• Published 12th Aug 2014
  • 24,980 Views, 1,149 Comments

A Nightmare Come To Life - Alcatraz

After getting stabbed, Joseph wakes up to a new life in the body of one of Equestria's most infamous villains.

  • ...

12| With Fire!

Joseph woke to the chirping of birds in the early morning and the smell of pancakes wafting through his nose. Sunlight peeked through the curtains of the guestroom of Golden Oaks as his eyes weakly opened to see the room doused in ambient golden light.

He picked up his head and cracked an eye to glance at his surroundings. He glanced down at the bedsheets which covered him, seeing what could have been construed as his human body, but moving his legs to curl up to get warm quickly dashed the hopes about having dreams, and heaved an exasperated sigh with the following disappointment. He'd already spent nearly a week in this land but he was still having trouble adjusting to his surroundings.

Joseph spied a glass next to a pitcher of water on his nightstand and leisurely levitated the jug as if he was holding the handle to pour a liberal measure of water. He wondered what would happen to people's waistlines on Earth if they had these kinds of capabilities.

He got half way through drinking the glass before a knock came from the door.

"Who is it?" he asked, voice raspy from a still slightly parched throat.

"Twilight," came the strangely sullen reply. "Spike's making breakfast. Come down when you're ready and we'll eat."

Joseph didn't get out a response before Twilight walked off. 'What was that about?'

He finished the glass of water and poured another, eagerly downing that one too. His head fell back to the pillow with a satisfied sigh and he looked down at the bedspread covering him.

Joseph threw the blanket off to get up, and was startled to see Nightmare Moon's black fur instead of the blue from his disguise. He became confused, wondering where the disguise ring could be. He looked to the night stand, but it wasn't on there. He pulled out the drawer of the nightstand to look inside, but that only yielded a toothbrush, tube of toothpaste, a hair brush, and what looked to be a bastard file that reminded Joseph of his trip to the spa.

Figuring they were items given to Joseph for making himself presentable, he decided to forego doing that, instead closing the drawer and getting out of bed, stretching and popping various joints to limber up.

He wondered why the brush was there, given the current ethereal state of his mane and tail as opposed to the arguably 'normal' hair version. He had to admit it was cool, and at the same time, calming to watch. Joe gave one last cursory glance around the small room to see if the disguise ring had fallen off and onto the floor, or was somewhere he couldn't immediately see a moment ago, but alas, no ring.

He exited the room with questions on his mind and made his way downstairs.

He saw Twilight and Spike sitting at the table silently eating breakfast, only briefly looking up at Joseph when he reached the bottom of the stairs before returning to their meals. The ‘dings’ of their knives and forks against each other as well as on the plates only added to the ambient uneasiness.

"Everything alright?" Joseph asked sincerely. "I kinda woke up without the disguise and don't know where the ring is," he finished sheepily.

Twilight closed her eyes in concentration as her horn lit up. A few seconds passed as the magical whizzing gave way to a loud pop as a ring materialised in mid-air and deposited on the table with a 'clink'.

Joseph walked over to the table with a smile and picked it up. "Where was it?"

Twilight just gave an indifferent shrug. "I tagged it with a spell in case you might lose it. Wherever it might be, I can simply recall it back."

"Still doesn't answer my question."

"I don't know where it was," Twilight replied with the slightest hint of annoyance, Joseph taken aback by this. "The locator spell is designed to recall objects if one were to lose them; not to find out where they precisely were."

"Ok," Joseph said immediately after Twilight finished, "what's got you in a sour mood? And why aren't you surprised to see me like this?" Joseph gestured up and down his black form with a hoof.

"Do you really not remember?" Twilight genuinely asked.

"Remember what?" Joseph questioned.

"What you did at the party."

"Can we not have an ambiguous back-and-forth right now, please."

"You turned the place upside down, and ate the entire cake!" Twilight abruptly exclaimed.

There was a moment of tense silence as Joseph let that sink in. "Uhm, that part where you said 'I ate the entire cake'... Do I even want to know? And elaborate with the bakery part, too."

