• Published 5th Sep 2018
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The Golden Age of Apocalypse - Book I - BlueBastard



A Berylverse Story - The ponies investigate an ancient prophecy tied to Sombra's plan to destroy Equestria, all the while Sunset prepares for her coronation. But not all is as it seems when the mystery begins to imply a far darker truth of the past.

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Chapter 29: Received Pronunciation

Golden Age of Apocalypse

Chapter 29—Received Pronunciation

Sunset emerged from the mirror in pony form, briefly shaking herself like a dog to ward off the lingering tingly sensations from the mirror, then noticed the entire ballroom floor was inexplicably covered in confetti. Before she could process why, the next thing she saw horrified her and in literally any other diplomatic first meetings would have been the greatest scandal in human history.

“Jesus Christ!” exclaimed Sunset, “Pinkie, why are you naked?!”

“Hmm?” Pinkie turned to face Sunset, letting the crowd of ponies—whose reactions ranged from amused, to horrified, to Rarity having already pulled out the fainting couch—feel slightly less awkward at seeing a human form in all its glory. “Oh, hi, Sunny! Didja know these bracelet things work in reverse, too?” As if to demonstrate, Pinkie then took off the bracelet and in a flash the hairless monkey vanished, replaced by a pink-furred pony with the same hairdo, who looked identical to the other pink-furred pony with the same hairdo standing right next to her.

Sunset did not reply, her eye twitching as she tried to process how Pinkie had—in conjunction with her alternate universe duplicate—managed to strip naked in front of the most important group of ponies on that reality while simultaneously not strip naked, as proven when the other Pinkie took the bracelet and put it on, only her human form was mercifully clothed.

“You know,” the Pinkie Sunset was more familiar with purred, “Maybe I could––”

“Not right now, Pinkie,” Adagio warned her, while Sunset facehoofed.

“Well, I have to admit, this is certainly a...unique situation,” said Princess Celestia, who much to Sunset’s relief seemed to find the scene amusing rather than scandalous.

Sunset was still preoccupied with the fact that Pinkie had just willingly taken off the bracelet, despite having explicitly given her orders not to—and the extensive countermeasures Sunset had put on Pinkie’s, specifically.

I told you to wear these at all times while in Equestria!”

“Whoa, I thought you ponies were supposed to be small!” suddenly came Rainbow Dash’s voice, sounding slightly higher in pitch than normal. “And when did Pinkie get so tall?”

Sunset sighed and mentally counted down. Five...four...three...two...one…

¡CHINGA LA MADRE! GODDAMMIT!” Her blue face having turned bright red, “human” Rainbow glared angrily at Sunset. “You said these bracelets wouldn’t make us into ponies!”

“No, the bracelets prevent the magic of this world turning their wearers into what it thinks their natural form is. In which case, you’re a pegasus,” said Sunset, gesturing over to where pony Dash was trying to figure out why her “human” counterpart was a mirror image while simultaneously trying to ignore Princess Sunset’s super-technical explanation for it. She then looked at her transformed friend. “You weren't fiddling with yours, were you?”

A guilty look crossed the neo-pegasus’ face. “...no,” she blurted, a clearly obvious lie.

Sunset smirked. “Suuuuure you weren't. Anyway, I can fix the bracelet by recasting its charm spell, but it’ll take me a minute.” Sunset changed to her human form and removed her friend’s bracelet, tapping it in places to do spell corrections.

“Fine,” groaned human Dash. “Just get it fixed before—" Rainbow suddenly found herself yanked upward and backward involuntarily by the thing that she feared the most seeing her in this form.

“OHMYGODTHEYARESOCUTE!” squeed human Fluttershy, who had come next.

“Uh, Fluttershy?” said human Pinkie, “that’s the Dashie from our world.” She then somehow held up the real pony Rainbow Dash without having to turn around and pick up the pony—despite having her back to Rainbow the whole time—and added, “This is the Dashie from this world!”

“Hey, let go of me! I don’t wanna cuddle!” pony Rainbow complained, squirming helplessly in human Pinkie’s grip.

Fluttershy blinked while “human” Dash struggled to breathe in her death hug. “Oh...oops…” was all that was said by the shy teen, turning a bright red herself.

Meanwhile, on the pony side, Fluttershy leaned over to Rarity and asked “Am...am I usually trying to squeeze my friends to death?”

“Only the ones that can’t speak our language,” was all Rarity said in reply.

