• Published 15th Dec 2014
  • 3,070 Views, 82 Comments

Minor Details! - Tchernobog

Applejack and Twilight investigate an old artifact. And then they try again. And try, try, try, try, try again.

  • ...


Nice and warm. Cuddly. And soft. And, if she was honest, maybe a little rank too. That was to be expected after the previous night’s activities.

Applejack didn’t feel like moving an inch. But her internal clock had woken her up, and she never had been able to go back to sleep easily, unlike a certain blue-feathered friend of hers.

Cracking an eye open, her vision was filled with feathers of another color – these were purple, which was much better. She nuzzled them, inhaling the scent of the pony they belonged to, and hugged tightly.

Perhaps a bit too tightly, as it resulted in an annoyed grumble. “Ugh…"

“Sorry, Hon. Did I wake ya?”

“I’ll forgive your assassination attempt, if you just let me breathe…"

“Good mornin’ to you too, Twi’,” Applejack chuckled, briefly hugging Twilight tighter before relaxing her hold.

“Oh sweet Celestia, air!” Twilight gasped, taking a deep breath. She exhaled with a long sigh, flipping onto her other side to face Applejack. “Couldn’t you have waited until after we got married to try to kill me?” she asked, and leaned in to kiss her fiancée.

“Nah. I figured, ya proposed last night, so yer guard would be down. No better time!”

Twilight nodded. “Good strategy, but you wouldn’t get anything I own until we sign the papers.”

Applejack lifted a hoof to her forehead. “Dangit! Knew I shoulda waited.” She rolled her eyes at the mare in her hooves. “Granny always said I was a li’l impatient.”

“Let that be a lesson for next time, then,” Twilight said, standing up to stretch. Applejack admired the view, grinning back at Twilight as the princess noticed Applejack’s gaze. “Hungry?”

“I could eat…"

“Your turn, then, ” Twilight giggled, flicking her tail. She bent back and sniffed at her side, wrinkling her nose. “I need a shower first.”

Applejack grunted her assent, her eyes glued to Twilight’s rear until the mare disappeared into the bathroom. She rolled out of bed and trotted out of the room, her hooves clacking loudly on the castle’s crystalline floor. Once she reached the room they’d appropriated as a kitchen, she grabbed a few pieces of bread and slapped together a few sandwiches. She’d just set the plates on the table when Twilight walked in.

“Whatcha making?”

“ ‘Whatcha’?” Applejack repeated, raising an eyebrow. “Darlin’, you been spendin’ too much time around Pinkie again?” She pushed a plate closer to Twilight, sitting down in front of her own.

“Oh, hush.” Twilight levitated the sandwich to her mouth and took a big bite, sighing in bliss as she chewed. “Dandelion and… cucumber? Applejack, you’re too good to me.”

Applejack grinned around her mouthful. “I try,” she said, then swallowed loudly. “So what’s planned fer today?”

“Well, I was thinking we should tell the girls. Maybe Rarity first–”

“I like my ears in one piece, thank ya kindly,” Applejack interrupted, prompting a confused expression from her fiancée. “Can ya imagine the sound she’ll make when we tell her?” Applejack chewed her lip in thought. “Pinkie, too.”

Twilight’s eyes went wide and she slowly blinked, reminding Applejack of Owlowiscious. “On second thought, maybe not Rarity first. How about–”

Twilight? You home?”

“We’re in the kitchen, Spike!” Twilight yelled, sharing a confused glance with Applejack. The farmer shrugged, just as lost. They’d sent Spike to the farm for the night, to give themselves a little privacy for the previous day’s date, and hadn’t expected him back for some hours yet.

Not just a date… Applejack thought, glancing at one of Twilight’s ears. After the dinner and the movie, they’d had a little picnic in the meadows near White Tail Woods. The alicorn had surprised her twice. The first surprise had been the cake Twilight had baked for her – it had been edible, and had even tasted good, which had been a shock in and of itself; Twilight had later admitted having gotten lessons from Pinkie – but the second surprise had, well, taken the cake.

She’d found a little bag on top of the cake, opening it at Twilight’s prompting. In it, she’d found two earrings. The gemstones were arranged in two distinct shapes she’d recognized immediately.

Twilight’s cutie mark, and her own.

Seconds later, she’d kissed her marefriend-cum-fiancée fiercely.

As Applejack munched on her sandwich, she marvelled at how much change a year could bring. She recalled how a still-unicorn Twilight had approached her, telling Applejack how much she depended on the farmer’s smarts and level headedness. I hope ya don’t just like me for my brain, Sugarcube, Applejack had teased. She’d expected a giggle, but Twilight had instead blurted out that she found Applejack stunningly gorgeous. A few blush-filled minutes later, Applejack had found herself set up with a date later that evening.

Now, that unicorn librarian was an alicorn princess, but she had never left Applejack’s side. She was still the same friend the farmer had first met so long ago, now closer to her heart than ever before.

“There you are,” Spike said as he stepped into the kitchen, snapping Applejack out of her daydream.

