• Published 22nd May 2015
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The Elements of Friendship, Book II: Chaoskampf - Amras Felagund

Discord's return is the harbinger of the end times. And what past connection does he have to the Queens of Equestria...?

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CHAPTER iiii: A Mystery Wrapped in a Riddle Inside an Igneous

The atmosphere of the throne room of Concordia Sorores was so thick that one could almost suffocate in it. The Queens Celestia and Selena sat at their respective thrones, set to perfect balance. This was, according to Twilight’s recounting, an event that only took place in the most dire of emergencies, symbolic of how any threat to Equestrian security was a threat to both Sun and Moon, and so necessitated cooperation from both queens regnant, rather than changing the dominant ruler based off of the time of day. Philomena the phoenix sat atop a roost, gnawing on the bark of a cinnamon tree; Tiberius the possum continually nibbled on a loose bit of Selena’s forelock from his perch atop her poll. Kibitz the steward sat at his usual position at the base of the scales, looking as harried as ever. Before the scale of the thrones stood two parties: Twilight Sparkle and her son and fellow Bearers of the Elements, and Paper Mache and her search party of mingled Day and Night Guards.

“Our sensors have confirmed, Your Majesty,” Paper Mache began, once all parties had been settled, “the general whereabouts of four of the Elements of Harmony.”

“Four?” Queen Celestia echoed.

“But, I recall you saying in your report to us,” Twilight said warily to Paper, “that you’d located all six.”

“That was the case,” answered a Bat Pony named Night Lark, biting her lip as she paused, “but… there’s been some interference, and we’ve been unable to pin down two of the Elements.”

“And,” Paper continued, “the locations of the other four Elements have changed, and we’ve only gotten a very general idea of where they have been relocated to.”

‘Discord…!’ snarled Selena, fangs glinting in the light of the sunset to her right.

“This is exactly what I feared would happen when the Elements vanished,” Queen Celestia said in a low voice, bowing her head slightly. “As soon as we get close to unraveling his schemes, it transpires that he has changed his plot on a whim. That old serpent is playing a game with us.”

“Well, duh!” interjected Pinkie Pie.

“Pinkie Pie!” snapped Rarity, a cross expressing crossing her countenance. Her mane still showed the ill effects of having winked out to Canterlot twice in one day. “This is a serious matter, regarding the state of all of Equestria; a degree of sobriety would be appropriate, if you don’t mind!”

“He gave us a riddle to try and crack!” Pinkie countered, looking surprisingly surly herself. “We’ve got to try to solve it if we wanna get our Elements back!”

“A riddle…?” echoed Paper Mache.

Rainbow Dash groaned, “This isn’t the time for joking around, Pinkie. You have to be serious for a change!”

“But maybe that’s exactly why we can’t find the Elements!” Pinkie replied. “We’re not playing his game, so he’s making it super-duper-gooper-hard for us trying to stop having fun!”

“‘Gooper-hard’…?” repeated Fluttershy.

“This ain’t no game, though, Pinkie,” Applejack said with an arched eyebrow.

Twilight prepared to open her mouth, but out of the corner of her eye noticed a curious expression on her mentor’s face. Celestia eyed Pinkie with a pensive look in her eyes, drawing up a foreleg to idly rub her chin with a fetlock.

‘Sister,’ Selena asked, ‘dost thou have a thought?’

Celestia looked to the darker Alicorn, “Forgive me, little sister, but I feel like Pinkie Pie may be onto something.”

What?” echoed Kibitz, and several of the mares in Twilight’s party.

“What, for real?” mused Spike. “Is that how we’re seriously gonna find the Elements, Mom?”

“I’m not sure, Spike,” Twilight answered, “but it’s the best option we have, I think.”

‘But, elder sister, Discord ist mad. Surely, thou dost not seriously suggest that we match his madness with the same? T’is not how we and our compatriots did fell his ancient dominion.’

