• Published 11th May 2013
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Denuo Fortuna - Firecaller



She was a unicorn on the run. She needed somewhere to hide, somewhere quiet and boring. The tourist pamphlet was out of date but the place sounded ideal... Ponyville

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Chapter 13 - The Twilight Of Hope, Part 1

Chapter 13 - The Twilight of Hope - Part 1

Boss! Will you please stop pacing.”

Applejack looked up.

“You’re gonna wear a hole in the floor and we’ve only been open for ten minutes!” An exasperated Sunflower declared from behind the counter.

Applejack looked around the shop nervously. “Well, lan’s sake girl, we should have had somepony come in by now. I mean we held off opening day so it was the same day Twi, I mean Princess Twilight, got back. Well, we should be swamped by now.”

Sunflower gently placed her forehead on the counter. ‘‘Boss, it Is only ten past eight, the Princess doesn’t arrive until midday, there is nopony out there yet! Why don’t you just go and let me run the shop.”

“Well, I don’t want to leave you all alone, who knows what could happen without my help”

Sunflower lifted her head off the counter. “Boss! You can’t do everything. You are going to have to let others run things once in awhile. Just let me do my job...please. Besides, you gave me a list of contingencies to contact you over.”

‘Co-written by Twilight “huge lists” Sparkle herself.’ Sunflower added mentally.

“Well, if things go wrong I could...”

Sunflower cut in. “Your shop, lots of money, I get that. However, at this point, you are just getting in my way.”

“If you have any problems I could point out the right way to...”

“Damn it AJ! I have been on your apple-bucking team for last three seasons, in charge of it for the last bucking two. I think I can handle anything that comes up regarding a four staff and a shop for a day. I can handle this.”

Applejack looked around her store. Her old market stall stood in a corner by the glass front as a memento and as part of the window display. On one side fresh apples were displayed, cooked apple products on the other, hot food displayed in middle. She made sure that the smell could waft out, it felt like cheating a bit, but not lying, so she could live it.

She opened her mouth.

Go! For the love of Celestia, go! Go chill out, go the spa or something, go be somewhere else... anywhere else, please! Just go before you give me a Celestia-dammed heart attack!”

Applejack closed her mouth and stared at Sunflower.

“Look, if a herd of rampaging manticores come through, I swear I’ll come get you. Otherwise I’m sure we’ll all be fine. You did make me the damned manager. You know, to run your shop, while you are not here.’

Sunflower gazed out the front of the shop, into the market square as she tried to slow her breathing. She noted that Sunbeam was passing, her white back ensuring she really stood out in the crowd.

‘Oh, Sunbeam is passing the shop by the way.” Sunflower pointed out of the window.

“‘Huh?” Applejack tilted her head.

“You... Wanted... To... Talk... To... Sunbeam.” Sunflower said through gritted teeth. “You know, unicorn, white back, saved Applebloom, She’s just passing the shop.”

‘Sorry about this Sunbeam, buts it’s either you or my sanity.’

“Oh, Oh!, oh right, thanks Sunflower. But I just need to sort this before...”

Get Out! Let me run your damned store before I throw you out.”’ Sunflower yelled, pointing her hoof at the door.

“Oh right, I’ll just go then...” Applejack turned and ran out the door.

Sunflower collapsed on the counter.

Sprinkle Shine looked out from the back room. “Is she gone? Is it safe to bring out the coffee?”

From her collapsed position on the counter Sunflower piped up. “Yes please, gimme a coffee. She’s gone, I know its our first day but...” She groaned. “Two hours preparing before opening and she’s been driving me up the damned wall from the very start!” Sunflower took a deep breath. “I swear I’m never letting AJ get out of her comfort zone ever again!”

Sprinkle Shine nodded, placing a mug of coffee down beside Sunflowers head.

“Cheers.”

The bell over the door chimed.

Sunflower’s head snapped up.

“AJ I told you... oh, sorry...” Sunflower took a calming breath. “Welcome to ‘The Apples Shop’s’ grand opening, what can I get for you?”

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“Sunbeam! Wait up”

Sunbeam stopped and looked round.

Applejack was galloping after her. With a raised an eyebrow she waited for Applejack to catch up.

“Can I help you AJ?”