“Howdy Spike. Whatcha got there?” she asked, waving a hoof at the scroll in Spike’s claws. She blinked innocently as Twilight narrowed her eyes at her.

Spike let go of the letter as Twilight took hold of it with her magic. “Letter from Princess Celestia. Something about Twilight investigating some magical toy.”

“It’s a magical artifact, Spike, not a toy,” Twilight said as she scanned the letter. “Oooh. She wants me to investigate this new artifact the archeological society just discovered! Apparently it was made by Starswirl the Bearded!”

“An’ since yer the leading expert on ol’ Beardy, yer the best one for the job?” Applejack asked.

“Well, maybe not expert.” Twilight blushed, peeking over the letter. “But something like that. Oh!” Twilight gasped, grinning. “We can tell her first!”

“Tell who? What?” Spike blinked. “Oh, you asked her? Did she say yes?”

“See for yourself.” Twilight grinned, tilting her head to show off an earring adorned ear.

“Awesome!” The dragon ran over to Applejack and hugged her tightly. “So does this make you my sister-in-law?”

“Guess so!” Applejack laughed, ruffling Spike's crest. “So you knew 'bout her plan?”

“Who do you think ran interference while I was getting baking lessons?”

“That's me!” Spike preened. “Spike, Master Interferencer!”

“That’s not a word, Spike,” Twilight giggled. “I meant we could tell Princess Celestia first.”

“We?” Applejack repeated.

“I can’t show off my fiancée without my fiancée, can I?”

“Y’got a point.” Applejack grinned. “But what about the artifact thingy? S’not like I’ll be much help with that.”

“Oh please,” Twilight scoffed. “You’re a great assistant! You’ve hung around me for so long you could practically get a doctorate in magic yourself.” She smirked at Applejack, her eyes lidded. “And you’re much nicer to look at than anypony else I could get.”

“Glad to know some parts of me are appreciated.”

“What about me?” Spike joked. “Aren’t I your number one assistant?”

“You are!” Twilight nodded, floating Spike out of Applejack’s grasp to hug him. “But I need you to go find the girls and tell them to meet us tomorrow. We should be back by then, so we can tell them all at the same time. Oh, and can you send this?” she asked, levitating a scroll she’d just scribbled on.

“Sure thing!” With a puff of flame, the scroll was sent off to Canterlot. He saluted the pair, grinning as Twilight floated a few bits in his direction. “Cupcakes?”

“All yours.”

“Awesome!” Spike said, turning tail to rush out of the room.

“Spike, wait a tick!” Applejack called out, hoof in the air. The dragon skidded to a halt, looking back at her. “Can ya tell Big Mac I’ll be gone for th’day?”

“You can count on me!”

“I know I can. Now go get those cupcakes!” Applejack grinned, shaking her head in amusement as Spike disappeared around the corner. “So when are we leavin’?”

“I think the next train is in half an hour. Enough time for me to pack!” Twilight quickly trotted to the stairs.

“Pack? I thought ya said we’d be back tonight.”

Twilight paused with a hoof over the steps, staring at Applejack in shock. “And leave without any instruments?”

Applejack bit her lip as she walked along Canterlot’s streets, desperately trying to keep her giggles in. Twilight, however, was making that so very hard to do. “Y’sure ya need all that stuff?”

“For the third time, yes,” Twilight grumbled, swaying under the weight of her bulging saddlebags.

“I mean, y’don’t even know what exactly you’re gonna be lookin’ at…"

“A magical artifact, so I need this thaumometer!”

“And the telescope?”

“Starswirl the Bearded was the leading figure of his time in astronomy! I might need it!”

“And the anemo… wind thingy?”

“Anemometer?” Twilight blinked. “I don’t need that.”

“Y’still packed one,” Applejack said, pointing at the instrument sticking out of Twilight’s bag. “Admit it, you just threw everythin’ you could get yer hooves on in there.”

Twilight blushed. “I… fine. I just want to be prepared!”

“Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that, Darlin’.” Applejack leaned into Twilight to stop her from tipping over. “Just need a lil’ moderation. Fer that matter, can’t ya carry all this in your magic?”

Twilight shook her head. “The calibrations could be affected by long exposure to magical auras. I have to carry them by hoof.”

“If ya say so…" Applejack chuckled, and nuzzled Twilight’s cheek. “Just lemme carry some next time.”

“Will do.” Twilight beamed. She glanced ahead and nodded to the Castle Guards.

The guards saluted, one of them stepping forward to speak. “Princess Celestia is currently in a meeting. She asks that you await her in the Hall of Heroes.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant.”

“I’ll meet ya there, Hon. Gotta go to the little filly’s room.” Applejack trotted off down another hallway. After all the times she’d visited, she knew the way to the Hall practically like the back of her hoof – it was just so dang big, it still took forever to get anywhere. Nonetheless, she soon found what she was looking for, took care of her business, and washed her hooves. Once done, she stepped back towards the corridor, only to reel back as the door swung open, smacking her in the muzzle.

