• Published 22nd Feb 2012
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My Little Alicorn - InsertAuthorHere



A magical prank backfires, leaving Celestia stuck as a filly and Luna having to take her place.

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Chapter Thirteen: Escape From Castle Canterlot

Celestia pressed her face against the window’s glass plate, staring down at the rest of Canterlot. Far in the distance, she could make out a series of tents, stands, and rides slowly coming into operation, a sign that the promised carnival would soon be in full swing. No doubt Ruby Dream and Lofty would be running around the fairgrounds in a matter of hours, enjoying a fun and guilt-free life that would forever elude Celestia’s grasp.

Not that she really cared anymore, either.

Bad ponies don’t deserve to have fun, and I’ve been one of the worst ever.

Her burning red eyes could feel that small bit of moisture building up in the eyelid yet again, further frustrating the filly’s attempts to remain at least somewhat mature. I’ve tortured my sister for my own amusement. I ruined one of my students’ lives all because of a stupid, stupid plan to save Luna. I planned to poison my own subjects rather than actually tell them how displeased I was. So…So much has gone wrong these last few centuries. Maybe I should just…

“Sur~prise!”

Celestia’s entire body was suddenly (and quite violently) yanked backwards by a pair of fuzzy pink legs. Pinkie Pie, now confident her captive was secured, quickly slid a pink-and-purple paper party hat onto the filly’s head. The Alicorn winced as the elastic band holding the thing in place snapped against her chin, but otherwise looked just as sullen as before. “I assume there is a reason for this interruption, Miss Pie.”

“You bet your hiney there is!” Pinkie yelped. “There’s a sad little filly in this room, and there’s no way Pinkie Pie could let such a terrible thing slide!”

Throwing Celestia back on the bed, the pink pony stepped aside, revealing a coned hat-wearing Twilight pushing a silver serving cart. And on that cart sat the biggest cake the sun princess had ever seen. Every inch of it oozed and squirmed with chocolate frosting, and her nose could pick out the scent of strawberries and vanilla icing from within its seductive exterior.

The princess could feel tiny drops of spittle collecting on the underside of her lips, just threatening to come bursting out to celebrate this most wonderful of pastries sitting before her. “Y-You mean this is for me?”

“Yes it is, Your Highness!” said Twilight. “Princess Luna saw how unhappy you were about the whole nobility thing, so she had the kitchen whip this thing up in a snap!”

“It’s amazing what you can do with some eggs and a whole bunch of unicorns!” Pinkie added.

Celestia sniffled and wiped a tear from her eye. “It’s…It’s so wonderful. Thank you!!”

From her position behind the cart, Twilight smiled. The sight of her mentor smiling was always one of the quickest ways for her to feel proud of herself, whether or not said mentor was an adult at this point. Pinkie, meanwhile, was well within her element here. She may have lacked Twilight’s penchant for studying and memorizing every aspect of magic from the last six thousand years, but she knew how to make a filly smile.

Levitating a cake server from the cart’s lower compartment, Twilight sliced off a large chunk of cake. Celestia could feel the saliva building up inside her mouth as the piece of pastry slid onto an ornate white plate before being passed to Pinkie. The Earth pony leaned forward, catching the dish with the top of her head before bending down and gently sliding it onto Celestia’s bed. “Now, Mama Pie always said you shouldn’t eat in your bed, but you’re a princess, so I guess you kinda outrank her.”

Celestia nodded. “Point taken.”

“And we’re really close to a cure, so you’ll be back to normal before you know it!” said Twilight.

Celestia was halfway towards the dessert, her mouth opened and ready to gobble it whole.

“And you won’t have to worry about that hospital thing ever again!”

What?

Celestia’s entire body froze just inches from the cake slice. A wave of confusion washed over her instantaneously as she backed up into her sitting position. “Wh-What hospital thing?”

Twilight immediately jumped between her princess and her friend, giggling even more nervously than before. “Ah ha ha ha ha! Oh Pinkie, you don’t have to talk about that old thing!”

The top covers of Celestia’s bedspread curled underneath her forehooves. “No, tell me, what hospital thing?”

Pinkie opened her mouth to answer, only for it to be filled with Twilight’s hoof. The lavender unicorn turned her head towards the filly, her eyes tightly shut and her breathing heavy. “Oh, it’s nothing. Just one of those silly little rumors that fly by every now and again.” Her eyes reopened as she pointed her free forehoof at the cake. “Oh, look at that! Your favorite cake! Well, I guess you’ll want to be gobbling it up now, so I’ll just be…”

Twilight’s desperate pleas to escape this conversation stopped cold as her eyes met with Celestia’s. The white Alicorn filly had risen to all fours during the unicorn’s ramblings, her face perfectly level with that of her student. Her irises burned with the intensity of a million suns, threatening to melt a hole straight through the other side of Twilight’s head if she dared disobey. “Twilight Sparkle, as your princess AND teacher, I demand that you let Pinkie Pie speak.”