Blueblood walked away from the third office, shedding his disguise as he did. The whole operation was turning out to be a mind-numbing procedure, but one he had to look into. His aunts had made it a national priority, which meant that it was up to his office to ensure the laws were enforced.

“You don't look happy, sir,” an earth mare commented as she approached him.

“Not in the least, Beat Patrol,” Blueblood told her. “We have a major security event about to occur in Canterlot––” he said, gesturing to the scaffolding and preparations ongoing, “and we’re focused on vetting mental health professionals, and we haven’t been informed why! Doesn’t that strike you as more than a little odd?”

“Not really, sir,” was the response. “Remember, we usually do the same thing every year the princess has the Bearers go through their annual physicals. And remember that we had the same level of security back when Princess Luna was being evaluated after her long, er, ‘hiatus from duties’.”

“I suppose, but I don’t recall any of those happening at the same time as a major security event, especially one that involved all three branches of the military, the national police and the Agency,” Blueblood reminded her. “Something is up, and my aunts aren’t being forthcoming. I have to wonder if it’s tied to the coronation.”

“Do you think so, sir?”

“Probably,” His eyes drifted over to a nearby clock, where he noticed the time. “Well, I hate to leave you to your fun, but I have a dinner date.”

Beat grinned. “Have fun with your fillyfriend, sir.” When Blueblood simply gave the pony a dismissive look, she laughed and wandered off.

Blueblood watched as his subordinate walked off, then casually strolled across the street towards the restaurant in question. He wasn’t too worried about being noticed; he was dressed somewhat low-key for his public image and wasn’t likely to be confused with “Prince Blueblood.”

As he wandered into the pub, he saw another pony waving for him. “Blu, over here!” Octavia Melody called out. He wandered over and she smiled. “Glad you could make it!”

“Believe me, I needed the break,” he told her. “So, tell me all about this new triumph of yours.”

She couldn’t stop grinning. “I’ve been asked to co-write the music for the coronation! Lyra Heartstrings and I have been working on it since we got the commission and I’m hoping to refine it with the orchestra when she gets here next week.” The earth mare was positively beaming. “This is going to be so grand! The opportunity of a lifetime!”

“I’m happy for you,” he told her, faking a smile as best as he could. It wasn’t that he wasn’t happy for her, but rather that his mood was already dour.

She caught on it immediately. “Okay, what’s wrong?” Knowing he couldn’t hide it from her, he then went into a limited explanation of his current assignment and duties. She listened, though a curious look came over her face.

“And you have absolutely no idea why?” she finally asked him.

“Not a clue. For all I know, one of these mysterious ‘humans’ needs to see a neuromancer or psychologist, but if that’s the case, I’m at a loss. As advanced as Twilight claims them to be, you’d think they’d have that profession on their side.”

The steady stream of humans followed much the same antics. After Fluttershy was Applejack, who seemed likely to die laughing when she came through to find Rainbow waiting for Sunset to fix her malfunctioning magic bracelet. Rarity was next, who despite looking clearly uneasy with the circumstances did well in keeping her composure as she was, so far, the only one who remembered she was in the presence of true royalty.

Sonata then came through, much to the surprise of the others. To Razz’ relief, she had slung her rifle across her shoulder and “merely” had her hand on her sidearm instead.

“I thought Twily was supposed to be next?” asked Pinkie.

“She suddenly needed to use the restroom,” Soni replied. She would have asked about the confetti on the floor, why Rainbow was a pony for some reason, and the general awkward feeling in the air, but a quick glance from Dagi told Soni everything she needed to know.

“Then who’s next?” inquired Sunset.

“Ms. Celestia,” replied the blue-haired girl with simple smile, “as well as SIREN Actual.”

“Was this the admiral that you requested?” asked Princess Celestia. Sunset had requested that a human military officer be assigned to be the SIRENs’ overall commander in order to be a buffer for the human troops, and the Princess had acquiesced. Given that apparently her counterpart knew this individual, Celestia was eager to find out who it was.

“Yeah, she’s probably talking about S—" began Sunset, who then paled as she realized why she’d originally gone to great lengths to not tell the princess about this particular individual.

Any further thought didn’t have a chance to come to fruition as the human Celestia came forward through the mirror, evidently completely out of her comfort zone.

Feeling the need to do something, Princess Celestia strode forward to greet her awkwardly taller counterpart—she always had been a fair bit conscious about her massive size despite ponies normally being a “diminutive” species, but her human counterpart was a good foot or two taller than herself - and break the ice, so to speak.