“What the – Oh! I’m so sorry! I didn’t see you there!”

Applejack shook herself, her eyes crossing as she stared down at her muzzle. She gave it a soft rub. “I’m alright… Muzzle ain’t bleedin’, is it?”

The guardsmare stepped closer, peering at Applejack. “Lemme see… No, you look okay. Again, I’m so sorry!”

“No harm done, Sugarcube. I’ll just be out of yer mane now.” With a grin and a nod, she stepped out of the bathroom, ignoring the ache in her jaw. Shortly thereafter, she stepped into the throne room, pausing as she found Twilight.

Her fiancée stood with her back to the door, staring up at the vacant throne. Quietly, Applejack walked up to Twilight, and sat down next to her. She stared at the throne as well, and leaned towards Twilight. “Y’know, no one would say anything if ya sat on it.”

“I know, but…"

“Yer a princess, Hon. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with ya sittin’ on the throne.”

“But it’s Princess Celestia’s throne! And Luna’s. It’s not right for me to sit there.”

“There’s a castle in Ponyville with yer cutie mark on it. Y’got a throne there, means y’got just as much right to sit on this one as that one.”

Twilight frowned, looking at Applejack. “You’ve got a throne there too, remember? Are you saying you can sit here too?”

Applejack chortled. “Nah, that’s what yer crown is for. But if ya insist, then you can call me the princess of Sweet Apple Acres,” she said, then jumped as somepony spoke up behind them.

“Then I welcome you to Canterlot, O Princess of the Acres.”

Celestia strode into the room, with Luna at her side. A middle aged unicorn stallion followed them a few steps behind, dipping his head towards Twilight.

“Princess Celestia!” Twilight cried out happily, trotting forward to hug her mentor. She broke the hug after only a short moment, and moved to hug Luna as well.

“Howdy, Your Highnesses!” Applejack said, bowing to the elder princesses.

“Please rise, Princess Applejack,” Celestia said, nodding to the earth pony. “There is no need for formality among princesses.”

“I was jus’ kiddin’ about that…"

“Perhaps, but you will soon have the title, if not the rank. When is the wedding?”

“Wedding?” Applejack blinked. “Oh! The wedding! How’d ya know?”

“Your earrings,” Luna said, glancing between the two smaller ponies. “My sister is correct. Uniting with Princess Twilight Sparkle through marriage would make you a princess as well, just as Shining Armor gained the title of Prince.”

“Well I’ll be…" Applejack tilted up her hat, and nudged Twilight with an elbow as she returned to her side. “Whatcha think I’ll be princess of? Princess o’ apple brown betties? Princess o’ applebucking?” She smirked and leaned in to whisper into Twilight’s ear. “Or how ‘bout princess of lassoing excitable alicorns?

“A-Applejack!” Twilight stammered, swatting Applejack’s shoulder with a hoof, her face turning beet red. As her fiancée chortled, she faced the princesses, unable to look Applejack in the eye at that moment. “U-um. We hadn’t decided yet.”

Applejack nodded. “Missy here only jus’ proposed last night.”

“ ‘Only’?” Twilight blinked, her embarrassment forgotten as she stared at Applejack with a raised eyebrow. “You were expecting this sooner?”

“Hon, if y’all hadn’t, I’d’ve done it myself ‘fore too long.”

“Well, it seems celebrations are in order, Twilight,” Celestia interrupted, smiling at the pair. “Are you sure you want to take up this task? You are my first choice, but other ponies can take care of this if you would rather spend time–”

“No!” Twilight blurted. “Er. No, that’s fine. As long as we have each other, we’re fine,” she said, nuzzling Applejack’s cheek. “Plus, we can look into wedding arrangements while we’re in Canterlot.”

Applejack blinked, raising an eyebrow at Twilight. She opened her mouth, but thought better of it as she glanced at the other princesses.

Celestia nodded. “As you wish. Allow me to intro–”

“Aunt Celestia!” a voice interrupted her. Blueblood stood in the doorway, his mane plastered to his head, dripping water all over the floor.

Celestia closed her eyes before speaking. “Yes, Blueblood?”

“It’s an emergency!”

“What is it this time, Blueblood?”

“We are out of royal shampoo!” he cried out, stamping a hoof and sending water spraying everywhere.


“Yes! I cannot take a shower without it.”

“Then why didn’t you inform one of the maids, Blueblood?” Luna asked.

“Because it’s too important to wait!” he answered, somehow missing the audible strain in Luna’s voice.

“We will inform them when we are done with this meeting, then,” she sighed, closing her eyes.


When we are done.

Blueblood paused, his expression growing slack as Luna’s tone registered. “I – uh, th-thank you, Aunt Luna,” he said, his wet hooves slipping on the floor as he scampered backwards, disappearing from view as Luna’s magic pushed the doors closed.

Luna shook her head, staring at Applejack with a pleading look. “Please be a better princess than him.”