"When you got back with Rainbow and Sweetie from the edge of the Everfree, you walked right back into Sugarcube Corner, took one look at everything that was laid out, then without any inhibitions, flipped tables, pulled decorations down, destroyed the pinata and other games, and everything else Pinkie and the Cakes helped plan, then you turned your focus to the entire five-tier cake that was supposed to have been for everypony, and ate it!" Joseph's head lowered to look at his stomach, then back up to Twilight with disbelief. "Even Pinkie was shocked!"

"I take it I'm in trouble?" he asked sheepishly.

"We're trying to paint you in a good light, Joseph, so that when Nightmare Moon gets brought into the public light—and that's going to happen at some point, we just don't know when or how—ponies won't have too many reasons to not like you! This sort of thing takes time and patience to do, and one wayward bad act and one twitchy mob is all it takes for them to grab their torches and pitchforks!

"If you do this again, nevermind that you did it the first time, you undermine our efforts to help you and put yourself in jeopardy. None of us want Celestia's hoof to be forced into doing something unnecessary to appease the public's erroneously placed panic."

Twilight finished her mini-rant, letting silence permeate the air. Joseph stood before the table, looking at Twilight in confusion. He didn't remember doing any of that. The last thing he remembered was talking to the colts and fillies at the party, then waking up this morning.

"I don't know what you want me to say. Take it with a grain of salt if you must, but I honestly don't remember any of it. What happened after that?" Maybe it would shed some light on how he got from there to here.

Twilight let out a frustrated sigh and massaged the sides of her head, thinking about her reply. "You casually strolled through town until you came back here, where you proceeded to take an hour long shower, and then you got into bed and slept until I knocked this morning."

'So why don't I remember any of it?' "Any theories as to why I'm drawing blanks here?"

"Not unless Nightmare Moon is somehow involved with making you lose your memories."

The corner of Joseph's nose turned up with a snarl. Twilight noticed this with a surprised look. "Something wrong?" she asked.

"Kind of. A while ago I was antagonising Nightmare Moon and she sorta made me forget the names of my parents from Earth."

Twilight's jaw hung agape. "If she's responsible for this lapse, then we need to figure something out–and fast!" she declared.

The drake, who'd been patiently sitting off to the side and eating his meal while they filled in Joe's memory lapse, subtly cleared his throat before asking; "Want some breakfast?" Thankfully, this small interruption broke the tension in the air.

"That would be great," Joe replied with a relieved smile.

"Great! How do you like your pancakes?"

'Normally with bacon...' he mentally grumbled. "However you two were having them will be fine."

Spike nodded in conformation and turned to the stove to plate up the meal as Joe and Twilight continued talking.

"So I apparently ate a giant cake. Big deal. It's not like there's going to be any kind of apocalypse due to a lack of giant cakes. Sorry about ruining everything else, though."

"There's going to be a what?!" a voice screamed out of nowhere. A certain pink mare galloped into the kitchen, standing with an abrupt halt in the doorframe, panting as if she'd run a marathon. "Oh, hiya Josey!" Pinkie sing-songed upon seeing Joe.

"Never call me 'Josey' again," he deadpanned. "And I said there is not going to be an apocalypse because of a lack of cakes, so you've nothing to worry about. Besides, what's the worse that would happen?" Spike brought Joe's plate around to his place and set it down in front of him. He picked up the knife and fork laid out and began to eat.

Pinkie scoffed dismissively at Joseph's statement. "Of course nothing bad is going to happen; there's always going to be plenty of ingredients! It's not like we would have to eat each other," she snickered, unnerving Joseph a bit.

"See, even Pinkie agrees!" Joseph facetiously punctuated Pinkie's point by stuffing his mouth with a heap of pancakes. He chewed his mouthful, watching Twilight's amusedly disgusted expression with a smug grin. Joe swallowed the mouthful with a resigned sigh, the delicious pancakes settling. "Yi’know, you still haven't answered my question of why I woke up without the disguise."

"I'm not sure either," Twilight honestly admitted. "You could have taken it off while having a shower and simply lost it, then gone to bed without it on. I don't think it matters, though."

"Well at least you tagged it with your spell. I'd hate to be cooped up here all day without a disguise."