Twilight’s brow sagged in a mixture of depression and terror. “B-But…”

“I said let her talk. NOW.

The bitterness in Celestia’s voice struck a raw nerve with Twilight, especially when it came from the mouth of a foal. Whimpering a small apology under her breath, the faithful student bowed her head and removed her hoof from the struggling Pinkie’s mouth. The pink pony coughed on the lingering taste of hoof from her tongue, trying in vain to get the disgusting feeling as far away as possible. “W-Well, you see, some of the papers this morning maaaaay have mentioned something about some hospital in Canterlot.”

Celestia nodded. “Yes, I know about that. Luna made a visit there yesterday.”

“And…well, there was something in there about you turning down some invitations, and how you don’t care about your subjects, and how Luna is a friend to all children everywhere, but hey, that’s news for ya! Heh heh... You know what? Cake sounds really good right about now!”

The filly’s jaw hung open at Pinkie’s words. “The....They think I don’t care?”

Sensing imminent sadness on her princess’ part, Twilight trotted up to the bed and placed a hoof on Celestia’s back. “There’s nothing to worry about. It’s probably just some hotshot newspony trying to make name for themselves by taking on the princess.”

“Well…actually…”

Twilight snapped her neck back towards Pinkie so fast she almost gave herself whiplash. “Stop it, Pinkie!”

“N-No,” Celestia muttered. “I-I need to know how bad it really is.”

“Um…that one I just mentioned was in the Equestria Daily. Now the other newspapers weren’t quite so nice…”

Celestia gulped. “H-H-How ‘not so nice’ were they?”

Pinkie took a few steps away from the panicking princess and her increasingly agitated student, just in case she had to gallop back to Ponyville as fast as her legs could carry her. “T-The Hoofington Post said you were selfish and stuck-up. The Trottingham Gazette said you were locking up your sister so nopony would know how much better she was. And the Canterlot Times said something about you not being responsible enough to attend to your subjects.”

The pony quickly grabbed the entire serving cart and wheeled it between her and the others. “L-L-Look, gals! We have cake! Lots of cake! And I can get some ice cream, some streamers, ANYTHING YOU WANT!”

Twilight raised an eyebrow. “And how did you know all this?”

“We’re at the center of Equestria’s government,” Celestia muttered. “My sister and I have a subscription to every newspaper in the country. It…It helps us keep in touch with what’s going on around Equestria.” The filly wiped her eyes with one leg. “At least…it was supposed to keep us in touch.”

“N-Now there,” said Twilight. “I mean, so what if a few ponies are being negative? You’re still the best princess ever, and once you’re back to normal, you’ll prove it to everypony in Equestria! All we have to do is…”

“Twilight…I need to talk to you about that.” Celestia’s face was sullen as she pulled away from the unicorn’s grip. “These last few days, I’ve been mulling over something. What happened this morning just cemented it in my mind. Twilight…I don’t want to go back.”

A wave of light nausea washed over Twilight almost immediately. “P-Princess Celestia! Do you mean…I mean…are you saying…WHAT?!”

“What do you mean, ‘You don’t want to go back?’” asked Pinkie. “I thought you were in Canterlot already. Where would you be going back to anyway?”

Celestia heaved a sigh. “What I mean is, I don’t want to go back to being a princess right now. All the things that have been happening lately have shown I do not deserve the responsibility that comes with the position.”

“B-But everypony out there loves you!” said Twilight.

Celestia scoffed. “What they love is a mask. If anypony knew who I really am, they would probably storm the castle and hurl me off the highest parapet without so much as a second’s notice. Kuchen was right. I really am a fraud.”

“Now come on!” chimed Pinkie. “I don’t care what that crazy voice in my head said! You’re the most awesomest princess ever! Now eat your cake and let’s party!”

The princess looked down at the slide before her. A few minutes ago, it had seemed like it would be the highlight of her day. But now she could see it as it really was. It’s a pity cake. “I-I’m not hungry anymore. J-Just….please. I…I need to be alone for a little while.”

The two adult ponies exchanged worried glances, but said nothing else on the subject. Even Pinkie could see there was no way she could cheer up the princess like this. Sighing, they picked up the slice, set it back on the cart, and wheeled the whole thing out with them. Once she was sure neither one was just going to pop back in and try to cheer her up some more, Celestia returned to looking out the window.