Applejack shrugged. “I dunno, he’s got the prissy part down pretty well…"

Celestia snorted, then quickly cleared her throat. “As I was saying. Allow me to introduce Prime Site, my Royal Historian. He will give you more details about what you’ll be investigating.”

“Princess Twilight, it is an honor to finally meet you in person,” the grey stallion said, stepping forward and bowing.

Twilight dipped her head, smiling. “The honor is mine. I’ve read your paper on Starswirl the Bearded’s influence and impact in the early Post-Unification period. It was fascinating!”

“She means she was gushing like a filly about it fer days,” Applejack said. Twilight’s blush made her grin.

“Again, you do me honor,” Prime Site replied, smiling at the praise. “I based it off my graduate thesis while I attended Hooverton University.”

“Ooh, I’ve heard about the University’s library! I would love to visit it someday!” Twilight blinked, suddenly becoming aware of the amused look Princess Celestia was giving her, and cleared her throat. “But we can talk about that later. What exactly did you find?”

“Alas, I did not discover it myself,” Prime said, floating a picture towards Twilight. It showed a large cube covered by runes and symbols, sitting on a short platform. “We uncovered the item at a dig near the Foal Mountains.” He pointed a hoof to point at the base of the picture. “We found Starswirl’s cutie mark engraved on the platform – reason to believe that he either made or discovered this artifact. There are markings covering every side of the cube, which seem to be a form of runic circles and glyphs. We’ve attempted to match them to known examples, but with no success. Also, we believe it’s nigh indestructible.”

Twilight looked up from the picture. “Indestructible?”

“We ran some magical scans on it – it appears to be made from a compound of maginium, skystone, and marble.”

“Skystone and mar– is that even possible?” Twilight blinked, looking to the other princesses.

Celestia shook her head. “It seems Starswirl took some secrets to the grave. I have not heard of anything like this before.”

“That’s great!” Twilight beamed. When Luna raised a brow, she chuckled nervously. “I mean, this could be a very important discovery, if only for that material! Not to mention whatever else the artifact does…”

Celestia nodded. “And that is why you are the perfect pony for the job, Twilight. You know as much about Starswirl as anypony alive, excluding my sister and myself. And as a distinguished mage and scientist, I can think of no better pony to investigate this object.”

“That is, of course, if you accept,” Luna interjected.

“Of course I–” Twilight started, only to pause when her eyes met Applejack’s. “Um. If you don’t mind?”

Applejack grinned back. “Ya already asked me in Ponyville, Sugarcube. Ain’t this what we’re here for?”

“You’re the best.” Twilight nuzzled Applejack before turning to the other princesses. “When do we leave?”

“I have a meeting to attend to, but I was hoping you’d join my sister and myself for lunch?”

Applejack nodded. “I could eat.”

“Didn’t we just eat?” Twilight asked, staring at Applejack.

“Hon, that train ride took two hours, and we ate sandwiches. Now, I don’t know ‘bout you, but these applebuckin’ legs need a little more than that.”

“Then it is decided,” Luna declared. “We meet in a few hours to feed Applejack’s shapely legs!”

Twilight frowned. “Hey!”

Hoof on her hat, Applejack leaned into Twilight. She still occasionally felt queasy about flying, but having her lover close by helped ease her nerves. Plus, with her so close, they could talk without the pegasi pulling the chariot hearing them. “So… wedding preparations?”

“Huh?” Twilight said, looking up from the notes. “Oh, sure! We can do that when we get back.”

“Ain’t it a bit early to be thinkin’ ‘bout that? Ya just proposed last night!”

“I thought you said I took my time?” Twilight grinned. “You know me. It’s never too early to be prepared.”

Applejack chortled. “Ain’t that the truth. Y’know, we should do it when the granny smiths are ripe. That’ll save us a bundle on the caterin’.”

“Isn’t she already ripe?”

“Har har.” Applejack rolled her eyes. “Ya know as well as I do I meant the apple.”

Twilight’s grin just got bigger. “But isn’t she an–”

“The ones ya eat!”

Twilight snorted, covering her muzzle with both hooves to stop her giggles.

Applejack blinked, her muzzle crinkling as she realized what she’d said. “Thanks. Now I got that image in my mind. You’ve been hangin’ around Dash fer too long.”

“Guilty as charged.” Twilight smirked. “So, next fall? I was thinking more late spring, maybe early summer.”

“Eh? I meant this fall. Month or two from now.”

“A-a month? So soon? I mean – that’s nowhere near enough time! Do you know what planning a state wedding takes? Booking the castle alone would take months!”

“State weddin’?” Applejack blinked. “That why you wanna prepare in Canterlot? I kinda figured we’d get married in Ponyville.”

“Well, yeah. I’m kind of a princess.”

“Y’don’t say! I hadn’t noticed.”

Twilight giggled. “Hush. You remember my brother’s wedding?”

“Honey, I think everypony in Equestria remembers that one.”

“I don’t mean the changelings,” Twilight replied. “You saw how many guests attended.”

“S’not like Ponyville don’t have the space!”