“Not at all, Selena, but we were able to forge the Elements of Harmony back then, a one-in-a-giggrossiad chance. We have no Elements this time; if Discord is offering us a chance at reclaiming them, we will have to take it.”

‘Surely this doth reek of skullduggery.’

“No doubt, little sister. But, you underestimate the cleverness of my most faithful student here,” Celestia turned a warm gaze upon the lavender Unicorn standing before the dual thrones.

Twilight’s ears fell flat as she flushed pink at such praise.

“You’re too kind, Your Majesty,” Twilight said softly. “If I was so clever, I would have figured how to activate the Elements in your old castle, to prevent NightMare Moon’s empire from lasting more than moments… how to remove the Alicorn Amulet from Trixie without her falling into her coma…”

Paper Mache’s eyes met Queen Celestia’s, the two sharing dark looks that went unnoticed for all the looks that were turned upon Twilight Sparkle. The moment passed, though, and the white Alicorn’s eyes fell upon her lavender pupil once more.

“You sell yourself short, my dearest Twilight,” said the Queen of the Day. “Nopony can see the future on command; not even the renowned Forget-Me-Not could call upon such clairvoyance. We can only act based on the knowledge that we hold in the now, and I trust that you will be able to not only narrow down the locations of the missing Elements, but circumvent any of the tricks and traps that that old serpent Discord has awaiting you and your friends.”

After a moment’s ponderance, Selena nodded slowly.

‘Concurreth do I, Twilight Sparkle,’ she said. ‘Thou and thy friends didst bring about the downfall of the NightMare, the Miasma which didst cloud my mind and control my body. And, thou didst see through the nature of Lulamoon’s magickal enhancement. Surely, with thine analysis of that loathsome riddle of Discord’s, as murky as the dwellings of the Umbrum, the Elements shalt again ours be.’

Kibitz, taking note of what each party spoke in the meeting, gave a trepidatious glance up first to Selena, then to Celestia.

“Well… if Your Majesties command it,” he murmured through a bushy mustache, before jotting down his own aloud thoughts.

“So, lay it on us, Twi,” Rainbow said with a degree of impatience. “Do you remember the riddle that mismatched freak spat out?”

“Of course,” Twilight replied steadily; if there was one thing she was proud of, it was never forgetting anything… though she was less proud of it at some points than at others. “‘These words I speak are clear and loud, and though harmony is hereafter disavowed…’ Well, that’s not giving us any clues in the slightest. I’m going to jump ahead to where he’s hinting at where the Elements are…”

Twilight took a deep breath, preparing herself. She had not given great thought to Discord’s riddle even when he had recited it, for her attention had been called hither and thither by the chaos spreading in Ponyville and the summons to Canterlot in the hopes of finding the Elements in a quick and logical fashion. If Pinkie Pie was right, though, beating Discord at his own game was of paramount necessity.

And may the Maker help us if we’re wrong, Twilight thought, as she began to recite the six rhymes ostensibly related to the Elements of Harmony.

“Hmm…” Celestia mused to herself once Twilight had finished. “It should go unsaid that the first part of the riddle relates to the Element of Generosity, but to find generosity in greed… greed can be found anywhere, in anyone. Even the most ascetic soul holds a kernel of avarice deep inside, waiting for the right downpour to cause it to germinate.”

“But also,” Twilight countered, “you can find selflessness in even the most selfish of ponies. Moondancer did come to find us when she heard that we’d left Equestrian soil under NightMare Moon’s reign.”

Celestia nodded. “That is also true, my dear Twilight.”

Rainbow Dash groaned.

“Oh, for the love of… Are we here to talk philosophy, or to try to find the Elements?”

‘T’is an obstinate riddle, Lady Rainbow Dash,’ interceded Selena, looking slightly cross. ‘Wert thee not a Bearer, we wouldst hold thee in contempt. The answer to a riddle lieth not upon the surface, but doth require adroit mind and broad wit.’