“Um...hello?” said the Princess with a smile, holding up a hoof. Any sense of decorum the ruler of Equestria had immediately went out the window; after all, what does one say to oneself?

“H-hi?” replied the human Celestia, who shakily took the white hoof in hand and shook...then promptly passed out. She would have hit the ground had not a burly man—who happened to just be coming out of the mirror at that moment—rushed just in time to catch her.

“Oh, you gotta be kidding me….” groaned pony Applejack as she sensed something about the newcomer was a little too familiar. He was dressed in some weird green pattern type clothing—similar to what the human Adagio and Sonata were wearing—so there were no visual body marks, but all the same, Applejack felt uneasy.

“Wow,” said Luna, who had emerged next. “Not five minutes into another world and she needs you to save her, Sable.”

“Sable?” inquired Princess Celestia. “As in...Sable Loam?” The entire room suddenly felt even more awkward at the mention of that particular name, though none of the humans really knew why.

“The fact you already know my name with that kind of reaction is not a good sign,” sighed Sable. He turned to Sunset. “Your highness, is there something you’d like to share?”

Sunset, all eyes on her, decided on discretion for the sake of valor. “Perhaps later?” she ventured.

The human Celestia folded her arms, looking at her former student with disappointment. “Yes, Ms. Shimmer, you’ll be sharing it later.” Her tone indicated there would be no room for discussion.

The awkwardness stretched on for a few more minutes as Princess Celestia mentally debated calling for extra security, but there was the fact that the human SIRENs had to know who he was, given that they’d had previous time here in Equestria; furthermore, Sunset would have told them. To add another point, Sunset herself was recommending this man to lead the SIRENs—and Sunset, having studied under Celestia’s literal wing, knew who the local Sable Loam had been.

Celestia let herself relax, at least outwardly. Like her counterpart, she would have answers later, but there was no reason to make a tense situation that much worse.

The next few human arrivals went just about as swimmingly, much to Sunset’s embarrassment. Of course, having to explain that Celestia and Sable were well past the initial dating phase of a relationship and the slightly pale look Princess Celestia got from that thought wouldn’t brighten anyone's day. Human Velvet and Night Light followed next, to which the former wasted no time in joking about how Celestia was obviously drunk to pass out so easily. Luna then taking the opportunity to rib her older sister in the same vein did not help matters, though the elder alicorn found it amusing to see the sisters acted much as she and her own did.

“This is the worst first contact scenario ever,” groaned Sunset as—in a moment of pure impishness—Princess Celestia thought it was a good idea to counter by saying she actually couldn’t get drunk, but not for a lack of trying.

Then Spike came through and the baby dragon and the human boy got into an argument about why the latter wasn’t a dog. Partly to prove his alternate self wrong, partly because learning he could turn into a dragon was pretty cool, human Spike tried to then remove his warding bracelet...only to discover Sunset had taken an extra precaution and had placed the same restrictions on his as she had on Pinkie’s, thus making it impossible for him to remove it.

A brief respite came when Shining and Cadence came through—they seemed to handle learning about the other side versions of themselves fairly well enough that didn’t involve horribly embarrassing Sunset and/or the entire human species. Though it got just as awkward when the ponies expressed concern about human Cady and Shiny still having yet to be married, on account of the already married pony versions having had their wedding hijacked by Queen Chrysalis, then both Pinkies trying to conceive of what the human Chrysalis—who was unknown to even exist by the humans present—could do since human shapeshifters didn’t exist.

Octavia was next. She stepped through the portal, took one look at the complete confusion that was occurring, and then said what was likely on every mind present: “Nope!” Before anybody could stop her, she turned on her heels and made to head straight back through the mirror, only to find herself looking right at Twily as she emerged.

”Something wrong?” Twilight asked her.

”Trust me, we’re better off going back before we lose our minds like the rest of them. Personally, I like staying sane.”

Twily’s brow furrowed. “Tavi, seriously.”

The raven-haired teen shrugged. “Look, if you want to deal with an interdimensional meeting that looks like something out of a Three Stooges movie, all you.” Octavia grinned to take the sting out of her words, though and joined her family, heading over to where her aunt and uncle had been standing.

Stepping down from the mirror’s pedestal, Twilight just shook her head before taking the opportunity to actually see the species from which her sister came. Immediately, she recognized Raspberry Beryl—namely because of how she was so similar to Sunset’s true form—and in turn she recognized many of the other counterparts of her friends and family.