Applejack caught up and paused for breath. “Morning Sunny.”

‘Damn you Pinky.’

“Just wanna talk for a bit, you off anywhere?”

“Just off to get breakfast, then off to the library, need to do some research. Something you want to talk to be about AJ?”

“Well, it’s about Granny Smith... and you.”

Sunbeam pulled her head back in surprise. “Huh?”

Applejack waved a hoof dismissively at her. “Nothing you’ve done.” She took a breath. “Granny can get an idea fixed into her head sometimes. Now that she’s got no reason to complain about her hip no-more, looks like she’s fixin’ to find something else to complain about, or rather somepony else.”

“Me? What’d I do?”

“Oh, she’s not complain' about you, she’s complain’ we ain’t hanging around you enough. Sayin’ we ain’t being friendly enough.”

“But weren't we were all out camping the other night?”

“I know, in fact I’ve a been gettin’ kinda worried about...” Applejack trailed off, lost in thought. “Anyway, just givin’ y’ah the heads up on that. The other thing I wanted to say, don’t want you to think we’re leaving you out, especially since what you done for us, but...” Applejack looked down. “We’re havin’ a little get together with Twilight tonight, the girls... just the girls.”

Sunbeam smiled and nodded, feeling proud of herself at spotting the unspoken words. “And I’m not invited...” As Applejack’s face became growingly dismayed she waved a hoof. “Hey, it’s a private thing, no problems here. Old friends catching up, I don’t want to interfere with that. I am not offended in any way, shape or form I can assure you.”

‘Besides, I like my alone time.’

Applejack’s relaxed, looking like a weight had been removed. “Thank’ll kindly for your understandin’. You don’t know how much that means to me. What with Granny riding m’a flank about...” Her eyes shot wide open, bringing a hoof to her mouth.

Sunbeam smiled as another social mannerism was about to be practiced. “Sorry, didn’t catch that last bit.”

‘Keep going like this I may even start to get good at it.’

Applejack, now red in the face, nodded in appreciation. “But! tomorrow night is a big party and we do want you to attend that, I’m sure you’ll meet Twi before, but it’ll be a good chance to socialise with all of us.” Applejack gave Sunbeam a wan smile. She turned to leave “Better be gettin’ back, be seein’ y’ah”

Sunbeam watched Applejack trot back towards a shop, quite a few customers stood outside now and Applejack seemed to be hesitating about going back in.

Sunbeam turned and set back off to the cafe.

‘Ugh! More socialising. Seriously, a couple of days off would be nice.’

She sighed. ‘Okay, I know I need to socialise to be normal and have friends but...’

‘You don’t deserve friends.’ An inner voice stated.

Sunbeam stumbled and sat down heavily in the middle of the market square.

With a glazed expression she tried to reassemble her thoughts. Slowly looking to her left, then to her right, she took in all the ponies around her in the crowded market. Ponies, all smiling and chatting to each other, merchants shouting out greetings and encouragements to come try their wares. Happy, cheerful voices and faces all around.

Sitting there, ponies flowed around her, oblivious to her, as they went about their business in the market. All the sounds of the market now started to merge into a single background drone to her ears. With a jolt, she became aware that everyponies face was a blank to her. The meaning of any expression they wore elusive, slipping away before she was able to grasp it. They might as well all be wearing masks. Eyes darting from pony to pony, breathing shallow and rapid, she took a step back, seeking now to only get away from this crowd of living mannequins.

She felt like she was in the middle of a play, a play she didn't have a script for.

A feeling of nausea swept over her as she fled from the crowd.

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“Hiya AJ, Sunflower sent me through when I asked to see you.”

Applejack didn’t turn round but kept looking the cart bringing new apples to the back of the shop.

“Hiya Sunny, thought you were off to get breakfast?”

‘“Lost my appetite.” Was the quiet reply.

“Uh-huh” Applejack kept her eyes on the cart, she didn't want any of her apples getting bruised by the stallions delivering them.

Behind her, Sunbeam looked down at her hooves, her left forehoof drawing patterns on the wooden floor. Her voice becoming hesitant. ‘Anyway, umm, I was kinda thinking. If you’re free that is. I'm off to the library, didn't know if you wanted to come with me.”