“Come on now, Rainbow Dash,” said Fluttershy meekly. “Let’s put our heads together on this.”

Looking quite put-out, the cerulean Pegasus flapped down to her ex-fiancée’s side, the latter offering a gentle nuzzle which evoked a deeply flushed face in the former.

“Now,” Celestia continued, “the following rhyme − the one about finding laughter within − is scarcely any clearer.”

“Yes,” agreed Twilight. “‘Within’ what? If I had to guess, some far-off treasure chest buried in a shipwreck at the bottom of the ocean… or, maybe, inside the stomach of the Kraken, wherever it is.”

‘We would not put that past Discord, Twilight Sparkle,’ nodded Selena. ‘Always did he endeavour to make the right path as miserable as possible for decent ponies.’

“Still, this is something we will need to think on, but quickly,” Celestia added. “The longer that Discord remains free, the more peril will fall over the world.”

“Right,” Twilight said with a tilt of her head. “Laughter was always one of the trickier Elements, wasn’t it?”

‘Not entirely, Twilight Sparkle of mine Element,’ Selena shook her head. ‘Its forger and first Bearer, she found it not to be temperamental at all. Indeed, even afore the Element of Laughter didst spring from her bosom, her amusement didst a rock prove to be.’

Pinkie Pie tittered, “A rock… and the Element of Laughter is a gemstone…!”

‘But again we digress,’ Selena added loudly. ‘If the first two Elements of the riddle cannot presently be located, then push on to the remaining four we must! What stanza didst follow, Twilight Sparkle?’

And Twilight recited the next two lines of Discord’s riddle.

“‘Shining brightest behind hostile gates’…” echoed Celestia, placing a hoof on her chin with a slight smirk. “Discord, you are slipping. There are a seldom few nations on Harmonia that retain a grudge on our land of Equestria, but one comes immediately to mind.”

“Orlalvov,” gasped Kibitz, his quill scribbling furiously in his dwimmer shimmer.

“The Soviet Republic of Griffons,” Twilight hissed with furrowed brow, Spike clutching onto her barrel from astride her back.

Curiously, Selena bore a wistful expression as she and Celestia traded melancholic glances.

‘Alas, dearest sister, that the old alliances could have died out. There was a time when Griffons and ponies could smile and laugh alongside one another. But alas, there remains but one place where these two races can coexist, and the Hippogryph Archipelago it is called. Aye, but t’was Grizelda, matriarch of the Orlalvinian imperial family, who didst forge and bear the Element of Honesty.’

“Wait, what?” shouted Rainbow Dash, flapping back into the air, eyes and fangs flashing. “You mean to tell me that I share my Element of Honesty with some no-good revvie cat-butt?!”

Rainbow Dash…!” Celestia rose up from her throne, and to the eagle-eyed the scale started to shift such that her seat rose slightly higher than Selena’s. A fire burned in the white Alicorn’s eyes. “Grizelda was a dear friend of mine and Selena’s, letting us know when we were at fault and did not know so. Were it not for her, Harmonia would not have been, but would have become another in an endless chain of worlds ended at Discord’s claw. So, think before you speak!”

The cerulean Pegasus faltered, settling down on her haunches beside Fluttershy, looking all the more meek of the two.

“I’m sorry, Your Majesty,” she said to Queen Celestia. “The only books I’ve opened up in so many years is the Daring Do series.”

“You mean, ‘are the Daring Do series’,” Twilight corrected compulsively, “and perhaps for now, I can offer you a brief history lesson on Griffons, Rainbow Dash:

“For countless generations, the imperial family of Orlalvov reigned uncontested, son passing on the mantle of King to his son, and daughter to her daughter. Until a few douzaides ago, everything was good… until Perun arrived.