I’ve been a bad pony. There’s no doubt about it anymore. I…I…

Then it struck her. Wait a minute. Sitting here and just moping isn’t going to solve anything. Even Luna attempted to go out there and make ponies like her! And if they don’t like Princess Celestia anymore, maybe they’ll like the miniature version more.

With a mighty bounce, Celestia leaped to her hooves. A look of determination was etched over her whole body. “I am going to that carnival today, and there’s not a thing Luna or Twilight can do to stop me! All I have to do is get a disguise! And I know just where to start!”

----------

Luna’s quill waved up and down every single line of the parchment, her hornwriting looking far sloppier than her usual high standards. Nevertheless, Trottingham’s mayor wanted to know when the next emergency grain shipment was coming in, and it was her duty to let the fair city know how close to ruin they truly were at this late date. And then there was the notice from the Disaster Relief Service, letting her know that most of the damage to the city had finally been repaired. Thousands of ponies still remained homeless, however, and progress on that front was painstakingly slow.

Just another typical day for a princess, she joked to herself.

Still, she had won a large victory today, however unintentionally. Her rage-induced speech to the nobles had accomplished something neither she or her sister had ever thought possible. There would, of course, be a few members of Equestria’s elite that still refused to work with her, and they may someday regress back to their selfish, spoiled attitudes, but for the moment, Luna had a rather important segment of pony society willing to help her.

It was certainly more than Celestia ever had.

Luna’s quill froze in place, her thoughts no longer focused on the magic she was trying to perform. Her mind kept returning to what had happened that very morning, at the incident in the foyer. What should have been a moment of triumph for the sisters had instead turned the once-strong Celestia into a crying, bawling mess. And worse of all, Luna knew Celestia would almost certainly never tell her everything that was going on. All she could do was smuggle the filly back to her room and let her expel her emotions in private.

The moon princess’ eyes turned towards the office door. I need to go see her. I need to know she’s okay. I need…

With a heavy sigh, Luna closed her eyes and turned her attention back to the work in front of her. There was still a lot of work to do today, and she could not afford to fall any more behind. I need to get all these things done. And what am I supposed to tell her? That I’m sorry I accidentally overshadowed her at her own job?

The princess would have continued wallowing in her own misery had her eye not caught her schedule, its pages laid out next to her work area. A quick glance confirmed her suspicions. If I just move my meeting with the Treasury to tomorrow, I can finish the budget and get the trade agreement with the Griffons ready for ratification. And if I hurry, I can finalize the weather schedule for the next month. And THAT would free up a few hours in the afternoon…

----------

Deep within the recesses of the Royal Barracks sat the most heavily guarded barber shop in Equestria. Such security was a necessity, as this unassuming wooden room held the royal dyes used to color-coordinate the entire Royal Guard. Many of the ingredients were harvested from the palace’s own gardens, where Princess Celestia enchanted them every year with spells known only to the Royal Pony Sisters. Then they got shipped to a secret factory in Hoofington, where they were mixed in with the rest of the ingredients and finished before being shipped back to Canterlot in nondescript wooden boxes.

Needless to say, the things were worth about twice their weight in gold, if only for the prestige of coming from the castle itself. That, and they were also quick-drying, stuck to feathers without disrupting a pegasus’ ability to fly, and could be removed with just a simple magic spell.

The small room was quiet today. The handful of guards due for a reapplication were still on patrol, and the shop’s unicorn proprietor, Curly Top, was far more interested in cleaning up that small red splotch from yesterday. New recruits were always the hardest ones to work with…

His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a bell from the door behind him. Rising from the floor, he slowly spun on his hooves. “I’m sorry, but you must have appo…int….ment…”

Curly’s mouth popped open at the sight before him. Princess Celestia, still a small filly, stood at the door to the barracks. It was obvious from her face alone that she was getting rather tired of this reaction. “Mr. Top, can you please stop staring? I need your help.”

“Ah…Uh…Of course!” Curly mumbled. He threw his rag aside, darted back behind his chair, and swiveled it about so the princess could park her royal buttocks on the worn velvet cushion. Once his latest customer was properly seated, the hapless barber spun the chair again so it was facing the mirror. “So…how can I help you today?”

Celestia gulped. She really didn’t want to disrupt her appearance, but if she wanted to get out of the palace unnoticed, she had no choice. “I need…a dye job.”

The barber gasped. “A…dye job? B-But Your Highness, why on Equestria would you want to do something like that? Your mane looks wonderful as it is!”

“I need more than the mane,” Celestia said softly. “I need you to change every inch of my body. My mane, my tail, and my coat all have to be different.”