Applejack remained silent, she was glaring at the delivery stallions who were currently throwing around her precious apples so recklessly. She wasn't really paying attention to Sunbeam anymore.

Sunbeam closed her eyes. “Or we could go somewhere else if you want, that’ll be fine. Just got a few things I want to get off my chest. I’ll pay of course. Wherever we go. You’re choice. Whatever the cost...”

“Yeah. You.” Applejack snapped, pointing a hoof at her eyes, then at each of the delivery stallions. They’d noticed she was watching them intently.

Sunbeam shrank back, eyes snapping open. “Y-you know, maybe go and chat about things, stuff. Get to know each other. You know, friendship stuff, even. Possibly.” Her voice trailed off. She brought a forehoof up to her face, with puzzled expression she examined it, why was it was trembling?

Turning her gaze at the back of Applejack’s head, putting her hoof gently down, she whispered. “P-please. I’m trying to...”

Looking down and closing her eyes tight, She forced a barely audible whisper out.

“I need help AJ... I-I’m damaged,”

Applejack gave no indication she’d heard, she just kept watching her apples being unloaded.

Nailing a determined expression to her face, she looked up at Applejack and took a deep breath. In a clear voice, ignoring the tightness in her chest and sudden dryness in her mouth, she started. “AJ, I...”

A box of apples crashed down, spilling apples all over the floor. Applejack cursed and glared at delivery stallions.

“Look sugar, kinda busy right now. New shop if you haven’t noticed and I gotta keep every-pony in line. You two! Here! Now!” Her annoyance showed through in her voice.

“Oh right, sorry, I’ll stop distracting you and go. Sorry to disturb. I’ll just go. I’ll just... Sorry.”

Applejack gave a deep sigh. “Look hun, I’m a little on edge right now, please ignore that. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to snap at you.” She looked round, Sunbeam wasn’t there.

‘Dang, guess I better go apologise later on. Aww, shoot, didn’t even really catch what she wanted either.’

Sunflower came out a minute later. “How’s it going boss?”

Applejack was still scowling at the now cowed delivery stallions. “Could be better, a box of bruised apples now and I snapped at Sunbeam, guess I gotta go apologize later .”

Sunflower nodded. ‘You better, she looked like you’d just kicked her puppy when she galloped through.’

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‘What the Tartarus were you thinking you stupid mare, she’s an element bearer, she will tell the Princess. You trying get caught by the Day Princess? Remember what she’ll do to you! Get your bucking act together!’

With deep breaths, Sunbeam lifted her head and gazed blankly over the crowded market square. Over all those happy ponies. Remaining motionless for almost an hour, she reached a decision.

‘Daisy sandwich, all the trimmings and a side-order of hay fries. Yeah, that sounds good.’

Setting off with a smirk firmly adorned, she aimed the thickest part of the crowd. She relaxed, she was back to normal.

‘Yay, looks like my appetite is back!’

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Twilight levitated up her schedule and stabbed it brutally with a quill. The train was an hour ahead of schedule, the timetable had changed and she hadn't been told until this morning.

Her companion, Greywing, sat on the bench opposite, currently checking one of her preparation lists for when they got back to the library. Being her personal advisor, he went where she went and helped to assist her in whatever she needed. Spike was still her official assistant, she had been quite insistent on that, so they had made up the role of ‘advisor’ for him. As Greywing was also a member of the guard, he doubled as a bodyguard. The position of ‘advisor / bodyguard’ he’d held for a full week now.

The briefing by Shining Armour he would be remember to his final days. Shining hadn’t shouted or threatened but had politely asked him to, “safeguard his loving, sweet, cherished, little sister, oh, and the whole princess thing as well... by the way.” Shining had then smiled at him before dismissing him without another look. The smile had made promises about his future if things went wrong. Greywing had never flown so hard before trying to find Princess Twilight.

Twilight looked up from her schedule and considered her advisor for a moment. Shiny had insisted that, okay, while in the castle, she didn’t need personal guards. If she was leaving the castle however, she would need guards, period, end of discussion.

It wasn’t.

An advisor slash bodyguard was the compromise hammered out. Princess Celestia had mediated personally for the last fifteen minutes of the ‘high-decibel debate’ without either party realising until after they had shaken hooves. Both Twilight and Shining looked suitably embarrassed when they realised this.