“Perun was a Griffon of great stature and even greater speech. He felt that it was unfair that the imperial family should have so much, while his fellow working-class Griffons should have so little. He could have headed a petition of grievances to the imperial family, a peaceful end to the gap between the rich and the poor. Instead, he headed a revolution, with armies of dozens upon grosses of unsettled Griffons at his claw. Perun killed the King Gavriil son of the old King Guto, and enacted the slaughter of the entire royal family.”

“Ohh, oh my…” shuddered Fluttershy.

“Well, he sounds like he was a low-down snake,” Applejack growled. “Ah hope that we cin give him a piece of mah mind if’n we ever go up his way in Griffon territory.”

Gavrik was a dear friend and a valued ally on the Cosmic Council,” Queen Celestia interjected, her throne levelling itself out beside Selena’s, “but avenging his usurpation would be a meaningless matter. Perun is dead, slain at the claws of his own great-nephew Pyotr, the Perviy of Orlalvov, Pyotr Rokin, Pyotr the Rock. Now, matters are the same as Perun perceived them, but with his own blood actively pressing down on the Griffons of Orlalvov.”

Rainbow Dash wrinkled her nose in disgust.

“Those dang revvie dirt-bags… Who do they think they are, saying that you and Selena―” The latter cleared her throat sharply, glowering sharply at the cerulean Pegasus. “…sorry, you and Queen Selena don’t move around the Sun and Moon? I mean, it’s not like these things happen on their own.”

“There was a time, when that was so,” Celestia answered, gazing darkly at the stained-glass window depicting Discord’s era. “But, after He ruined the world, so much did not behave as it would anymore. It became the hard duty of gigagrosses of ponies to set to right the balance of nature, with their own in-born harmonic magic. Why, it took nearly a dozen years to set the world back in relative order, although at the cost of so much being unable to act on its own accord.”

“So that’s why Ah gotta buck down them apples every harvest season!” Applejack gasped.

“And why the weather-team has to move the clouds around to make sure plants get enough water?” Rainbow Dash asked.

Selena nodded for her sister, ‘Precisely, and a hard-fought battle it was. The chaos of Discord’s first reign did not easily die, and though the Everfree spreads from that first acorn dropped at the edge of the Fields of Descort, the work of grosses for grossenturies did bear fruit.’

“But the Everfree continues to expand, despite the fortifications we made along the ley lines of this vale,” Celestia added grimly. “I fear that by the end of the next grossentury, the untameable beasts of the Everfree may overwhelm Ponyville.”

Applejack ran a forehoof down the scar on her foreleg, the scars along her muzzle darkening as she bowed her head in the dusky light.

“Ya don’ think that that’s gonna happen anytime soon, do ya, Yer Majesties?” she asked warily.

Celestia gazed down upon the palomino Earth Pony.

“I would hope that, by that point, the power of Chaos − the power of Discord − would have waned such that the untamed Everfree would fold in upon and devour itself… or, perhaps, the imbalance itself would disperse itself to the level it had formerly held prior to Discord’s return to this world.”

“He ‘returned’ to this world…?” Twilight asked suddenly. “I thought that he had… Where did Discord come from before, why did he leave, and why did he return? What is Discord, Queen Celestia?

“Discord is,” Celestia answered cryptically.

The white Queen’s words carried a power behind them that gave Twilight pause. Although her question did not bear the fruit of an answer, what it had merited made it quite plain that such an avenue of thought was ill-suited for the present time and place. As such, Twilight Sparkle decided that it was perhaps better to return to the subject at hoof: Finding the Elements.

“Well then…”

She cleared her throat, and recited Discord’s rhyme about Kindness.

“‘Not such a breeze’…” she finished. “Well, that could mean that the Element of Kindness is either in a place with a very stiff lack of a breeze, or with a constant breeze.”

“But, that could really be anywhere!” Rainbow Dash cut in. “Weather ponies gotta be changing up the wind currents all the time, ‘cause not every type of tree or plant needs a good breeze all day every day.”