“Not nearly as much, and I don’t think the diplomats would appreciate Ponyville in the same way as Canterlot.”

Applejack frowned. “Diplomats? Can’t it jus’ be friends and family?”

Twilight shook her head. “Given my position as a princess, and the fact we’re both national heroes, other nations are bound to send some representatives – and it would be a diplomatic incident to say no – so we need room for them, their security details, our friends, my family, and yours.” Twilight grinned, nudging Applejack’s side. “I don’t think Ponyville has the space for all of that.”

“I still don’t see why we need them diplomats,” Applejack grumbled. “And we got all we need in Ponyville, Sug’. Rarity can make the dresses, the Cakes can cater if my family don’t get there first, and Pinkie can host the reception. I jus’ don’t see why Canterlot is such a big deal.”

“Because we’re a big deal to Equestria, A.J..” Twilight leaned in to kiss Applejack’s cheek. “No matter what we do, it’s gonna get some attention.”

Applejack nuzzled back, but sighed as she pulled away. “I get that, but that ain’t important to us. The wedding’s about th’two of us. An’ Ponyville’s home. Doesn’t that mean anythin’?”

“Of course it–” Twilight gasped as the chariot angled downwards. “Oh, we’re nearly there!” She glanced at Applejack. “Let’s talk about this later, okay?”

Applejack frowned, but ultimately sighed. “Alright. We got more pressin’ stuff to do.”

The chariot jolted as they landed, rolling to a halt in a clearing bordering the woods. As they jumped off, the pegasus guards unhitched themselves, one of them calling out to them as the other trotted into the forest. “This way, Your Highness.”

Applejack shook her head in amusement as she watched Twilight. There was a bounce in her fiancée’s step, and just seeing her excitement made Applejack forget about her worries.

They emerged into the dig site after an hour of walking. Twilight gasped. “It’s so much bigger than in the picture!”

Applejack snorted, desperately trying to keep her expression neutral. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed both guards having similar troubles and thanked Celestia that Rainbow wasn’t here. Once she’d gotten control of herself, she glanced down at the artifact.

The hole took up most of the space between the trees, offering no room for a chariot to land. It wasn’t very deep, but it looked like it had been carefully dug – no rough edges or stray piles of dirt. It was several pony lengths wide, just as long, and perhaps two pony lengths deep, with a short ladder easing the way down. “How long’s this thing been here?” Applejack asked as she glanced around.

“The notes said about a thousand years, based on the sediment analysis. That puts it around the time Starswirl was alive.”

“That’s pretty deep fer a thousand years, ain’t it?”

Twilight walked around the hole, looking at the object from all angles. “There’s a river nearby, I think. This must’ve happened before it changed course.”

“Makes sense. How’d they even find this thing?”

One of the guards spoke up. “The local force told us some foals found it while playing. They dug it up a little and went home. It’s only when they told their parents that it came to our attention.”

Twilight frowned. “That could’ve been dangerous. Starswirl dealt with many powerful objects. Who knows what could’ve happened?”

“Ain’t that what we’re here for, Darlin’?” Applejack asked.

Twilight grinned. “You’re right. Let’s get closer.” She rushed to the ladder, eager to close the distance between her and the artifact.

“Careful, don’t go too fast!”

“I’m fine, see?”

“Yer also carryin’ some pretty heavy bags there. Watch yerself.”

“I’m already down, it’s all fi– whoa!” Twilight cried out, disappearing over the edge of the dig. The cry was shortly followed by a dull thud. “Ow!”

Instantly, Applejack rushed forward, leaping down without a concern for her own safety. “Twilight!”

“I’m okay!” Twilight groaned, hooves in the air as she lay on her back. “I just slipped on the last rung…"

“What’d I tell you?”

“Are you alright, Princess?” The guards stood at the edge of the pit, ready to jump down.

“Yes, I just banged my shoulder on–” Twilight paused, cocking her head to the side. “Do you hear a humming noise?”

“I do, an’ I got a better question for ya.”

“What’s that?” Twilight grunted as she tried to right herself.

“That thing supposed to be glowin’?”

“Huh?” Twilight glanced at the artifact, which was indeed glowing. The runes shone with a white light, which was steadily glowing brighter. “Uh-oh.”

“Princess, please move away from that!”

Before either Twilight or Applejack could move, however, the artifact pulsed with magic, its light almost blinding. A beam of magic shot from it, encasing them both in a bubble of magic, crackling with raw arcane power.

From the corner of her eye, Applejack saw the guards jump, and in the next moment, everything went white.

Twilight shook her head, her eyes screwed shut. Her ears perked up as she noticed the lack of humming. Had the artifact stopped? She slowly opened her eyes, holding a hoof up to shield them, just in case.

The sudden lack of a dig site – in fact, the lack of a forest – certainly explained why she’d also noticed a lack of wildlife noise. Her hoof fell to the ground and her brows knit in confusion as she stared, once again, at the empty Canterlot throne.