This was the first time Twilight had the time to review Greywing in a calm environment.

‘Acceptable. That would be the first word I’d use. A little stiff and formal around me, certainly professional but perhaps a little cold. Well, once I’m back in Ponyville I can work on that. Am I not the Princess of Friendship, title pending. We will be friends, it’s just going to take time.’

She sighed and looked out from the compartment. She missed her friends and was excited to be seeing them again. She’d purposely chosen, much to Greywings objections, the public compartment, as it brought back old memories of her and her friends travelling back from Canterlot. The memory was rapidly becoming corrupted as all the other passengers seemed reluctant to come near, let alone strike up a conversation with her.

She found herself missing being able to walk down the street without the stares, pointed hooves and the bowing.

That little edge of fear in their eyes, she could see it so clearly now, just before they averted their gaze and bowed. How Celestia had dealt with that for so long she couldn’t fathom. She could see it now when ponies talked to any of the Princesses, even Cadence now. That even Cadence would be shown that fear burned her on the inside.

Not all ponies had the fear though, her friends certainly didn’t have it. They could, and would, still look her in the eye and tell her she was wrong. She suspected that was why Celestia invited them up so often, not just for her sake, but for Celestia and Luna’s sake as well.

Friends, Celestia had devoted lessons to the concept. Hold onto them! Protect them, treasure them. Even if... temporary. The pain behind her eyes when giving these lessons was almost hidden.

‘It’s the fear you catch in most ponies eye’s, just before they look away, that’s what’s would eventually gnaw through you. You would start to see them as ‘less’ if you didn't continually reign yourself in. Any pony that didn’t have it... well, you make sure you keep as close as possible.’ Twilight could remember the whole phrase verbatim.

Her friends, some guards and some of the castle staff didn’t show that fear. A common point about those particular ponies was them receiving a royal invite to serve at the castle out of the blue. A white pegasus, with a pink mane and tail, also seemed to be a common occurrence beforehand.

She pondered about the fear, and the lack of it in some ponies as she sat there.

‘Hypothesis: that the fear isn’t a constant ‘cause and effect’ from direct exposure; if so maybe it could be resolved; or even prevented.’ A smile started to form.

‘The girls don’t have it, that’s five cases, all in localized area. A random variable is unlikely given the repetition frequency in such a confined zone. Celestia offered the staff positions whenever she came across them, that being spread over time and distance. Those would be best viewed on an individual, case by case, scenario. So, we are looking for a different cause than what could be considered normal.’

‘Oh yes, this is a project worthy of my attention, for the betterment of the lives of all the Princesses. A research project! And am I not the foremost researcher in the land. And that was even before I became a Princess.’ A smile stretched across her face as the idea took hold.

‘Possible cause designation alpha: ‘Location’; that would mean something to do with Ponyville; or something in Ponyville. Like the Elements.’ Twilight frowned. ‘If it is something to do with the Elements, or more exactly, just the way they act on the bearers that means... No! I can rule that out, other citizens of Ponyville don’t seem to be so badly affected by my elevated status either. So definitely something to do with Ponyville itself. A subject from the current population would be good to study, but to be able to see the actual change itself. That would help most to pinpoint the cause... a new arrival! That would be ideal. I could map out the change as it happened. Yes! I need a new arrival to Ponyville to study.’

‘Oh yes.’ Her Princess training was sorely tested to stop her bouncing on the bench. ‘A new arrival. I would, of course, need to know everything little thing about them, to assist in the mapping. Their history, mental state, habits, everything, every-little-thing, EVERYTHING!’

Twilight took a deep breath and gave a small smile as she calmed herself down. It was fun to go overboard sometimes, sometimes she even missed it. Knowing when to stop, when it was starting to go too far, that was the trick. Celestia’s training had reigned her in considerably on that. Celestia had spent a lot of time coming up with mental exercises for her, a Princess having a “Smarty Pants” moment could only end badly. Those lessons had been vigorous and repeated, often.

‘It would be nice to have more ponies, friends even, without that fear though.’ She knew Celestia's description of friends as “double-edged swords” was applicable though, given her new situation.