He went to look up to Pinkie to ask her a question, but became extremely confused from the lack of her presence. "What in the... Where did she come from and where did she go?"

"Rarity told me it's just how Pinkie behaves. I'll try find out how she does it later."

"Oh yeah!" Twilight's mention of finding things out reminded Joseph of an offer of Twilight’s. "You said you were going to teach me magic, didn't you?"

"Oh, uhmm..." Twilight clopped her hooves together awkwardly before turning to Spike, who was in the middle of drying the plates. "Spike, what's my morning schedule like?"

"Twilight, today is supposed to be your day off. You know what Celestia said; make some friends! She also meant to have fun too," he added with a smirk.

Joseph kept looking at Twilight with a grin as she grumbled. "Fine," she conceded.

Joe gave an appreciative nod. "Thank you. Hopefully I can learn some cool stuff."

"So," Twilight added bracingly. "Any thoughts on what you would like to learn first?"

He tapped a hoof to chin contemplatively before a thought occured. "Actually, help me understand something." He took off the disguise to let Nightmare Moon's body show and used one of his forelegs to bring the ethereal mane around. "'Splain this; I'm genuinely curious as to how hair floats."

Twilight gave a little snigger before answering. "Magic. What you're holding there is pure magic." Joseph looked at it with disbelief, much to Twilight's amusement. "To elaborate: alicorns like Celestia and Luna, and now yourself, often have enough magic stored within them to replace their normal mane and tails. Think of it as an extension and manifestation of their capabilities. Mostly it's for a display of status and magical strength."


"Magic is all around us. It's an invisible, yet at the same time, measurable substance. Comparatively speaking, because ethereal tails and manes are made of tangible magic, they float in the invisible, omnipresent pool of magic that unicorns, pegasi, and earth ponies draw upon to cast spells of varying degrees."

Joseph considered this for a moment before asking, "So I'm assuming there's a way to make it normal?"

Twilight gave a confirmative 'mmhmm'. "But, with that comes one fundamental tool any unicorn needs to grasp the concept of: externalising internal visualisations."

"Like how I told you I manage to levitate things?" he ventured.

"Precisely! Rarity, as an example, is a dressmaker and clothing designer. She has fine tuned her magic and related spells so she can perform both many and miniscular tasks with extreme degrees of accuracy. This practice through practical application tends to be more effective at strengthening one's magical ability."

"Back to the hair, if you could," Joe reminded her.

"Oh, uhm, right. It's best to learn magic meditatively. Try closing your eyes and visualise yourself standing static, with your mane and tail being the focus. Imagine it shrinking back into you, and at the same time being replaced by normal hair."

Joseph steeled himself in his chair, closing his eyes and taking calming breaths.

Inside his head, he formed a mental picture of what he currently looked like, complete with flowing mane and tail.

As if his visualisation was a movie being played out in front of him, the mane and tail both began to shrink into his head and neck, and base of his spine respectively.

Next, locks of silky blue hair began growing to replace its ethereal counterpart.

Content with himself, Joseph's eyes remained closed in the uncertainty that it didn't work.

Twilight watched on as this transpired, but to her, Joseph didn't open his eyes when it was done. "Open your eyes," she coaxed.

Instead, Joseph used both front legs to pat down his head. His eyes shot open when he felt regular hair and not the ever-moving cloud that was. He gasped, pulling at the hair in disbelief.

"I can't believe... Magic, i-it's..."

Twilight was using a hoof to try and hide the giggling at Joseph’s bewildered, aghast expression. “It’s what?” she asked, pressing him for the answer.

“I don’t know how to explain it. It’s surreal, I just can’t believe something like this is real and measureable.” His expression became sombre as he began to reminisce. “When I was growing up, I used to watch cartoons and movies on tv about superheroes performing superhuman feats of bravery.” He paused to pick up the fork with his magic, twirling it like he would with fingers and admiring the motions of the floating piece of cutlery. “Now that I actually have powers I could only have dreamed of… In a way, it’s humbling.”

Part of him still wanted to wake up to discover this had all been a bad dream, and the other part wanted to believe it for all its worth. Yet, despite the latter and being in this land for close to a week, he was still having difficulty processing, well... everything.