It must be a long distance teleportation device! She thought, but frowned as she looked around. If it had teleported them, where was Applejack? All she could see were her saddlebags on the floor next to her.

Panic gripped her heart as worst-case scenarios sprang to mind. All teleportations were based on a pony’s memory and knowledge of a place, and their visual representation of where they’d appear. In early times, before failsafe teleport spells had been developed, it hadn’t been unknown to find a unicorn who had teleported themselves into the ground or intersected a tree, with tragic results.

This was now a cornerstone of modern unicorn teleportation, but who knew if the device had such a failsafe built in? For all she knew, Applejack might be stuck in the Castle walls, or deep within the floor.

Just as she sprang up to her hooves, ready to cast a finder-seeker spell, the doors opened and Applejack stepped inside, grumbling to herself as she rubbed her muzzle.

“There you are,” Twilight cried out, rushing over to Applejack’s side and hugging her tightly. “Are you all right?”

“Yeah, jus’ bumped into a door. Again.” Applejack hugged back. “You okay? You look like you’ve seen a ghost. And what’re we doin’ back here?”

“I think we just got teleported, and I was scared you’d landed inside the wall or something.” Twilight blinked. “Wait, ‘again’?”

“I wasn’t in a wall, I was back in th’ restroom. Somepony opened th’door in my face when I went there earlier,” Applejack grumbled as she rubbed her jaw again. “And she jus’ did it again!”

“What? Really?”

Applejack nodded. “Same dang pony smacked my face with a door as soon as I opened my eyes. And then she acted like she hadn’t done it the first time!”

Twilight rubbed her chin. “That’s strange…"

“More like rude,” Applejack snorted. “Whatever. I jus’ gave her a stern talkin’ to.” She paused, looking around. “Say, where’d those guards go?”

“I don’t know. Maybe the artifact didn’t affect them?” Twilight shrugged. “We should probably tell Princess Celestia about it.”

“Can we do that after dinner?”

“You’re hungry again?”

“We jus’ spent an hour walkin’ through the woods! Granny says I have the appetite of a full grown stallion, but I tell you, Big Mac’s worse.”

“I can imagine!” Twilight giggled. Her laughter stopped as the doors swung open once again. “Oh there you are, Princess Celestia! Princess Luna!”

Celestia smiled at the younger alicorn as she strode in, Luna and Prime Site in tow. “I apologize, Princess Twilight, our meetings ran a little late. How are you today?”

“We’re fine, thank you. Just a little startled by the trip.”

“Really? I didn’t realize taking the train was so startling.”

“Train? No, I mean the–”

“Oh!” Luna leaned forwards, staring at Twilight and Applejack’s ears. “I see congratulations are in order. When is the wedding?”

Twilight blinked. “Uh. We already told you earlier? We haven’t decided yet.”

“Told us, Twilight Sparkle?” Luna stared at Twilight. “This is the first we’ve heard of it.”

“But we told you hours ago,” Twilight said. “Don’t you remember?”

“Twilight,” Celestia interjected, “this is the first we’ve seen you today.”

“Aunt Celestia!” a voice cried out from the entrance. There stood Blueblood in the doorway, his mane plastered to his head, dripping water all over the floor.

Celestia closed her eyes before speaking. “Yes, Blueblood?”

“It’s an emergency!”

“What is it this time, Blueblood?”

“We’re out of–”

“Royal shampoo.” Twilight and Applejack spoke in unison, their eyes going wide.

“I…" Blueblood faltered. “Uh, yes. Exactly! And it’s too important to wait for!”

“Have the maids refill it,” Celestia said, her eyes fixed on Twilight. “Now, please leave, you’re interrupting a very important meeting.”


Now, Blueblood.”

“I – uh, of course, Aunt Celestia,” he said, his wet hooves slipping on the floor as he scampered backwards, disappearing from view as Celestia’s magic pushed the doors closed.

“Now then, Twilight, Applejack. How did you know what he was going to say?”

“ ‘Cause he barged in earlier and said the exact same thing!” Applejack said. “Princess Luna even promised him she’d tell the maids about it.”

“I’ve promised no such thing!”

“Oh no…" Twilight gasped, her eyes wide.

She felt Applejack lean against her. “Twi? You alright?”

“I’m okay.” Twilight nuzzled Applejack gratefully. She took a deep breath and faced the princesses. “I think I know what’s going on.”

“Please, shed some light on this, Twilight Sparkle,” Luna said, waving a hoof.

Twilight nodded. “Princess Celestia, you’re about to send us to the Foal Mountain to investigate an artifact, presumably handled by Starswirl the Bearded. It’s a cube, on a platform, it’s covered with runes and glyphs, and it’s made out of an alloy of skystone, maginium, and marble. Am I right?”

The royal historian and both princesses stared at Twilight in shock. Celestia was the first to get her bearings. “How do you know this, Twilight? We’ve not told anypony else.”

“Because you told us this hours ago. I believe Starswirl’s artifact sent us back in time.”