“And I can scarcely imagine a place that is completely devoid of wind at all,” Rarity commented. “Why, a good breeze does make my mane flow most eloquently, but too strong and it begins to become what you see now…!” She finished with a slight whine, pawing morosely at a wavy lock of amethyst mane.

“Fluttershy, were you about to say something?” Pinkie interrupted, almost nose-to-nose with the meek yellow Pegasus.

Fluttershy withdrew sharply, her ears flattening and wings flaring.

“Ohh, I… don’t think so? Should I be?”

“I dunno, but you totally had a look on your face like you wanted to talk about Breezies~”

“I… You know what? I rather do,” Fluttershy beamed. “I just couldn’t help but to think about those sweet helpless little things as soon as I heard Twilight saying the word breeze in that riddle, and I just would love so much to see them right now. Of course, their habitat is strictly off-limits to most races because of how delicate and endangered they are, and I don’t think that it would be in my rights to…”

Rainbow Dash groaned, “You just had to get her going on that, didn’t you, Pinkie Pie?”

“Ooops, sorry…” Pinkie grinned nervously.

The cerulean Pegasus looked to her former fiancée with a bold look. “I didn’t say she should stop.”

“Nor would I,” Twilight cut in, “but we really need to focus on the matter at hoof, not get sidetracked by wistful wishing to watch creatures that are… out of reach and out of the way…!” She beamed. “Of course! That’s where Discord’s hidden the Element of Kindness… in Breezie territory!”

“Ohh… Oh my…!” Fluttershy’s eyes widened, joy and fright fighting for dominance of her expression. “You mean that, we could go out to Brisarheim and see the breezies in their natural habitat, and all of the creatures that normally dine upon them…? I mean, I love the poor little dears, but to see them be born, live, and die first-hoof…” A slightly dazed expression came over the butter-colored mare as she gazed unfocused out a stained-glass depiction of Cap’n Nemo’s battle with the Kraken and murmured, “Nature is so fascinating…”

Cerise eyes narrowed nervously at Fluttershy.

“Uhh, Flutters?” Rainbow Dash began. “Are you sure you want to see the Breezies live, or die…?”

“Regardless of her thoughts on the matter,” Queen Celestia said in sharp intervention, “we must establish a garrison in Hrenway posthaste, so that one of our own can easily be ascertain the presence of the Element of Kindness, and reclaim it for us.”

‘Shalt I contact Captain Shining Armour and inform him of this, elder sister?’ asked Selena.

“Do it, if you please, little sister.”

“The Captain?” Twilight asked sharply, and with surprising unkindness. “Where is he, by the way? Why isn’t he here, pestering me?”

“He is off in the Crystal Empire, Twilight,” answered Celestia, “petitioning the Crystal Queen to pledge a reasonably-sized garrison to aid us in the search for the Elements.”

“Fair enough,” Twilight said, not meeting her mentor’s eyes. “Queen Mi Amore Rubina is a fair ally on the Cosmic Council, as I recall.”

“We will need to call an emergency session of the Council,” Celestia noted, partially to Kibitz and partly to herself. “The highest nations of the world must be informed that their magical defenses be bolstered, so as to ward off Discord as long as they can. He will find a way in everywhere eventually, but we can only hope to forestall his chaos. This world is better prepared than it was then.”

“Beggin’ yer pardon, Yer Majesty,” cut in Applejack, “but, how so?”

“I am here,” came the reply, “as is my sister. And, we have you Bearers as well.”

“Yeah, and, speaking of us and the Elements,” Rainbow Dash interjected impatiently, “where the heck is my Element of Honesty?”

Twilight started slightly (Spike adjusting his position slightly to kick the numbness out of his back claws), “Ohh, yeah… right!” She chuckled nervously, before reciting the next verse.

“‘Where the air is strong and the earth is weak’…” The lavender Unicorn scoffed. “Well, there’s only one place where that can be.”