“O-Of course,” the barber said. “B-But does Princess Luna know about this? Maybe we should ask…”

Celestia’s response was short, cross, and very direct. “I am still your princess, Mr. Top. Please, please don’t make me command you to do this!”

The stallion gulped. “W-Well, if you wish. Just…let me find an appropriate color…”

----------

Twilight tossed aside yet another pile of books with a frustrated groan. Her latest page of notes still sat on the table before her, its emptiness serving only to mock the unicorn’s futile quest. “This is hopeless! We’ve gone as far as we can with all of this, and we still don’t have a working spell!”

Brushing off the books Twilight had accidentally dumped on her, Pinkie moved ever closer to her friend. “What are you talking about? You have that mean old unicorn’s notes, that evil unicorn’s book, and your best not-a-unicorn friend here to help you! How can the smartiest pony in all of Equestria be stumped?”

“Because it just doesn’t add up!” Twilight shouted. The sound of her voice was enough to send Pinkie bouncing back a good two feet “We can’t just reverse the spell’s steps. We have to completely alter the spells used AND arrange them in a way that will not only be compatible with every single spell, but will ALSO not set off any more failsafes! DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW HARD THAT IS?!

The unicorn pressed both of her forhooves and her head against the table, grumbling and groaning from the sheer tension of this mess. Not a single sound could be heard in the room, save for Twilight’s frustrated sobbing. It took a short while before Pinkie could muster the courage to approach her friend. “Twilight…is something else wrong?”

Twilight slowly raised her eyes, if only to show some sign of life. “It’s my fault, Pinkie.”

The pink pony raised an eyebrow. “Huh?”

The unicorn slowly slid her legs and head off the furniture. Her quivering eyes betrayed the well of emotions threatening to explode within. “When this all started, right after we learned that the spell wouldn’t wear off on Princess Celestia, Princess Luna told me to treat her sister like an adult. She thought that if we treated Celestia like a filly, it would only make her more like one. But I didn’t listen.”

The unicorn stifled a sniff. She began pacing around the room, if only to keep her mind off the feelings inside. “It…It was just so hard to watch her be so miserable. She seemed so helpless at everything. And then Princess Luna told me about how hard her foalhood was, and…I couldn’t help it. I gave her toys. I asked Luna to let her play and have fun. And even if I seemed a little surprised, I was really happy when she found a filly she could play with. But now? What if I really did make her want to stay like this? What if we lose the Princess Celestia we all love forever?”

The unicorn slowly sank into a corner of the room, curling into a small ball. “I…I made a real mess of things, haven’t I?”

Pinkie said nothing, instead settling on tapping her chin in deep thought. All throughout Twilight’s small spiel, she was hard at work processing the entire dilemma. Let’s see…how do I get all these sad ponies happy again? I need to do something fast, before Twilight or Princess Celestia really loses it. But I don’t know enough about magic, and there’s not enough time to learn all the stuff that meany great-whatever-father of mine knew…

Somewhere within the Easy Bake Oven that was Pinkie’s mind, a small light bulb flashed to life. She scooped up the list of spells Princess Celestia asked her to make last night and trotted up to Twilight, depositing the sheet in front of her friend. “Hey, do you remember how this spell works?”

Twilight raised her head, while the rest of her body stayed in a fetal position on the ground. “I-It starts with some possession and mind control spells, followed by…”

“So, this possessive-thingy spell can let somepony enter another pony’s brain?”

Twilight nodded. “That’s why Celestia had all these spells outlawed. If they were good enough, a pony could not only read somepony’s mind, but could actually control the victim’s thoughts and actions. The actual spell just needs you to go through their memories, but…”

Pinkie raised a hoof. “I think I have some personal experience with this. What I mean is, why are we looking through a bunch of dusty old books when the answer’s sitting right in front of you?”

“Right in front of me? What do you…”

Twilight’s eyes popped out like balloons. The growing grin on Pinkie’s face did little to make her feel better. The unicorn leaped to her hooves so fast several of the books in the room shook. “No no no no no! We can’t…I mean…No! There is NO WAY we are going to…I mean…”

“Uhp uhp uhp!” Pinkie clamped a hoof over her friend’s mouth, eyeing her with surprisingly strong resolution. Twilight couldn’t help but feel more than a little intimidated by her friend’s iron will. “Before you go telling me how this is a bad thing and we’re all gonna get in trouble and have to stand in a corner, I want you to think about something. We need to find a cure, and fast. We could spend weeks searching through every book in Equestria until we can stumble across exactly what Kuchen used to make all his spells work together, and then tie it all together with string cheese and busted-up laces. OR you just pop into my little head here and make him tell us everything!”