Luna frowned. “But that’s impossible. Starswirl’s time travel magic only lasts for a minute at most. We have been talking for longer than that as it is.”

“I know; I used it myself once a few years ago.” Twilight nodded. “Yet here I am. I mean, here we are.”

“ ‘We’? Applejack, you are affected too?” Celestia asked.

“I reckon so, Yer Highness. One second we were at that dig, the next we’re back here in Canterlot.”

Luna’s brow furrowed as she glanced at Celestia. “We should quarantine them.”

Quarantine?” Twilight cried out. “But why?”

“My knowledge of time spells is vast, Twilight Sparkle, and I have never before discovered one that affects a pony other than the caster.” Luna’s gaze bore into Twilight’s. “If both you and Applejack have been sent back in time, that means this is something outside of my experience. Until we know what we are dealing with, we should minimize the number of ponies who might potentially be affected.” She glanced back at Celestia. “Sister, should we summon the royal physician?

“I think that’s prudent.” Celestia nodded. “I’m sorry, Twilight, Applejack. Until we know more, it’s safer to have you examined.”

“O-of course.” Twilight gulped, leaning into Applejack as the earth pony put a hoof around her shoulders.

“So how long can they keep us here for?” Applejack asked, eyeing the clock as the seconds ticked by.

Twilight glanced up as well. It’s been half an hour already. What are they doing? “As long as they feel it’s necessary, really. They are the princesses,” Twilight said, slumped on a couch. Thankfully, they’d not been locked away in a cell, or even a medical ward, but instead one of the windowless, closed-in waiting rooms Princess Celestia liked using when the more annoying nobles happened to visit. No matter how often they’d told her they were mildly claustrophobic, she kept ‘forgetting’ that particular detail.

The guards posted outside were just a formality, as Twilight knew she could easily teleport Applejack and herself anywhere she cared to. But the princesses were right – until they knew more, it was safer to keep them quarantined.

She just wished she could do something, instead of waiting.

“Speakin’ of waitin’,” Applejack said, as if she’d read Twilight’s mind. “Why next summer for the weddin’?”

Twilight frowned. “I told you, there’s a lot to do. Things that will take a while!”

“Like what?”

“Well, I haven’t properly researched it yet, but off the top of my head, there’s invitations, dresses, venues, entertainment, catering, decorations, not to mention all the ponies we have to ask or hire to do all of those things, and we might want to pick a theme for the wedding, and we'll need to look into all the legal paperwork, and of course there's–”

“I get the picture, Twi.”

Twilight blushed and her mouth snapped shut. “Er. Right. I just mean – well, there’s a lot to plan, and this is an important step for both of us! I just… don’t want to rush it.”

“But we–”

The door crashed open right at that moment, startling them both out of their seats. “Sorry that took so long! I – um, are you alright?”

As they picked themselves off the floor, Applejack and Twilight glanced at the newcomer. A young mare strode in, a head mirror wrapped around her short cropped orange mane, right under her horn, and a white doctor’s coat draped over her natural yellow one.

“Jus’ startled,” Applejack said, brushing herself off. “You here to examine us?”

“Yep! The name’s Butterfly Stitch.”

“Butterfly? Ain’t that a pegasus name?”

Butterfly nodded. “My parents are pegasi, and they wanted a second child. I guess they didn’t expect great-great-grandaddy’s genes to show up when they named me early!” she giggled. “It’s okay, my big sister’s got enough pegasus in her for both of us.”

“How so?”

“Well, she’s Captain of the Wonderbolts, so I’m pretty sure she got my share!”

Twilight smacked one hoof on top of the other. “I knew you looked familiar! You look a lot like Captain Spitfire.”

“That’s her!” Butterfly giggled. “So! Who wants to go first?”

Twilight stepped forward. “I guess that’ll be me. Did Princess Celestia explain the situation to you?”

“Yep, gave me a full briefing! Starswirl the Bearded and a time spell, huh? I like it it! See, that’s why you’re my favorite princess!”

“I am?” Twilight blinked. She hadn’t even realized ponies had favorites. “Uhh, thank you, I guess? But why me?”

“ ‘Cause you’re exciting! All those adventures! And battles!” She sighed. Twilight and Applejack shared a glance, jumping as Butterfly snapped out of her trance. “Anyway! Applejack, you can step forward too,” she said, levitating two sets of instruments. “I can do both of you at the same time aaaaand I probably should have phrased that differently. Um.”

Applejack snorted, pointing at a blushing Twilight. “I dunno, this one’s a hoofful.”


“Ooh, you’re fun, too! Okay, open up!” Butterfly said, shoving thermometers into her patients’ mouths. “And while we wait for that, this!”

Twilight eyed the syringes Butterfly was holding up. “Wh’ts th’t for?”

“Sorry, princesses’ orders. Um, the other princesses.” With practiced ease, she stuck a syringe into the crook of each pony’s foreleg, and gently drew out some blood. Once done, she set them on a tray, and took out the thermometers. She jotted down the numbers, then took stepped up to Applejack. “Open your eyes wide!”

