoof to punctuate each word, sending spidering cracks along the floor.
“Those are not rocks!” growled Rarity, losing her feminine edge to her voice entirely and sounding entirely too raspy. “Those are my diamonds, you big brute!”
Maud seemed to fill the entire room as she glowered down at the miniscule mare, and the fashionista found herself wilting slightly.
“Or, uhh, just… call them whatever you want, as long as you don’t touch them.”
“I call them garbage, and I WANT THEM OUTTA HERE!”
“Maud, please stop shouting at Rarity…!” Pinkie cried, flapping up to Maud’s face with her hooves out pleadingly. “She’s just all gray because Dizzy’s a big meanie-pants and made her all cranky and want to hold onto everything for herself―!”
“Oh shut your mouth, Pinkamena!” Maud interrupted, baring her teeth. “You’re so annoying…!” She raised her hoof to swat Pinkie out of the air.
“Hey, you leave ‘er alone!” shouted Applejack, green eyes narrowed up at the towering Earth Pony. “She ain’t tryin’ ta cause ya any grief, ya hear?”
“Don’t yell at my little sister!” Limestone suddenly bellowed, her eyes boring into Applejack’s. “She’s not in her right mindset!”
“Well, she’s yellin’ at one a’ mah friends! An’ at yer own sister ta boot!”
“Pinkie’s just got wings; Maud’s been affected in the mind! Pinkie can take it!”
At a glance, Twilight really doubted this; Pinkie was literally going blue as her mane and tail slowly uncurled, her legs sagging lower and lower beneath her…
“Would everypony please… stop… SHOUTING!”
A lean Unicorn had strode into the room, her extra horns growing longer with each step that she took, lines of anger growing deeper and deeper along her features. The look in her eyes was that of a ferocious tarrasque having sighted the object of its proactive ire. Even Spike in his state of seeming hypnosis by Rarity’s bona-fide diamonds locked his eyes onto the approaching mare. For several moments as the other Fluttershy took in and let out deep breaths, the atmosphere was so thick that nopony could move…
But then Fluttershy’s pupils dilated, her demeanor slackening as she seemingly lost half her size and shrunk back into herself. Despite her fearful expression, her horns still very starkly flanked her features.
“I… I really didn’t mean to… It’s getting harder to… keep her back…!”
“Who do you think you are, yelling at me?” snarled Maud, looming large over the yellow ex-Pegasus. “Was it Pinkie that put you up to it?!”
“No no no no no no no no NO!” bellowed Pinkie, rushing from blue to red so quickly that she almost seemed to glow crimson. Her wings fluttered madly like a hummingbird’s. “Everypony’s all wrong! Rarity’s not supposed to be all greedy and insensitive, and Dashie’s not supposed to be lying about everything, and Maud’s not supposed to be a meanie who hates rocks! Why doesn’t everypony just all go back to normal?!”
Twilight opened her mouth in preparation of a comment to Pinkie that simply wishing for something had no way of making it be… but when she saw the glow that started around Pinkie’s right shoulder and crept up her foreleg and then leapt from one hoof to the other, culminating in a bright light that blinded most everypony in the sitting room, those words were lost in the back of her mind, to rot until her dying days.
“What… what in the name of the Maker and the Firmament above was THAT, Pinkie Pie???” Twilight shouted, blinking the spots out of her eyes.
Pinkie sunk to the ground, shrugging her forelegs nervously. “I… really don’t know, Twilight. It just… was something inside me.”
“That was…” Rainbow Dash stuttered, her jaw agape, “that was the most incredible thing you’ve ever done, Pinkie Pie, and I’ve seen you do some strange things!”
Pinkie giggled lightly, “Why, thank you, Dashie! How truly honest of you to say that~!”
Wait a second.
“Did… Rainbow Dash just… tell the truth?”
“Pfffft,” Rainbow Dash scoffed. “What do you think I am? Some kinda basket-case? I just tell it like I see it.”
The brash mare started to rub her forehead.
“But, I do kinda feel like I’ve been a bit… off lately…”
She sat down on her haunches, wrapping her forelegs with her primaries.
“I feel like I was in this bad spot where all of us were fighting and shouting at each other and… wait a second, my wings are back?”
Twilight blinked, gawking at the prismatic primaries that had vanished from her sight not even two days ago. Not even daring to allow herself to hope, Twilight nonetheless found herself overcome with curiosity, crossing her eyes and peering up just ahead of her forelock. A familiar lavender point came into view.
Hoping against hope that her eyes were not deceiving her, she sent a signal from the point in her brain where her alicorn typically met her skull, and sure enough the matrices began to align to indicate that…
“How… how is this even possible?” Twilight breathed.
“Awwww, I don’t have the flappy wings anymore…” Pinkie said sadly, staring down at the floor in front of her hooves.
“GET THIS INFERNAL LITTLE RUFFIAN OFF OF MY FLANK!”
Rarity’s color was difficult to discern due to her ordinarily alabaster coat and the dirt that presently coated her mane and her tail’s skirt, but she was evidently still a duller shade than she was before. Spike’s eyes were almost completely pistachio-green, his pupils almost pen-stroke-thin. The mulberry dragon cub had managed to hoist himself up on the alabaster mare’s back, sitting backwards while attempting to grasp the diamonds that took the place of her cutie mark. Rarity, for her part, attempted to buck Spike off, snorting wildly from out her nostrils and making distinctly unladylike whinnies.
“How come we’re all back to normal,” Applejack asked, gesturing towards the once-more sedate and stoic Maud Pie, to the wild and rowdy Rarity surrounded by great quantities of rocks, “an’ Rarity an’ Spike ain’t?”
“I’m sorry, AJ, but I couldn’t turn back everything that Dizzy did to everypony,” answered Pinkie with a sad shrug.
Something inside Twilight that she swore she would not let snap again, snapped.
“That’s it, Pinkie Pie!” she shouted, rounding on the rosy Earth Pony… if that’s even what she was. “I’ve had too many questions for too long about you, and I love you dearly, but I can’t keep it back anymore! You keep doing things that no pony should be able to do; you could use magic as a Unicorn when Applejack, Fluttershy, and Rainbow Dash couldn’t; you could fly so easily as a Pegasus when me, Rarity, and Applejack had so much trouble; and just now you… you―”
A gray blur flashed in to fill Twilight’s vision, resolving into Maud Pie in an instant. Her face was as empty of emotion as it ever was, but Twilight felt a formidable force radiating out from the large Earth Pony mare as palpably as if it were a bonfire.
“I would like you to stop shouting at my sister, please.”
“Yay~, I’m so glad that you’re back to yourself, Maud~” squealed Pinkie, evidently throwing her forelegs around one of Maud’s hind legs. The rest of the Pie family gazed warmly at the two middle daughters, apparently glad for the return of Maud’s sense.
Twilight’s ears folded back at the intensity of Maud’s eyes.
“I… you have to understand, Maud, that I’m not trying to attack your sister in any way. I’m just as concerned for her as you are, and everything that she’s done, everything I’ve seen her do… this makes it a matter of even greater importance than ever to comb these books of the Pi cult that formerly called this territory home! Not just to find a weakness in Discord in case we can’t acquire the Elements of Harmony, but also to find out what he’s put in the bloodline of the Pies to make Pinkie do what she does! We’re going to have to look deep, and far back, to get to the truth!”
“How are we going to do that, Twilight?” asked Fluttershy, pawing nervously at the ground.
“Well, now that I have my horn back,” Twilight grinned up at her horn, “it should be a simple matter. I’ll use Hayscartes’s method.”
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