But then she saw the pony with the two purple stripes in a plum hued mane, with it somehow styled identically to hers. From what Sunny had explained about pony subspecies, while all three kinds were in tune with the natural magic of this “Equestria” they called home, only unicorns—which Sunny formerly was—could actively control it in the sense of how human fairy tales cast the abilities of wizards and the like. Being a young woman of science, Twily was still trying to understand magic as a natural, non-fictional force coexisting with the laws of physics. But when idly thinking what her pony counterpart was like, she had been certain the duality of her to Sunset, the scientist to the mage, had to be the same polar opposite dynamic in play and where Sunset was an embodiment of raw magical force, Twilight the Pony would be the most mundane kind possible—the no-frills earth pony.

“Oh, yeah, forgot to tell you,” piped up Sunset with a cringe. “You’re an alicorn princess, Twily.” The cringe grew bigger as she added, “Also, she and I are almost exactly on equal footing when it comes to magic, even when we were unicorns.”

“Wait, what?” Twilight—the human one—blurted.

Sunset nodded. “She’s got better finesse than I do, but I’ve got more raw power.”

Twilight looked at her sister with wide eyes. “What?” she stated once more.

“Oh, come on – you heard me mention her back home an hour or so ago! You were right there! How could you not hear that?”

Twilight was non-plussed. “But Twilight is a common name, like Starlight, Dazzle, Rose or, for that matter, Sunset! What was I supposed to think?”

When Aria finally emerged as the last of Sunny’s human contingent, she wasn’t sure what she noticed first—that there were two pony Rainbow Dashes but no human equivalent; the warning look from her sisters that said everything about how off-the-script things had gone from the start; the utterly confused look on Tavi’s face; or the stunned look on Twilight’s face indicating she’d just been told something that completely flew in the face of everything she understood to be concrete fact. None of it mattered, ultimately, since the total sum of these things was only going to mean the biggest headache was just about to begin.

From where she stood, the solar alicorn saw that things were deteriorating not because of malice or misdirection, but the simple act of "hydras out of swampwater", as the saying went. Clearing her throat, she said, "Ladies and gentlestallions…” She paused. “Is that, um, the correct greeting?”

Aria waved the monarch over. Whispering into her ear, she said, “It’s ‘ladies and gentlemen,’ Your Majesty.”

“Ah, thank you,” Celestia replied. “Ladies and gentlemen,” she amended, “as much as formal greetings would be good right now, I suppose you would all like some time to get adjusted. I will have the palace staff escort you to your rooms, and we will all meet, hopefully in a less, ahem, ‘spirited’ manner later for dinner. Would that be sufficient?"

Velvet, running her hand through her purple-and-gainesboro hair, knew a bureaucratic wrangling when she saw one; she'd done it more than enough times herself. "So the travelling disaster circus known as politics is just as bad here?” she asked the alicorn.

Pony Velvet chuckled at her counterpart’s comment. “I don’t know if I should be glad or worried that the humans have the same policy of government ponies do,” she said with a wry grin.

As the maidstaff began to lead the human contingent away, Celestia looked at those assembled that were native to this world save for Sunset, who had gone with the humans. “If you don’t mind, I would like to have a meeting in ten minutes in the Summer Conference Room. It will allow us to discuss initial thoughts and how we should proceed.”

“Always thinking of diplomacy, Auntie?” Cadance mused with a smile.

“Yes, dear, but it’s much more important than just that. This is Sunset’s other family that we’re discussing, and that may be equally as important, if not more so, than the finest diplomats our two worlds could bring to the table,” the sun alicorn replied.

As the humans were led towards the guest wing of the palace, Sunset reached into everyone’s minds—catching them off guard for a moment due to not being used to telepathy—and transmitted, 『Everyone, wait until we get to the rooms, and then we can talk. I know you’ll have plenty of questions before we meet up for dinner tonight.』

Shining did a doubletake. “Wait...you can do mental telepathy?”

Sunset gave her brother a smile. 『Yes, I can. Don’t worry, I can’t read your minds; I wouldn’t do that anyway. But I thought this would be the best way for you to ask questions without looking too awkward.』

Despite the situation, Luna sighed and muttered, “Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream….”

Velvet couldn’t help but laugh. “It is not dying, it is not dying….” she responded in kind.

“I see we’ve improved our moods to interjecting random Beatles lyrics,” Night observed. “Sunny, where are we right now?”