He'd witnessed teleportation and other feats of magic, but to actually accomplish something you've only seen done is a different experience altogether.

His thoughts were full of potential spells and tricks he thought about casting to see what would happen, though his concern for unforeseen consequences held him back. ’In due time.’

"In most cases, you have to will things to happen," Twilight began. "You need to put physical and mental effort into the spell you're casting. Try not to overexert yourself though."

Twilight didn't seem to say that last sentence with much conviction so Joseph didn't think she was being too serious about it. Having these capabilities and not knowing how to use them meant he had to ask, just to be careful. "What happens if I do that? Do I just get really tired?"

"Well... Yes and no. Sometimes it's as simple as passing out, and other cases have seen unicorns in comas for days, even weeks in rare cases."

"How do I avoid over-exerting myself then?"

"Like you would with exercise; take it easy. Don't do anything you don't know how to do, nor should you try anything you have doubts about. Baby steps, if you will."

"Ugh!" Joseph sighed melodramatically and mockingly brought a hoof to his forehead. "I am a creature of night and nightmares, and I am being told to take baby steps!" he playfully whined.

Twilight bit her lip and gave a short snort of laughter.

"But in all seriousness, I'll try not to." Joseph added.

"Good," Twilight happily said.

"So when you mentioned I have to will something, can you explain that a bit more?"

"Sure! Take pyromancy for example. A dangerous talent to have, but thankfully it's rare and the ones that do have it are on the Mage Council, but that's a digression for another day. Their magic is exciting matter. You command them to move, and if you give them enough energy they'll spontaneously combust."

"Show me," he said, the grin of his inner pyromantic showing.

"They're mages for a reason, Joseph. It's all high-level magic that I haven't learned to do. I only know the theory, and it's too dangerous to try in an uncontrolled environment, like a treehouse library."

"So when you said I need to put physical and mental effort into a spell, is that like exercising for an hour, difficulty of the spell pending?"

"Now you're getting it!" Twilight beamed. "Some pyromancy spells can be compared to running a marathon in a day, simpler spells like levitation are the equivalent of performing daily tasks like cooking, and that's become second nature in the majority of ponies."

"Where does teleporting fit into that equation? I've seen others do that quite a bit."

"There are some ponies more intrinsically inclined towards magic; meaning they can draw on more magical energy to supplement their own lack of, at the same time giving extra power to their spells. Teleportation would be complicated for you, so I'll reserve that for a different lesson. So, what did you want to try next?" Twilight asked. By now Spike had finished clearing the table and the dishes, and was sitting at the table watching the exchange between her and Joseph.

"Do spells also work on voice comm—" Halfway through his sentence, a short, sharp rap on the library's front door was heard.

"Disguise, now!" Twilight commanded in a hushed bark so their visitor wouldn't hear them, bolting up to get the door before it opened.

Not wanting to be found as-is, Joseph fumbled with the ring in his magic, but it kept cutting in and out for some reason. He tried using his front hooves, but that proved worse.

Joe heard Twilight greet the visitor. "Good morning, Cherilee! Here for this weeks lesson materials?" He couldn't hear the reply, but knew from Twilight's volume she was stalling this 'Cheerilee's' entrance.

"I've got a guest right now," she added, "just let me quickly check if they're decent."

She trotted back over to the kitchen door and peered around the door, only to catch Spike leaning over the table with the ring in his claw with Joseph's head tilted forward, about to place the ring on.

"What?" Joseph asked on seeing Twilight's expression. It was both confused and amused. "You never seen a baby dragon put a ring on a grown man's horn before?"

Only when he noticed Twilight's double-take did he realize his faux-pas. He didn't get to dig a deeper hole before Twilight pulled the ring from Spike's grip and put it on Joe's horn for him, Joe letting her do so without objection. His form shifted and Twilight visibly relaxed.

"I've got the local schoolteacher picking up some books for her class this week. Don’t cause any trouble," Twilight said sternly, giving Joseph enough of a stare to tell him to keep the disguise in check.

"Come on in for a moment while I get the books," she politely chimed upon walking back out into the main area. "I’ll be right back." Twilight hung a right out of the kitchen and went upstairs.