‘I am not going to isolate myself though. However, if I come across some pony that was suitable...’ Her smile turned beneficent. ‘Am I not the Princess of Friendship? So to speak.’

Greywing shifted position uneasily. The Princess had a smile that boded no good. Somepony was “in for it” in his opinion. He hoped it wasn’t him.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Spike groaned as somepony knocked on the door to the library, again.

Putting down the duster he went and opened the door

“I’m sorry, but Twi doesn’t get back until midday - ish.”

The unicorn looking at him tilted her head in puzzlement. “I’m not after Twilight, I’m here to do research.”

“Research? Wow! Erm, please come on in. It's a pleasure.” Spike stood to one side of the door and made a mock courtly bow.

The unicorn extended a hoof and said in a faux posh voice. “Well, delighted to meet you, I am Sunbeam the first, and you are?”

Spike shook the hoof and tried to respond in a similar fake posh voice. “I’m Spike, acting librarian until Twi gets back, erm... the first.’

His eyes widened and he dropped the fake voice. “Wait! Sunbeam? You’re the unicorn who saved the CMC?”

Sunbeam nodded.

“Pleased to meet you, how can I help? Oh come on in. Research ‘eh, Twi’s gonna love you.’ He babbled out.

Sunbeam smiled and stepped over the threshold.

‘See, you’re all okay. Back to normal, back to yourself, back to Ice-Fang, back..’

Spike jumped as a hoof slammed on the floor. Looking up, she regarded his questioning expression for a second.

“Spider.”

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Spike had been eager to help Sunbeam, to the point she suspected that quantity of ponies coming into the library to do research was next to none.

Looking around she noted that only the fiction section seemed well used. The ‘D’ section of fiction to be precise.

Finding a table with a clear view of the front door she set her saddlebags down. She didn’t want to miss when Twilight got back, making a good first impression was important. Keeping an eye on the door anypony would come in through was merely a plus, she mentally insisted.

Opening up her saddlebags and spreading out parchment, ink and quills on the table she felt ready to start. Rarity’s note on the name of the crystal was also placed on the table.

‘I’m ready to go learn stuff, now, where do I start? Gems, magical, I think.’

She trotted up to a wall lined with row upon row of books. She paused looking at it all, a vast, wide, sea of books.

‘Where the Tartarus if the Gems section? Time for a simple solution...’

“Oh Spike, I got a question.”

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Twilight got off the carriage with Greywing. They both had travelled light, their main luggage had been sent ahead yesterday. All they needed were saddlebags today. Twilight had a new set, a pegasus set. Her old ones, while still fitting, were now uncomfortable to wear for extended periods due to her wings. The new set, still to be fully broken in, were uncomfortable to wear for extended periods due to chafing.

Twilight looked around at the empty platform as the train pulled away. Greywing and herself being the only ones to get off. She wondered about that.

‘At least this means no crowds. Just means I will have to come back here in an hour when I am expected to arrive. Don’t want to throw everypony’s else’s schedule out now do I?’ She shuddered at the thought of being responsible for that.

‘Where to go for an hour and not be seen? The Library would be best, I could see how Spike is getting on and help him. But how to get there unnoticed? I need a frame of reference, who turns up to the library suddenly without being seen first?’

‘Apart from Pinky.’

She smiled “Greywing.” She unfolded her wings. “Follow me, we are going to be approaching the library... Dash style”

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Sunbeam looked at the section on gems Spike had pointed out. They all looked dull and uninteresting, so they probably had all the information she wanted hidden in them... deeply hidden. Only one book looked out of place. It was larger than the rest, with a deep black cover, it looked like it had been buried for a long time and only recently dug up. It was the last book on the right in the section on gems.

She levitated the first book on the left out. ‘Gems, properties of.’

“Sounds like a good place to start.” Her head shot around. ‘Did somepony groan behind me?’

Scanning the library with narrowed eyes she couldn’t anypony.

Relaxing, but still scanning the library, she trotted back to the table facing the door and placed the book down on the table.

‘Time to get started, oh this is going to be so much fun... not.’

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Twilight hovered above the library at a very large height. Both Herself and Greywing had flown virtually straight up from the train station before stopping at this height. With no other pegasus normally flying this high, well, no other pony apart from a certain cyan one, the approach to the library had been free of incident.