Applejack complied, resisting the urge to blink as Butterfly’s horn shone a light into her eyes. She blinked the glare away as the unicorn moved on to Twilight, repeating the process.

“Okay!” Butterfly said, writing down some final notes. “Stay right here, I’ll be back as soon as I scan these. Unless Princess Celestia finds you first! Anyway, toodles!”

Twilight shook her head as the door swung shut. “And now I know what Pinkie would be like as a doctor.”

Applejack chuckled. “Now that y’mention it…"

“So, how about lunch?”

“Ain’t it dinnertime?”

“Not anymore, remember?”

“And that’s why earth ponies don’t mess with time travel.”

“That’s obviously the only reason,” Twilight giggled. “Lemme see about room service…"

Twilight leaned back, sighing in satisfaction as she finished her meal. On the other side of the tea cart, Applejack mirrored her and added a quiet belch. Twilight rolled her eyes, grinning at her fiancée. “I take it you’re happy.”

“I sure ain’t complainin’.” Applejack shrugged. “Still don’t hold a candle to Granny’s cookin’ though.”

“Now I want some apple pie. Thanks, Dear.”

“You’re welcome!”

Twilight’s ears twitched as she heard the door open, letting in the two elder princesses. “Any results from Butterfly Stitch?”

“Yep!” Butterfly replied, bouncing in from behind Luna. “Your physicals look great, and the magicals are all clear too, save for a minor amount of unidentified magic in your blood analysis!”

Twilight frowned. “Unidentified magic?”

“Reaaaaaally small amounts. Probably just a leftover from whatever the artifact did!”

“Okay…" Twilight nodded, then faced Celestia once more. “Princess, let us go re-examine it!”

Celestia didn’t mask her surprise. “Twilight?”

“We never really got the chance to analyze it when we got there, and with something of this power, we should make sure we take the steps to do so correctly.”

“What impeded you, Twilight Sparkle?” Luna asked.

“I, uh, kinda fell into the hole the artifact was in and turned it on by mistake,” Twilight replied, ignoring the giggles coming from Applejack. “Which is why I want to do it right this time.”

Luna wrinkled her muzzle “We are hesitant to put you in danger.”

“That’s exactly why we should analyze it! If it’s dangerous, we need to secure it. Perhaps even bring it back to Canterlot. Store it in the vaults.”

“Perhaps… Sister?”

Celestia opened her eyes, nodding as she made her decision. “Very well, Twilight.”

“Oh, thank–”

Celestia lifted a hoof. “On two conditions.”

Twilight, being a mare of logic, completely understood and even agreed with the first condition, and she glanced around as they flew alongside her chariot in chariots of their own: a platoon’s worth of unicorn guards, and the pegasus guards to pull them.

There was no fault in letting extra muscle, both physical and magical, tag along for the ride. Just in case.

She let her gaze fall back on Applejack, watching the mare's mane billowing in the wind, her eyes closed and face raised up to the sky to soak up the sun’s rays. Despite her eagerness to go examine the artifact, she realized that she’d much rather be spending more private time with her fiancée.

As if she’d sensed Twilight’s gaze, Applejack cracked open an eye and met Twilight’s. She smiled, winking at the alicorn. Twilight couldn’t help but smile back, her heart swelling with love for Applejack.

“Y’know, I’ve never actually been to the foal mountains! This is great!” Butterfly said, peering over the edge of the chariot at the landscape passing by.

Twilight held in a sigh that wouldn’t even have been heard over the sound of the wind. The second condition rode along with them, sharing their own chariot. Not that she had anything against the mare, and there was some logic behind the ‘Perhaps I can find a cause at the source!’ argument Butterfly had brought forward. Twilight narrowed her eyes as Butterfly jostled her instruments pack.

Far too soon for her liking, the chariots started their descent, landing on the same edge of the forest that they’d landed at what felt like hours ago. Which technically, they had, but hadn’t anymore. Twilight dismissed that thought, lest she spend the foreseeable future trying to figure out the correct phrasing.

The next hour’s march passed by quickly. The guards chatted, but kept a wary eye, and Applejack struck up a conversation with Butterfly about their siblings, comparing stories of their childhoods, sharing any and every embarrassing story they could think of. Twilight listened in with half an ear, too busy trying to consider the mechanics behind the temporal travel the artifact seemed to achieve, when she suddenly heard a shout from ahead. A pegasus came swooping in, saluting her as he landed in front of her.

“The artifact has been spotted, ma’am. But it’s already glowing.”

“What? But we haven’t touched it!” Twilight stared ahead, already seeing hints of the artifact’s building magical glow.

“Twi! Yer horn’s sparking!”

Twilight blinked as she looked at Applejack, then glanced upwards. Applejack was right – not only was her horn crawling with little arcs of power, a quick glance towards the rest of the group showed her that every unicorn’s horn was doing the same. Most had now noticed, as the magic sparked with increasing frequency, at the same time as the glow from the dig grew brighter still.

“Everypony! Remain–”

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