Curiosity got the better of Joseph, and against his better judgement, he went to poke his head out to see who it was exactly. His eyes were greeted with a burgundy mare, whom had a cotton candy coloured, pink-and-white mane.

"Oh, hello!" she exclaimed in surprise. "Who might you be?"

"Uh, hi..." Joseph replied demurely. Before Joseph could reply with the name matched to his disguise, and not his human one or the one of whose body he was in, Cherilee's eyes drifted to his flank.

"You alright, there?" he asked somewhat harshly, noticing the line of sight in her eyes, Cherilee taken aback by this. "Sorry," he quickly added. "I'm new here, so when people take notice of, well, that, it gets a bit irritating."

Cherilee smiled warmly at his apology. “It’s alright. I apologise for staring. I was just caught by surprise is all.” Just then, Twilight came down the stairs with a stack of books enveloped in her magic.

"Here you are!" Twilight declared. "Was there anything else?"

"Nothing that comes to mind, but I'll let you know." Twilight helped Cherilee pack the books into her bags, and she turned to leave after a grateful nod.

Joseph saw Twilight's eyes dart between him and the departing mare before she stuck a hoof out in front of her and called back for the teacher. "Hold on!"

Cherilee stopped mid-step and turned her head around. "Yes?"

"This might sound strange, but why doesn't Eclipse here"—she nodded at Joseph—"join you?" Cherilee's eyebrow raised with curiosity at the question. "Heh, let me explain. She's from a the far south of Equestria, and came to town earlier in the week. Being from a completely different culture, I thought that maybe she'd like to join in the lesson and help you out you for the day, Think of it both as a student and teacher's aide."

Cherilee took a moment to think of how helpful it would be to have an extra set of hooves to help out. The class could learn something about a different culture too!

"That sounds great!" she happily exclaimed.

Twilight and Cherilee both turned to Joseph with questioning looks.

"Nu-uh, no way!" he exclaimed. "I had my rough patches at school, and I wouldn't like to be an onlooker to it for six hours; especially amongst kids!"

"Please?" Twilight begged. "They're having lessons on history and magic today!"

'As much as I hate to admit it, magic lessons at an arguably professional school does sound like a good idea.' "Ok, ok,"—Twilight's expression lit up but Joseph cut her off before she could say anything more—"but, a couple conditions first."

"Deal!" Twilight said almost immediately.

He wasn't sure why Twilight would agree without hearing the terms first, but he listed them just to be clear. "I get at the very least an hour for lunch, and the freedom to leave if I want to. Can't say I fancy being in school with noisy children all day."

"Do you not like children?" Cherilee asked.

"Not really, to be honest. I've never liked the idea of actually having them."

The two mares in front of him were smiling regardless, then Cherilee took the opportunity to speak first.

"I can wait for you to get ready if you like? I've got time to spare before I'm due at the school."

"Sure. Saves Twilight taking me there." Joseph got up from the table and began to walk upstairs.

Half way up, Twilight joined him. "Please, try not to mention anything about Nightmare Moon, or give too much away about your real self,” she pleaded. “If you must, try to make what you say sound like it happened inside of Equestria, alright?"

"So you want me to be purposefully ambiguous and allude them, hoping they fill in the gaps?"


"Sure, I can do that." Joseph often did just this when on Earth, and it proved rather effective in buying some extra time to finish either school or work projects; things he should've done earlier. "Uh, you wouldn't happen to know where my money is, would you?"

"I put your things in your saddlebag and put that in the chest under your bed."

"Huh... Don't know why I didn't check under there for the ring."

Twilight just gave a short giggle at that, opening the guest room door to let Joseph in as she followed after him. Joseph crouched down slightly to look under the bed. He saw the chest and pulled it out.

Sure enough, the things Luna gave him were there. He emptied out everything, save the money pouch, and began to don the bag.

"Why do you need the bag if you're just carrying money?"

"In case you haven't noticed, I don't have clothes, let alone pockets." 'Ugh, I feel naked just thinking about it like that.'