“Now what Princess? We’ll be gliding in circles for ages to get down from all the way up here.”

Twilight gave him an odd look then smiled. ‘Of course you hadn’t hung around with Rainbow before.’

“Follow my lead.”

She folded her left wing in, rolling ninety degrees to the left she then pitched her nose downwards and commenced to dive, unfolding her wing as the dive started.

“Princess!”

Greywing uttered a curse and dived after her.

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Sunbeam was bored with the book, she levitated it up and flicked through the pages.

‘No bucking index, copied directly from the hoof-written original. I will find the author and slap him while he sleeps.’

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Twilight pulled out of her dive several metres before her balcony. She floated down the last metre and looked up to watch Greywing approach.

‘Oh, Rainbow would have been exasperated with you long before now.’

He had pulled out of his nosedive a lot earlier than the Princess.

“Princess, that sort of landing is not recommended. I mean you only had metres left before you pulled up.”

“Remind me to introduce you to Rainbow Dash sometime, she leaves centimetres.”

Greywing looked suitably horrified.

‘Usually.’ Twilight added mentally. Before pushing open the doors to her old library bedroom.

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Sunbeam looked in dismay through the third book.

‘What is wrong with these ponies! Do they have a vendetta against indexes? Indexes are nice things. Wonderful, beautiful things.’

She placed the third book on the pile on the desk and hauled herself up.

‘Right, this time gonna check for an index, before I take it back to the table.’

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Twilight looked down the stairs into the library. A dark green unicorn was looking through a book at the “gems” section.

The unicorn had a snow white back. ‘Interesting, I would love to know how that happened.’

She watched as the mare flicked through the book, then pumped the air with a hoof. With a huge smile she then trotted over to the table and sat down, the levitating book following her.

Twilight noted the other books piled on the desk, as well as the parchment and quills.

‘She must really love books.’ A big smile formed.

Greywing looked at the Princess, then sorrowfully at the mare below. ‘Sorry, I would warn you, but my first duty is to the Princess.’

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Spike walked past Sunbeam and stopped, looking up the stairs with his mouth hanging open.

Twilight held a hoof up to her mouth in the ‘shhh’ motion.

Spike nodded.

Twilight walked up to her bedroom door, winking at Spike before she slammed it.

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Sunbeam jumped at the noise, it was behind her, up the stairs. ‘Somepony behind me! What did I miss?’

“Hi Twilight, didn’t expect you to come in that way or this early.”

She relaxed, ‘Sounds like Twilight got back early and took the back way in... from above? Huh, a pegasus as a librarian? Had more the mental image of a unicorn. Well, not to judge.’

She could hear the two hugging and greeting each other.

‘Two, possibly three ponies, okay make that one or two ponies plus one dragon, up there.’

Sunbeam kept looking at the book, the wonderful book with an index, but her ears were rotated to listen to the conversation going on behind her.

“Oh that’s Sunbeam. Bit of a celebrity, I’ll fill you in later. Only arrived a week or so ago.”

She winced at ‘celebrity’.

A new voice added. “A new arrival! How wonderful, what’s she looking for?”

‘Ahh, that must be Twilight.’

‘Gems, she’s researching gems, in your library. Research is being done in your library Twi!’

‘Can I hear somepony bouncing up and down on all four hooves?’

Hoofsteps approached from behind her, she could now ‘hear’ the grin that this pony, Twilight, was wearing.

“Hello, I’m Twilight Sparkle.”

She smiled, placing a marker in the book she closed it and stood up. ‘Right, it’s showtime.’

She turned and raised a hoof to greet Twilight.

“Hi, I’m Sunbeam and...”






“BUCK MY LIFE!”

Author's Note:

My wonderful pre-reader is having a week off and as this chapter was done I am posting it unedited for the moment. (Yes I am an impatient person.)

It WILL be edited later, but hopefully nothing too drastic will need to be changed. I sure people will point things out that do :P

Part 2 will continue where this chapter left off.

The Prologue and Chapter 1 have be re-written (Prologue only minor stuff, chapter 1 heavily, but no changes in basic storyline) and posted. Again without editing.

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