“The guest wing of the palace,” the alicorn in human form said as she switched back to her normal voice, adding, “Many of our most prestigious diplomats and visiting foreign ambassadors are accommodated in this section of the castle—unless they’re huge like the dragons, who barely even fit into the great castle halls. There’s exclusive accommodations for them in caverns just on the other side of the mountain peak.” Falling into a sort of relaxed posture, Sunset explained how the castle’s immense size worked as a sort of catch-all residence for foreign representatives, in lieu of housing individually unlike human capitals, due to limited space given Canterlot was built on the side of Equestria’s tallest peak. For somepony who hadn’t lived in the castle in years, she seemed no less right at home.

Rounding a corner, Sunset and her retinue found a small group of three guardsponies heading toward them. They stopped as soon as they saw the approaching contingent of humans, and the lead guardspony removed his helmet and respectfully bowed. Sunset knew right away that there were going to be problems when she saw the familiar locks of long purple hair that framed the stallion’s face.

“Ah, Princess Sunset Shimmer, so good to see you again! We were just on our way to escort you and your entourage to your rooms,” said the stallion in a voice Sunset knew the others must have recognized if the growing looks of terror on their faces was anything to go by. This apparently went unnoticed by the stallion, who turned his attention to them and smiled.

“Greetings, everypony. Capt. Divine Right, at your service!”

Whilst the humans were getting settled in, the ponies were discussing the fallout of first contact, specifically their opinions of their counterparts and the resulting philosophical questions it raised.

Fluttershy seemed to shrink back into her own hair. "They're...um...nice, I think. If that's okay with you."

"Oh, but they're so tall!” gushed Rarity, in contrast. “I wonder how they brush their manes?"

“Probably the same way we do ours—with brushes,” snarked back AJ.

"Well," Twilight thought, "I for one would like to know what the similarities and differences are. I'm a twenty-five-year-old mare, but my counterpart is eight years younger than me. And Celestia, I don't need to point out the vast difference in age between you and Ms. Celestia. What other changes have happened? Are they good? Bad? Other?"

“I’m quite interested to know why my counterpart is sleeping with the equivalent of one of Equestria’s worst enemies,” Celestia said, a note of concern in her voice.

"What if I was born with a couple of diseases that forced me to live with my aunt and uncle hundreds of miles away and even though I got cured the difference between my parents and how I was raised kept me living that far away and even though I go back to visit there's always friction between me and my family?" Pinkie mused.

“Apparently I’m still a pony on the other side of the mirror,” said Rainbow. “I’m not sure how to deal with that.”

“No, human you was only a pony because her bracelet wasn’t working,” corrected Twilight. “Trust me, given I befriended all the other versions of you girls, I can safely assure you that you’re all human on the other side.”

“Speaking of which,” interjected Rarity, “did Sunset ever give the human versions—including yours, Twilight—those letters we put in her magic bag?”

“She told me she did, though whether they read the letters or not, I can’t say,” Twilight answered. “You’ll have to take that up with them.”

“I just wanna know if my counterpart’s as cool as me!” Rainbow interjected. “I mean, Sunny told me that she practically has her Soarin’ eating out of her hoof—but she can’t decide whether or not she wants him, too! I mean, what’s with that?”

Rarity gave her a sly look. “Oh? And here I thought you weren’t interested in him.”

“I’m not! I mean, I am, but I’m….” The unicorn giggled and Rainbow glared at her friend. “Yeah, yeah, just laugh it up. I’ll get you later.”

“I’m wondering about my counterpart,” Fluttershy said hesitantly. “She seems...well, I don’t know….” Fluttershy pawed the ground nervously.

“Confident?” Applejack voiced. When Fluttershy reluctantly nodded in agreement, the earth mare continued with, “Ah suspect our counterparts are more’n a mite different from us.”

“Exactly. Even if they’re younger than all of us, from what Sunny says, the human world has a way of maturing their youth faster than we do ours in some respects,” Twilight told them. “You may find that they’re very much like you—or nothing like you at all. Only time and experience will tell.”

“Spoken like a true princess, Twilight,” Celestia noted.

“No, spoken like a mare who still can’t comprehend that my counterpart didn’t even believe magic existed.”

The group of humans stood there, completely stunned. They had just witnessed Sunset politely dismiss Capt. Divine Right and his guards… after apologizing to him for his trouble. Suffice to say, a hasty explanation immediately followed.

“Sunset!” Velvet said, completely aghast. “You should have told us about this sooner!”

"In fairness, I’ve had my hands full with school, my job, and wings-and-horn business. So I think I'm allowed a little leeway here, Mom," defended Sunset. “Besides, I think it’s fair to say that having the triplets verify what I was going to tell you all in time would give me extra validity.”