"Just do this," Twilight began. She took the pouch from Joseph, and in the blink of an eye, it disappeared with a poof.

"Hey!" he protested. "What'd you do with my money!?"

She poofed it back and gave it back to him with a smile. "I just put it in my pocket."

"It disappeared! What could that possibly mean?" he demanded.

"Well, I'm correctly assuming you know what pockets on clothing are, so just try imagine putting it into one. Like how you said you managed to use basic levitation."

Joe stared intently at the pouch. He pictured his hand sliding his wallet into his back pocket, and when he did that, the pouched vanished in a puff.

He stumbled back a few steps in surprise. "What just happened!?"

"I might have confused the distinction between the kinds of pockets. There's pockets on clothes, and then there's the Hammerspace Pocket. If you want the technical term, that is."

He thought of himself pulling the wallet out of his pocket and opening it, and sure enough the money popped back into existence. 'What else can I do just by thinking about it?'

Twilight reminded him about Cherilee, so he put the money back in his 'pocket' and went back downstairs to her. They both said goodbye, Cherilee leading the way over to the schoolhouse.

Cherilee tried asking him where he was from, but Joseph respectfully turned them down to avoid repeating himself to Cherilee and the students if they asked the same question. He said to wait until during class, and if she had a question for him, or one that the class asked, he could answer it for her and the class.

The duo approached a red, barn-like building adorned with hearts and filigree patterns, with a few steps that lead up to it like Sugarcube Corner. It had a bell tower offset on the right side of the building's roof, complete with wind compass on top. From what Joseph could see, the back yard of the school was fenced off and held the typical equipment found in a little kid's playground.

Cherilee went first up the steps to unlock the door, pushing it open and entering, letting Joseph follow. He entered and looked around inside. In front of him was Cherilee's desk, and facing away from it were several small desks. On the left and right of the room were short bookcases, three shelves high. Various teaching implements and other items were scattered on the top.

Behind the desk was a chalkboard, and to the left and right of that were two doors with frosted windows.

"We've got about ten minutes before the students show up. My office and the belfry are to your right"—she indicated to the door to the right of the chalkboard—"and the restroom is the other door," Cherilee said. "I'll show you to my office, and you can wait in there. I want it to be a surprise for the colts and fillies," she finished with a smile.

Inside the office, Cherilee’s desk was to the direct left inside the door on the inside wall with sufficient space to walk behind. There were two cushions in front that Joseph assumed were for sitting on.

Cherilee went behind the desk, opened a drawer and pulled out a ring of keys, opening a box on the wall behind her. She turned a knob and flicked a switch, then closed it, turning back to Joseph. "I set the bell to ring in ten minutes to let everypony know school is about to start.

"I need to write up a brief plan for the lesson, so would you mind?" Cherilee nodded at the bookcase, indicating to Joe to peruse the small collection until she could introduce him.

"Sure can!"

"I'll knock on the wall when you can come out." She gave a thankful sigh and went out into the main room, closing the door behind her.

"Good morning, class!" Cherilee announced when the entirety of those to show up had taken their seats. "I have a special guest here today for you!" The room became a sea of hushed murmurs among the students. "Now now, quiet down! She's not from around here, so I want you to all be nice, understood?" She sneakily knocked against the wall with her hoof.

"Yes Miss Cherilee," the entire room chorused at once.

A few seconds later, Joseph walked out, all eyes glued to him in wonder. He sat next to Cherilee's desk so they were eye level with one another. When scanning the room, he saw three familiar faces: Sweetie Belle, Apple Bloom, and Pipsqueak; the ones he talked to at his party. Yet for some odd reason, Sweetie didn’t look at him in the same manner the others were.

"I want you to all meet Eclipse," she announced. "Part of the history lesson I have planned for today involves a few different cultures and creatures, so I thought it would be a good idea if she came and told us about her culture, as well as helping me a bit. Any questions?"

A mauve filly stuck her hoof up. "Yes, Diamond Tiara?"

"Why doesn't she have her cutie mark?" came the haughtily-asked question. It didn't phase Joseph though.

"Don't be rude," Cherilee chastised. She then turned to Joseph. "Why don't you tell us where you're from?"