“Really, where?” Rainbow asked curiously.

“It’s elementary, really,” Twilight said. “It’s been hidden in the High Eyries, overlooking the Descort Fields.”

Both Pegasi in the Bearers’ party blinked.

“The burial site of Commander Hurricane?” they gasped.

Night Lark the Bat Pony had a dark look on her face.

“I’ve heard stories about that place,” she said. “They say that Commander Hurricane’s armies, loyal to her ideals, still march in the misty darkness even now, meggrossia after Pegasopolis’s dissolution.”

“I haven’t heard any of these stories,” Twilight confessed. “I never set much stock in myths or legends… well, apart from… you know…” She glanced up at Queen Selena awkwardly.

“Well, it was a myth about a ticking time-limit,” Spike commented dryly. “Of course you’d be drawn to it.”

Twilight gave her mulberry son an admonishing look.

“Nopony likes sass, Spike. And besides, that book was an assignment from Queen Celestia herself. I… think I can guess why.” She cast a soft look up at the Queen of the Sun, who nodded in affirmation. “But still, the legend of NightMare Moon and the Elements of Harmony does mean that some legends have more basis in fact than others. What do the legends say about the High Eyries?”

“Well…” Rainbow Dash’s body language startled Twilight; the cerulean Pegasus was not the kind of pony whom Twilight associated with fear or trepidation. But presently, the rainbow-maned Pegasus was clamming up into herself in a way that reminded Twilight of the other Pegasus she’d befriended in Ponyville.

“Well,” Rainbow began again, “when Commander Hurricane froze to death, she did so while she was expressing her undying hatred of any pony who couldn’t fly. They say, that when she was buried in the High Eyries, she left a curse on the cliffs about there, that any pony who entered her burial site who could not fly would become weakened, while any who could… would become her new army from beyond the grave.”

Twilight scoffed, “I’m sorry, but that’s ridiculous. Ghosts have been scientifically proven to be a myth. Souls cannot be tethered to anything of this mortal coil apart from the body they are bound to, and when that body has passed on, the soul departs from this realm.”

“Eeyup… it’s true,” Applejack nodded slowly, her ears flopping slightly as she glanced up and out one of the stained-glass windows.

“Has anypony ever gone up to the High Eyries to investigate the veracity of these legends?” Twilight asked.

“Umm, I don’t think so,” Fluttershy answered. “Everypony is just too scared.”

“It’s, like, way too close to the Descort Fields, too,” Rainbow added. “And I think any of us would wanna steer clear of that place if we can avoid it.”

Fluttershy nodded in agreement, but she was one of the few who did. Neither Paper Mache nor Night Lark, or any of the Royal Guards in their party nodded, not even the Pegasi. None of Fluttershy’s fellow Bearers save Rainbow Dash shared the gesture.

‘We apologise, fair Fluttershy,’ Selena said in a low voice, ‘but thou and thy comrades must plunder the tomb of Commander Hurricane and her inner circle in order to secure the Element of Honesty. As loathsome as the tales may be, act we must in order to safeguard the future from further rampant chaos.’

“Sensors confirm Twilight Sparkle’s analysis, Your Majesty!” interrupted Paper Mache, looking into what looked like a glowing monocle which had extended out from under the golden brow of her helm. “Pegasus Guards sweeping the air-space around the easternmost edge of the North Equinus Mountains can confirm a magical energy reading matching one of the Elements, in the vicinity of the High Eyries!”

Celestia sighed in relief.

“Good; we at least know where Discord has hidden one of the Elements. And since we puzzled it out through his riddle, it’s sensible that the Element should not move from the spot where Discord left it… though we should keep an eye on the read-outs to be sure that that old serpent does not play any further games with the Elements. Though they are caustic to his touch, Discord will still attempt to cross us in this twisted game of his.”