“B-But Pinkie! Do you have any idea how dangerous this could be?”

All her protesting earned was another smile from Pinkie. “Well, DUH! I mean, my mind is probably some big, scary place or something. But we need to get this thing done.”

Twilight’s forelegs kicked at the ground nervously. “B-But she said she didn’t want to be normal again!”

“But if we have a way to fix it, then there’s no problem!” Pinkie yelped. “Think about it. We zap her back to normal, she goes and does her princess thing for a while, and whenever she feels like she needs to escape for a while, BAM! We can just turn her back into a filly and cure her whenever!”

The idea did little to calm Twilight’s nerves. If something like this becomes so easy to reverse, Celestia’s problems still won’t be over. At this rate, she’ll still opt to stay a filly. But…

Twilight gave a defeated, resigned sigh. “Alright, we’ll give it a try.”

----------

“And…done!”

Celestia squirmed in her seat. Her hooves were covering her eyes so tightly she was afraid her legs would merge with her head. “I-Is it okay? Can I look now?’

“Of course,” said Curly.

Slowly, Celestia moved her legs down, taking a long look in the mirror. What she saw staring back was a rather different pony than the one that had entered the shop only moments before. Her entire coat was a dark pink, while her mane and tail were now primarily green-and-blue. Her hair’s natural fluidity and shifting color scheme were a thing of the past, held in place with what must have been an entire barrel’s worth of gel and hair spray.

Curly took a few steps back at his monarch’s speechless surprise. “I-Is it to your liking?”

“It’s…perfect,” Celestia said. I look like something that just wandered out of a kindergarten classroom. This should be a perfect disguise. Why would anypony think Princess Celestia would EVER allow anypony to color herself like this?”

The princess hopped down from her seat, still admiring/abhorring her disguise. Then she noticed the cutie mark. “I…take it that can’t be colored over?”

The poor Barber of Canterlot sighed. “I tried over and over, but nothing would stick to it. Cutie marks are always the hardest thing to change, I’m afraid. Even some of the guards can’t have their marks altered without shaving the whole area.”

Well, I’m certainly not in the mood for that. “Thank you, good sir. I will make sure you get a little extra in your next paycheck.” And with that, she darted off for her next destination…

----------

Within his private study, Blueblood continued to wait impatiently for his spies to return. The guards patrolling his estate had refused to let up, although whether this was out of duty or fear of Luna’s wrath was one of those things beyond his scope of understanding. Even worse, the agency he had hired may be capable of getting into anything, but they also had an annoying tendency to disguise themselves even when delivering intel. He had no idea who would actually be…

“Excuse me, Prince Blueblood, but I have to clean right over there.”

Blueblood broke from his fuming to see a green unicorn mare standing before him, dressed in the same maid outfit he forced all his non-colt employees to wear. With a huff, he stepped aside, allowing the pony to continue dusting. He would have left the room altogether had she not spoken up again. “So, did you hear about the party last night?”

The prince froze, his ears twitching in anticipation. This had to be one of his spies. “I’m afraid I couldn’t attend. What happened?”

“It seems Princess Luna lost her temper at a few nobles. She even told them that Princess Celestia hated them all. Can you believe it?”

Blueblood scoffed. “Surely just another falsehood. You can’t believe a word that comes from that monster’s mouth.”

The mare nodded, still dusting away. “But that’s not the best part. One of the guests apparently saw something inside the palace itself: a filly that looked exactly like Princess Celestia.”

“Wh-What?” Blueblood’s curiosity only grew at this news. “Do you have any idea who she is? Celestia’s child, perhaps?”

The mare shrugged. “Beats me. All I know is, a white filly with wings and a horn was hanging around the palace. Now, if I was a PI, I’d be asking for my paycheck right now.”

Blueblood rapped his jaw, searching for some kind of answer from all this information. If Celestia really did have a child, it would be a delicious scandal. If I combined it with her up and vanishing, I can even make her out to be a deadbeat parent. And Princess Luna would have no choice but to approve of Ponyville’s destruction. If Celestia goes, so does she...

“If I was the kind of stallion that hired such ponies, I would double their salary if they followed up on this job,” he said.

The mare stopped dusting and turned about in surprise. “Wh-What do you mean?”

“Well, this is a pretty tall accusation,” said Blueblood. “Ponies still love Princess Celestia, after all. If I were to use this as a tool, I would need proof.”

The mare’s eyes sunk into her skull. “Y-You mean…”

Blueblood nodded, confirming her worst fears. “I need you to break into Canterlot Castle.”