While reading books in the room he was in when first coming here, he was groaning at all the bad horse puns and scarily eerie coincidences with the names. Maretropolis? Manehattan? Canterlot? Joe made up the name of a country using one from Earth, and turning it into a bad pun.

"Neigh... Zealand?" he tried. Cherilee gave him a curious glance at that name.

A grey-coloured filly was the next to raise her hoof. Joe nodded at her to answer. "Where is that, exactly?"

'Well, if New Zealand is south-east of Australia...' "It's a bit south-east of Tartarus," he replied. He saw a few of the ponies look at each other in disbelief.

A cream-coloured filly stuck her hoof up this time. "You've been to Tartarith!?" she incredulously asked. At this point, all eyes were glued to Joseph, having piqued all their curiosity. "What'h it like?"

"Really hot, although the place I stayed had a great big waterpark nearby."

Four hooves shot up.

"Hold old are you?"

"Why is your coat and mane so dark?"

“Is there really a waterpark in Tartarus? I want to go there!”

"One; it's rude to ask a mare her age. Two; you can't just go around asking why someone's coat is dark!" he joked. However, the joke seemed to be lost on them and they just looked at him confused. “And yes, there is.”

"Why did you trash Sugarcube Corner?" Sweetie asked.

All heads present turned to look at Sweetie, then to Joseph. All their eyes were wide, save for a select few whom were there when it happened.

'I don't care what you're doing upstairs there, Nightmare, but I could really use some help right about now!' Everyone was still staring at Joe, whom was trying to bide his time until Nightmare could fill in the missing details. He couldn't remember, but surely she might?

"I, uhm..." 'Answer me you gaseous bitch!' "Saw a rat?"

Nice save. Not.

'Where the hell have you been!?'

I've been trying to dig my way out of the enchantment Chrysalis put on me, and in turn, you! Nightmare seethed. Listen, I'm trying to break it but it's on a loop. No matter what I do, the spell matrix always refreshes itself to counter me. It wasn't you that trashed the party, it was a chan—

"Ah don't know about you," Apple Bloom said, garnering Joseph's attention after a brief period of blankly staring into space. At least that's what everyone perceived, "but if a rat gets into something then Fluttershy tells it to behave."

'...What?' he thought in response to that question. "How long was I out there?"

"A good fifteen seconds," Cherilee said. "Are you alright? Does that happen often?"

Suddenly, the idea bulb went off in Joseph's head. "It happens once in a while. Sometimes if I'm new to a place then I'll just black out and autopilot takes over. So, to answer your question, Sweetie, I did, but like I said, nervousness overtook control and I had a blackout. I'll stop by the bakery later and offer to pay for the damages."

The rest of the Q&A went without too much problem, and the morning's magic lesson dabbled mostly in levitation for the unicorns. Being an earth pony, Cherilee didn't have too much inside knowledge, but with Joseph being a unicorn (at least outward in appearance), she called on him a few times to help explain how levitation worked.

Sure enough, it helped out the unicorns slightly, having a fresh perspective towards the topic. While that was being done, Cherilee told the class they could catch up on any outstanding work from yesterday. Anyone else was welcome to read a book or be constructive, so long as it was relevant to the lesson to some degree.

When the bell chimed for the mid-morning break, Cherilee dismissed the class so they could have a short, twenty minute break before the history lesson that lead up to lunch.

"Would you mind just keeping an eye on them?" Cherilee asked sweetly. "They can get a bit rowdy. It's only for twenty minutes while I organise the history lesson."

"Sure thing, teach," Joseph said, garnering a surprised look from Cherilee upon hearing him call her that.

He went out the back door that had the playground laid out before it, and sat on the steps to oversee the going-ons.

Over by the sandbox, four fillies were crowded around Diamond Tiara. Joe kept an eye on them, unsure if the crowd was sinister or inquisitive. Some minutes later saw her hold up a purple framed mirror with sparkly little jewels.

Curious as to whether it would be a cheaply made plastic mirror or something else to the playground where it could get broken, he cantered over to the group to see what was going on.

On approach, Diamond Tiara looked up at him. The rest of her 'friends' noticed her looking above them and followed suit, taken by surprise at him having snuck up on them.