“She has a point, Aunt Velvet,” Adagio said, stepping right into line behind Sunset. “It was a good call for her to let us independently evaluate the situation, especially given that she hadn’t been aware of Capt. Right’s status anymore than we were.”

“And you trust this Capt. Divine Right?” Sable asked, folding his arms and looking at his three subordinates as well as his liegelady.

Sunset sighed. “Sable Loam...was a murderer from a thousand years ago. He was a werewolf, as well as one of my mother's worst enemies. History states that he got his powers from an evil tyrant named King Sombra––”

“Sombra?” Celestia tried to wrap the concept of a diabolical pony version of one of her closest friends. “What, is everything opposite of normal?” she asked her former student.

“I don’t think it’s that,” Pinkie said in what others presumed was an unusually thoughtful tone for her. “It’s...other lives led, other paths taken. Think of the poem ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Twilight North and that pretty much describes everything.” She looked at everyone in the room. “We are the people we are, but we’re also the people we aren’t, if you understand what I mean.”

“Well said, Ms. Pie,” Luna stated, genuinely impressed with her student’s words.

“I have concerns,” Tavi voiced. “I know this is where you come from and we should be safe, but we’re not sure of how to proceed. How do we know who to trust? You say we should trust the namesake of a man who tried to murder us all. We completely trust the namesake of a pony renowned in your history for atrocities—no offense, Mr. Loam––”

“None taken,” Sable said, as he genuinely wasn’t sure of how to digest this news.

"—and that’s just the ones you’ve told us about, Sunny. Who should we trust? Is the pony equivalent of Flash Sentry a good guy? Is the pony equivalent of Derpy Hooves a vile criminal? What about Mr. and Mrs. Cake? Or my own parents’ counterparts—or my counterpart? So far, the examples we’ve seen are just the ones from your closest circle of friends and family...but that doesn’t cover what goes beyond that. And I think we deserve a better answer than that.”

The look on Sunset’s face was one of shamed embarrassment. “I’m sorry,” she said, looking at them all. “I’ve been trying to handle this as best as I could, but I still managed to screw it up even beyond that point.”

Night went over and put his arm around his daughter. “You’re trying, and any young woman would be overwhelmed in a situation like this, alicorn or not,” he assured her. “We know you’re doing your best, Sunny. It’s just...well, it’s just something I guess we’ll all have to find out for ourselves while we’re here, won’t we folks?” One by one, murmurs of assent filled the room, setting Sunset a bit more at ease.

“Well, hopefully tonight’s icebreaker should be able to answer a few more questions before everything kicks into full gear,” Sunset told them. “If there’s anything else that I’m forgetting or that you don’t feel comfortable with my answer, reach out to Razz. You already know her and you know she’ll try to do her best to answer anything that she can.”

Finally, they reached the wing where all their rooms were, and Sunset looked at them. “Go ahead and choose a room; these are all set for minotaurs normally, but with Razz’s help, they tweaked things a bit more towards human standards,” Sunset explained. “Once you walk through the room, if you’re comfortable with it, just tap your bracelet on the doorknob and it will register you to that room, like a hotel keycard. Dinner’s not going to be for a few more hours, so after you’re done getting comfortable, feel free to walk around the immediate environment and get a feel for the place.”

“What about you, sis?” Twilight asked her. “Where are you staying?”

Sunset blushed. “I, um, have my own chambers here. I actually have a tower of my own, which will also serve as office spaces for my staff, etc. I need to check to see how that’s doing, because it was only recently renovated after I was gone for so long, so the housekeeping staff wanted to make sure that it met with my approval.”

Aria grinned. “Hooves or actual maids?”

Sunset shrugged. “You know? I have no idea.”

Octavia quickly chose a room for herself; the space overlooked a scenic view of a grand plain below, and the room itself was so palatial that it made her already-expensively-decorated room back at home look like a broom closet. She spent several minutes putting her stuff away, then after tapping her bracelet on the doorknob, decided that she needed to go on a walk. If she was going to be in this world for a couple of weeks, she needed to feel sure about it; after all, her last few exposures to magic had not gone well, and in a world that Sunset said was practically overflowing with it, it wouldn’t do her any harm to be overly cautious.

Several minutes later, she found herself wandering past an indoor garden, but still no sign of any ponies or other beings and she was beginning to wonder if she’d gotten lost.