----------

Luna’s bedroom was thankfully unoccupied, save for the two guards posted just outside the room. The two looked curiously on as a pink-coated Alicorn with strange highlights wandered up to the two with a big, flashy smile. “Good morning. If you will excuse me, I need to…”

Celestia skidded to a halt as the razor-sharp wings of her own guards snapped in front of her. Frowning, she turned her attention upwards towards the two. They returned her glare with their own, and even Celestia had to shrink back a little to avoid the full force of their gaze. “Good sirs, I need to go into my sister’s room! There’s something inside that belongs to me!”

“We’re sorry, Your Highness,” said one of the guards, “but Princess Luna has given us strict orders to not allow anypony inside her quarters without permission! We have heard nothing of you being allowed in today.”

The filly’s mouth twisted itself into an almost perfect “o” as she comprehended what the guards were saying. “B-But I’m Princess Celestia!”

The guards looked at each other nervously. “We…understand that, Your Majesty, but Princess Luna is our master, too. We must follow her orders as well as yours.”

“Oh, of all the…” Celestia paused for a moment, took a deep breath, and cleared her mind of any unwanted frustrations. There was no point in acting like a foal about this. “Very well. But I need something out of there. I promise you, I will not be long.”

The two guards looked down at the princess, then back at themselves, and finally back to the princess. Celestia’s face was seemingly stuck in a Cheshire-like grin, the kind that signaled its wearer should not be trusted with anything. Nevertheless, the two sighed in defeat. “We obey your command, Your Highness,” they said in unison. Their wings dropped, and Celestia was finally allowed admittance.

Once she was inside, Celestia pushed the door closed with one hind leg before continuing deeper into the chamber. Fortunately, her sister’s room was almost the same as when the sun princess had been humiliated by Luna, save for that one crack in the far wall. Even more fortunately, the costume chest was still in the same spot as before, just beckoning somepony to open it up and fiddle around with its insides.

Using both forelegs, and a great deal of strength, Celestia managed to force the chest open. Inside sat the dozens of garments Luna had picked out for her insane revenge scheme. The formerly-white Alicorn quickly went to the unenviable task of sorting through each costume, searching for something she could use for her escape.

Let’s see here… No way I’m doing a cowgirl. Firepony would stand out too much. A Spider-Mare costume? A wizard hat? Wait… does a vest and glasses count as a disguise? Luna covered just about every base here. Good thing Twilight showed up when she did.

Finally, her eyes cast themselves upon the perfect costume. Digging down into the very bottom of the chest, her teeth gripped onto a plain cloth dress. With a heavy yank, she and the dress were sent falling backwards onto the floor. Cursing herself silently for her clumsily, Celestia threw the dress aside and regarded it much more closely. It was a rather basic, blue summer dress, one that ran the full the length of her body down to the haunches. That was more than enough to cover her wings and cutie mark.

Just perfect.

----------

Luna’s hoof rapped on Celestia’s door, the dark blue mare shifting about nervously. “Hello? Celestia? Are you all right?”

No response.

“Sister, I want to talk to you. I know things haven’t been going as well as we had hoped, but that’s no reason to lock yourself in your bedroom all day.”

Still no response

Luna sighed. “Celestia, I…I understand if you’re angry. I never meant for all this to happen. I had no idea last night would go as it did, or that the nobles would react like this. You must remember, though, that you are still ‘Princess of Equestria, Elder of the Royal Pony Sisters and Steward of the Sun.’ I know you don’t like long titles, but that is the honest truth.”

And yet again, nothing.

“I-I know I haven’t been the best sister, either. There have been so many things going on that I have not made any time to spend with you. And I would like you to know that…I’m sorry. That’s why I came by. I want to start making it up to you.”

Using her magic, Luna unlatched the door and pushed it open. Before the portal had finished swinging, she closed her eyes tight and put on a big, friendly smile. She had seen other ponies do this, and it had appeared to have a calming effect on foals whenever they did it. In any case, she was certain Celestia would appreciate the gesture. “Little sister, get ready. We’re going to the carn-”

It was right at that moment, that small little bit of time and space, that Luna realized something was very wrong with Celestia’s room. Namely, there wasn’t a Celestia in it. Even worse, her window was opened, and there was a bedsheet tied to the ledge…

The blue Alicorn sprang to the window, her face wrought with worry. The sheet had been tied to several others, creating a rope just long enough to reach a lower ledge in the castle. From there, it would be easy for a filly to hop her way down a few more ledges to the ground below. And from there…

No.

OH NO!