"What do you want?" Diamond Tiara asked arrogantly.

"I was just seeing why you brought an arguably expensive mirror to the playground. It can get broken, you know."

She flipped her hair with an annoyed "Hmph!" "My daddy bought it for me, and I was just showing it to my friends here, right, girls?"


"Diamond Tiara always has the latest in fashion and makeup!" a second added.

'Oh, so she's one of those kind of schoolkids...' "Here," he began, taking the handle of the mirror with his magic, "why don't you let me take it inside so you don't break it by accident?"

"Uh oh," another friend added. "Better do what she says, Diamond. Your daddy would be upset if that happened."

Glowering at Joseph, Diamond Tiara relinquished her grip on the mirror. "Fine." She turned away in a huff, and her friends followed like sheep after her.

With the mirror, he strolled back to the schoolhouse, inspecting the jewel-encrusted item. Crafted of what could have been purple wood polished to a shining finish to bring out the beautiful grains, the frame and handle had a pattern of different coloured stones. Whether the stones were precious or not, Joseph didn't know, but something like this could easily cost hundreds, potentially thousands of dollars on Earth if they were.

He looked at himself in the mirror, but something being reflected in it caught his attention. Something black, sitting with the other kids around a bucket of water. His head turned to see what it was, but he only saw Sweetie Belle sitting with a few of her classmates around said bucket.

He became concerned at what it could be, and picked up the pace back into the school.

Cherilee came out of the back room as he entered the room. "Are you alright? You look like you've seen a ghost."

"Y-you're not too far off! Here take this," he said, thrusting the mirror at Cherilee. "Look through it at the kids with your back against the window and tell me what you see."

"Where did you get this?" Cherilee asked upon having the mirror forced on her.

"I took it off of Diamond Tiara because I didn't want her to break it, but can you please just look!?"

"Ok, ok," she conceded. With her back towards the wall and sitting on her haunches, Cherilee pointed the reflective surface at the playground, scanning it.

"Well?" Joseph pressured.

"I... don't see anything?"

"Look for Sweetie Belle." He rolled his eyes at the mistake of not mentioning her to do so a moment ago.

"Uhmmm... It looks like it's just her. Why, is something wrong?"

Not understanding why she wasn't seeing what he was, Joseph sat next to her and angled the mirror enough so they were both looking through it while pointed at Sweetie. "How can you not see anything?!" he exclaimed.

"Eclipse, calm down! What's the matter?"

"It's black, eyes like blue orbs of water. Kinda looks like a tree gave birth to a pony."

On hearing this, Cheerilee's head whipped around to stare at Joseph, fear written across her face. "H-hold on a moment," she stammered, heading into her office and returning with one of the books she got from Twilight this morning.

She opened it up and turned to a bookmarked page, one among a few. She stopped when she found a roughly drawn sketch of something that closely resembled Sweetie seen from the mirror.

"That's it, but what is it, exactly."

"Go get Twilight. Tell her to send a message to Princess Celestia saying that changelings are in Ponyville. I'll keep the students occupied, and an eye on Sweetie if you're so sure it's her."

'Why can't she see what I can?' "Yeah, okay, sure."

"Do try to be calm about it. Last thing we want to do is to alert any others."

"What!?" Twilight screamed when Joseph told her what happened.

He had run back to the library and told Twilight what had happened with Nightmare, the mirror, Sweetie, and Cherilee.

"I don't know why she couldn’t see her either! I could see it through the reflection in the mirror, though."

"We need to alert the guards, the Princesses!" Twilight began to visibly panic, running over to one of the shelves and pulling various books off. "Oh no no no, I gave the book I had on changelings to Time Turner! Cherilee has the history book that has brief detail about them."

"Hold your horses, Twilight! Listen, we have changelings on Earth, and if the lore is anything to go off, there are countermeasures!"

"Well!?" Twilight demanded. "Spike, take a letter, now!” The dragon scrambled to grab a quill and parchment “So, how do we defeat them?"

Author's Note:

Now with art!

Commissioned from w00tnewt.

Joseph with disguise:

Joseph without disguise:

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