And that’s when she heard the loud thumps.

The hammering stopped at the exact moment a door three rooms down from Tavi promptly flew off its hinges.

FINALLY!” exclaimed a voice that Tavi found familiar, though couldn’t place the matching identity.

“Remind me to ask somepony for the unlocking spell to these things later,” came a second voice that, this time, Tavi knew could only come from anybody of a particular name. But even knowing the name to the voice, it still struck her by surprise when a mint green unicorn with light gray and celeste mane hairs, gold eyes, and a lyre butt decal walked out of the room—though Tavi knew in retrospect that if there was one pony type for anybody she knew back in human land, it was that Lyra Heartstrings was a self-fulfilling prophecy of the existence of unicorns.

“Looks like we’re in the clear, Sandy!” exclaimed Lyra, “Doesn’t look like anypo...oh, uh, hi there!”

From inside the room, “Sandy”, as Tavi was sure Lyracorn had addressed it as, let out an audible sigh. “Celestiadammit, Lyra, don’t stride right out of the room and give the all-clear before making sure it’s actually all-clear.” At that point, a tan pony lacking horn or wings—the no-frills “Earth” pony as Sunset had described, though to Tavi it was more deserving of being “normal” pony—with brown mane hairs, a green-liquid-filled jar cutie mark on her butt, and violet eyes came out to join UniLyra. While Tavi was not sure, it seemed likely that “Sandy” was Sandalwood—that police officer friend of Shiny and Cady’s who had gone back into the Navy after having just gotten out of it for some reason.

“Check it out, Sandy!” Lyra not-so-subtly whispered to the point Tavi easily heard her as if the unicorn had been speaking in a regular conversational tone. “It’s a human—an actual one this time!” Without any sense of propriety, Lyra went over and started to poke and prod the human, as if testing out every bit of her skin, including, uncomfortably, her breasts.

“Lyra, I don’t think you’re supposed to touch that,” Sandalwood warned.

“Hey, it’s not like I’m a stallion or a marelover or anything, okay? I’m sure she knows it’s harmless,” Lyra said more to herself than any others in earshot as she continued her invasive prodding.

“Could you please not treat me like some zoo exhibit?” impatiently suggested Tavi, not at all pleased that the local equivalent of one of her friends seemed to regard her with the same way that...well, her friend back at home would have likely treated these two. Strangely, Sandalwood raised a hoof to cover an obvious chuckle, making Tavi more irritated. “What, do you find me funny now, too?”

“Well, let’s just say we’re familiar with that kind of attitude,” explained the grinning earth pony. “Your name wouldn’t happen to be Octavia Melody, would it?”

“H-how did you—"

“Lyra’s a close friend of Octavia’s and she tends to stay at our place whenever she’s in town, plus she shares your eye color and mane style.” Sandy then seemed to recall something else as well. “Oh, yeah, and during the time Sunset was here, she apparently first mistook her as being some other Octavia she knew, which probably means that Octavia she knew was you!”

“Speaking of Sunset,” interjected Lyra, “where are the other humans? Kinda weird you’re all by yourself in the southeastern study wing of the castle.”

“Wait, this isn’t the ambassadorial wing or whatever?” asked Octavia, realizing that maybe she was a good deal more lost than she thought.

“Heck no—you can tell because the hallways have less of a businesslike look in the residential wings, whereas here, it’s all meant to convey government. Plus, the doors wouldn’t have magical locks that backfire if ponies actually slept in these rooms,” answered Sandy with a slight hint of irritation on the “magical locks” part. “I’m guessing you somehow got separated from the group and wandered over here?”

Octavia scratched her head. “Actually, I was just trying to get acclimated with the place and sort of got lost,” she admitted.

“Good thing you stumbled upon us, then!” said Lyra, beaming a little too eagerly. “Castle Canterlot is a big place, way too easy to get lost in if you ask me.”

“Just stick with us—I’m sure somepony will come looking for you in due time,” added Sandy, “but we’re supposed to have been among the ponies meeting the whole human delegation—something that damn door kept us from doing.”

“So you don’t have to worry—we’re princess-approved human companions!” jested Lyra, “so while we wait for the search parties to come find us, why don’t you come have a drink with Sandy and I back in our quarters? Worst case scenario, we have to escort you to dinner before you’re reunited with the others.”

“And if it isn’t too much to ask, Lyra and I have some questions about humans that are a little off the beaten path that normally the powers that be would prefer not asked or answered. But since those powers that be aren’t around, bending the rules a little wouldn’t hurt, would it?”