Luna charged out the room so fast, her wingspan threatened to take over half the wall. She leveled her gaze at the nearest guards, more than a little angry at their inattention. “Ready the patrols! I want every inch of ground in this castle and Canterlot searched! Princess Celestia is missing!”

----------

Mustering her tiny strength, Celestia hoisted herself out of the sewer. The sweet taste of fresh air in her lungs was the greatest relief the pony had felt in a very long time. Wiping the last bit of gunk from her eyes, the filly pushed the lid back onto the hole and took her first, grand view of Canterlot in days.

It was right about then that she realized a critical flaw in her plan.

For the first time, Celestia could see the modern Equestria through the eyes of a regular filly. The very idea of viewing her country from a new perspective had initially delighted the princess; now it only served to terrify her. In her haste to escape, however, she had not accounted for how…big things were now. Ponies she had once towered over were now enormous, absent-mindedly stomping around her like she didn’t even exist. Every building, lamppost, bench, and fountain of herself might as well have been built for giants, and she could barely manage to jump onto one of the benches to get a better view of the park she had arrived in.

Through her disguise, Celestia could feel the warmth of the sun’s light. It was as if the orb was pleading for its true master’s return. The gentle rustling of leaves of the wind sounded like the greatest symphony after so many days of confinement, and the simple sight of ponies that weren’t servants or soldiers gave the princess at least some sense of connection to the world at large. There were even a few fillies and colts, whiling away their weekend playing games rather than study.

Celestia smirked at the sight. That’s something Twilight would never do.

The princess’ attention returned to her actual objective. Even at this size, she knew the way to the fairgrounds like the back of her hoof. Leaping down from her bench, Celestia began her trek to the target zone. The filly darted and weaved through the crowds like a thread through a needle, nimbly avoiding being crushed underhoof by some gawk-eyed yearling or unassuming mare.

She knew she was getting close when the sounds and scents of things otherwise unrecognizable struck her. The odor of grease and fat burning together was something she had not experienced in a very long time, not since her guards and advisors stopped letting her go to these things lest she make a foal of herself. And the squeaking of gears and metal from the rides was accompanied by the loud, gleeful screams and shouts of many a pony, young and old alike.

Her smile only grew as she reached the carnival gates. Even from this position, she could make out all the tents and stalls, each one anxiously awaiting the latest pony brave enough to try its wares. Everything from knick-knacks and games to rides and food awaited her on the other end. Celestia could only feel the sense of excitement swell within her until it was almost ready to burst.

This is going to be wonderful!

----------

Twilight gulped loudly. “A-Alright. Are you ready to give this a try?”

Pinkie laid herself upon the floor. She looked up to Twilight like a small puppy. “Uh huh. Let’s do this thing!”

“A-Alright…”

Twilight leaned over towards Pinkie, until the end of her horn tapped against the latter’s forehead. Slowly but surely, the mass of energy needed to perform the spell began to surge its way down the unicorn’s bony appendage, bathing it in a radiant purple glow. Pinkie closed her eyes, despite how pretty it all looked. A few more grunts, a quick mental chant, and…

----------

As Celestia wandered into the carnival’s makeshift midway, she couldn’t help but be more than a little overwhelmed by all the sights, smells, and incredibly pushy ponies that surrounded her. It was more like she was wandering through a forest of legs than a regular fairground. All this accomplished was to make it harder for her to actually see where she was going.

Fortunately, she finally managed to find something to do: a ring toss booth. Well, that’s a start.

With a huff, she managed to jump onto the tall stool provided by the stall’s proprietor, a pony dressed in an outfit that would have been laughed out of a Vaudeville theater. Thankfully for the princess, he obviously failed to discern her true identity. “Well, how about it, little lady? Care to give the ring a toss?”

Celestia eyed the game’s mechanisms, weighing in the pros and cons of actually trying to compete. All she would have to do was throw a metal ring – which would almost certainly be loaded to make it heavier – onto an incredibly fat pole at the far end of the booth. That meant a gap of at least ten feet, and it would have to be high enough to actually reach the top of the pole itself without bouncing. Well, you only live once, as they say. “Sure! I’ll give it a go!”

The filly dropped a few bits from her pouch, grabbed a nearby ring with her teeth, and gave it a toss. The metal circle flew about twelve feet before landing in the dirt. The sideshow reject gave a small laugh at the incognito alicorn’s failure. “Hey, you missed, pal!”

Celestia sighed. Oh well. It’s not like you needed a giant stuffed pig anyway.

----------

Twilight had never actually entered a possessing ghost’s mind before.

She had never even entered a regular pony’s mind before.

But now that she was inside…wherever it was that Kuchen’s spell resided, she did not wish to repeat the experience.