Octavia looked at the two ponies before her. She knew that as a representative of humanity, whether she wanted it or not, she was going to have to answer some questions that were probably generally taboo for other people to ask. Likewise, she had a few of her own. And she was never really one for drinking, even on the few times she was allowed to. She’d seen how her maternal grandmother had driven her grandfather to drink and that was just yet another reason she didn’t want to take after that side of the family.

Well, I suppose I can just spit it back into the cup, she thought. What harm could there be?

“Only one way to find out,” eagerly answered Tavi, now looking forward to this new venture.

There was some time before the dinner, and worryingly like an addiction, the first thing Razz thought of doing with her free time was reading more of that book. Heliodor had noticed, his features expressing worry as his mistress once again took up the evil tome.

DAY 227:

Today is a dark and dreary day, draped in mourning. Even the skies, filled with pregnant snowclouds, do not pour down their whiteness, instead, sitting there somber and unyielding, knowing my own pain. They know my grief.

Mangle-leg…my dearest and most faithful subject and someone I daresay call my friend…is missing. It happened in the northern canyons bordering Yakyakistan, where those doddering, muscle-brained idiots are smart enough to stay neutral in my conflict with Equestria…or at least not stupid enough to intervene. The canyon where Mangle and her team were growing all the herbs she needed for continuing production of the Compulsion collapsed, without warning.

I have sent two platoons, pulled from the front, to attend to the rescue. An investigative team led by Sharpspar assures me that this was, tragically, natural causes and not sabotage by the enemy or whatnot; regardless, as a precaution, he has set up a security cordon around the area while rescue operations are ongoing. He assures me that one way or another, they will find Mangle.

To make up for the shortfall on the front lines, I have had to detail the Rose to a more constant pace of combat, given the latest reports now indicate that the Sisters themselves now have a more direct hoof in the battle. There are even ludicrous rumors of what sounds like another human harrying my supply lines, but I doubt that—none but I know what a human is. It is most likely a short-horned, pacified minotaur soldier of fortune working for the Sisters, or perhaps even one of those that settled in Equestria and now think themselves more pony than minotaur. Regardless, a waste of my time to even consider otherwise.

At least there is some minor positive news of note on this day: my armorers have managed to fit my amulet within the plans of my armor and are working to fuse the two into something new and greater. It will come none too soon: should the Sisters get within the inner provinces, I will need to defend what is mine and teach them the folly of their ways. This is my Empire, my world—this is my birthright and none shall take from me what I am due.

Even voices from afar tell me that this is my destiny and that though I do not know the origin of these voices, they clearly speak truth. I will listen to their words and counsel. They have great plans and with Mangle gone, I could use all the assistance I can get.

Razz blinked—had it really just been that short an entry? She debated reading another entry, but then found the slip of paper that the researchers had placed into it. Wondering what one of the other readers might have thought of the tome, she decided to read that instead:

Professor:
Though this is one of the less monstrous entries in this ghastly tome, I believe this document is important for another reason: this is the first recorded mention of the Megan outside of the Matter of Unicornia. With the Matter giving us most of the documentation, history tends to list it as mostly fiction rather than history, so the question of whether the Megan is real has always been unanswered. But with the recent reports from Princess Twilight about a world of humans—and the Megan being the reputed only positive example prior to Princess Twilight’s encounter of said world—it begs the question whether or not the Megan truly did exist.
Further references should be inquired of the Ancient Unicornian Library in Fillydelphia and the Unicornia Historical Society in Trottington, as well as the Grand Sacristy of Faust in Saddleham. Though the documents are likely to be restricted due to age and royal intent, I believe that finding out such an important step in our history may help us find more about this species and whether or not the humans Princess Twilight encountered were as noble and kind as the Megan was…or if she found the exception rather than the rule.

- Annotated Notes

Primary Research Assistant

Author's Note:

Deleted joke scene I found left at the bottom of the Gdoc when uploading

"HONORARY?!?!" Velvet shouted. "FUCK THAT SHIT, BITCHES - GIMME SOME REAL LANDIZZLE FO' MY NIZZLEZ!"

“Honey,” calmly stated Night, “you’re not yourself when you’re hungry. Here, have a Snickers.”

Angrily, Velvet snatched the candy bar away from her husband and ate it, wrapper and all.

“Feeling better?” he asked?

“Much!” she replied, giving her husband a peck on the cheek in thanks.

Also, a reminder to check and update that TVtropes page if possible!

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