When Pinkie had first pitched the idea of entering her head to find a cure, Twilight figured any representation of her friend’s mindset would involve happy little ponies dancing about, or perhaps some kind of perpetual Pinkie Pie Party. The place she had actually ended up, however, was little more than a dark, ethereal void. Inky blackness filled every inch of her view, save for a shaft of light right above a rock pile in the center of it all.

And standing on that pile was a pony.

Twilight slowly made her way through the abyss, her little avatar’s hooves paddling against the groundless darkness around her. It strained her mind to move so, but she eventually reached the top of the column. The light was intense, and threatened to burn out both her real and mental eyes, but she had come too far into this nightmare to back down.

The pony’s back was turned to her. Even in the fullness of the light, its back was cloaked in shadow, leaving no clearly discernible features. Seeing that she would have to start things, Twilight cleared her throat. “G-Good morning. My name is…”

“Twilight Sparkle.”

Twilight froze. Her avatar could feel her real body’s blood run cold. The voice she had just heard was not that of a normal pony. It seemed to rattle and shake more than actually speak, and there was an unmistakable hint of malice underneath its words. “How do you know my name?”

“I am a part of Pinkamena, whether she admits it or not,” the pony responded. “The few, brief moments where she would let me out of this accursed limbo gave me glimpses into her life. I saw her stand with a small band of ponies, facing everything from dragons and demigods to the mundane tedium of life itself. So yes, I know you. But do not consider yourself special.”

Twilight could feel something call out to her, warning her to run as far away from here as she could. And yet, she pressed on. “If you know all that, then you probably know why I’m here.”

The pony nodded, still facing the other way. “Yes. It seems Princess Luna has helped me eek out some measure of revenge against the fraud.”

“Princess Celestia is NOT a-”

“BE SILENT!” Twilight almost recoiled right off the rocks. “I never thought of using that particular spell on her. It was one of the first ones I created, well before I learned the true nature of our beloved princess. I must admit, however, that it has been most amusing watching the lot of you tripping over each other to resolve this little situation. And seeing her broken like that? It would bring a tear to my eye if I still had one.”

The voice became lower, sounding more like he was chewing on gravel than anything else. “I was there when she spread her lies about me. She said I was just another crazed fool. But she was just manipulating you like she did me. Like she did to every student she ever had. She was right about one thing: she really doesn’t deserve to rule.”

Twilight had to push back the urge to try wailing on the demonic thing before her. Only the knowledge that Celestia’s adulthood hung in the balance held her hooves. “Kuchen, I know you have reason to dislike Celestia, but we need your help. You’re the only one that can break the spell.”

The pony’s head turned slightly, the darkness still covering it like a blanket. “And what will you give me in return?”

“Help us, and we’ll do whatever we can to help you, short of giving Pinkie over to you.” Twilight knew this wasn’t going to be an easy thing to do. There was no telling what a monster like Kuchen would possibly want. But they were quickly running out of options, and…

“Very well.”

Twilight cocked her avatar’s head. “Wha?”

The figure began to turn. Twilight could sense something was wrong before she could see it, but that did little to assuage her fears. “But, I want my payment in advance…”

Kuchen’s entire body was now facing Twilight, and she could finally see what was alarming her so. There were bits and pieces of pink, a horn, part of a head, and a few other bits and pieces. Most of the stallion’s body, however, was missing. Instead, the empty space was filled with the same inky blackness that surrounded this whole place. Its surface shimmered and danced in the spectacle of the light, which was almost enough to distract Twilight from the mass of tentacles that erupted from Kuchen’s tail.

Before the lavender unicorn could run, the black appendages wrapped around her legs and body, before pulling her closer to the waiting monster. “What I want is a new body. The Pies have kept me alive this long, but I only have a generation or two left before I vanish completely. But you…you are a unicorn already. The most powerful unicorn in Equestria. And that will be more than enough to ensure Celestia’s downfall.”

His eyes locked with Twilight’s. “All I want is your body.”

“STOP, YOU MEANY!”

Both the terrified pony and the That-Which-Was-Once-A-Pony spun around to face the other side of the rock formation. Standing before them was a pony that was unmistakably Pinkie Pie, down to the pink coat. Even then, Twilight could see that something was horribly off about her. She seemed to jitter back and forth, even when standing perfectly still. Her body wasn’t round like a regular pony, but rather seemed two-dimensional.

And then there was the fact that she was made out of felt.

The still-captive Twilight groaned. So I’m trapped by the spirit of an ancient pony that wants to take over my body, while a fabric cutout of the pony he’s possessing is trying to save me. Oh, why can’t I just have a normal day for once?

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