“Twilight Sparkle,” Night Lark interjected, the Night Guard’s wings unfurling slightly. “There was one more stanza to the riddle, wasn’t there? Do you think,” she continued, after Twilight had nodded, “that we could hear it?”

“Of course. Who would I be if I didn’t?”

And before Pinkie Pie could answer her rhetorical question literally, Twilight loudly repeated the last rhyme of Discord’s riddle.

“‘Back where you began’?” Paper Mache repeated. “What does that mean?”

“I have no idea,” Twilight confessed. “Back where I began where? The hospital I was born in? The bed where I was conceived? The School for Gifted Unicorns? The castle courtyard where I read that Griffon book on Equestrian history?” She growled. “Macher im Elysium, verdammt, und Pferdeäpfel!

“Are you swearing, Twilight?” smirked Rainbow Dash. “You’re totally swearing, I knew that you knew swears!”

‘The matter of Twilight Sparkle’s usage of what you would call “colourful language” aside (the meaning of which escapes me, as language cannot have a colour),’ Selena said abruptly, ‘the location of the Element of Magic is irrelevant to these matters.’

“Agreed,” Celestia nodded, beaming at her sister. “Whenever the five Elements of Harmony would synchronize, wherever the Element of Magic was, it would be summoned to the location of the remaining Elements. Even Discord’s quintessential thaumaturgy cannot hope to contain the call for Magic.”

Twilight turned from the dais to face her friends.

“So girls, ready to go save the world again?” she asked dryly.

Each mare gave their answer in her own personal way: Applejack crossed a foreleg in front of the other and winked with a lopsided grin; Rainbow Dash performed a loop-de-loop and flexed her forelegs as though prepared to punch somepony; Rarity lifted a foreleg into a regal posture and gave a slow nod with a light smile; Fluttershy bowed her head and gave a quick nervous smile; and Pinkie Pie sprang up onto her hind legs and struck a dramatic pose, confetti bursting out of the floor below her.

“We’re going on a road trip~!” she squealed excitedly.

Departure from Canterlot back down to Ponyville, to ensure that they had collected their saddle-bags in preparation for a long journey, had progressed smoothly, although there were the odd setbacks that slowed down the process of packing… namely, Sweetie Belle tailing after Spike with a lovestruck look in her eyes. Wresting Spike away from the amorous filly was comparatively easier for Twilight than deciding on what books to bring: among them, Enveloping Entropy: A Concise Chronology of Chaos and Dissertations on Discordant Draconequi. Seemingly on a whim, Pinkie Pie had decided to bring along her home-built gumball-radio, explaining to the Royal Guard’s accompanying garrison that they could most probably tune in their lost-technology communicators to send messages to them. After a short test-run, Pinkie’s hypothesis was proven correct, to the guardsponies’ astonishment.

“So, where exactly are we headed again?” Rarity asked in a slightly strained voice. “And why, pray tell, with such short notice to pack necessary supplies?”

The caravan they rode in was not quite so large as the one which had transported the seven from the bultungin-infested village of Chekacheka to the Pundamilian capital, but it was still decently sized. Queen Celestia felt that a comfortable ride was a small compensation for what she was asking of them, but quicker transit was yet unavailable, even with the application of the salvaged remains of the lost technology of the past. Three days yet it had been of near-constant travel and little in the way of movement for the parties in the caravan, unless you felt like trotting back and forth in the narrow low-ceilinged space for a few minutes.

“We’re only going to my family’s rock and rock-molasses farm, Rarity~!” smiled Pinkie Pie, the small Earth Pony practically bouncing off of the walls in her glee. “It’s been a diamond dog’s age since I’ve been back to the farm − come to think of it, how long do diamond dogs live? It seems pretty weird to say ‘it’s been a diamond dog’s age’ when you wanna say that it’s been a really long time, but if was that long a time, wouldn’t we all have long, gray beards? − what was I saying? Oh yeah, I haven’t been back to the farm in a really, really, really long time, and I really wanna introduce you guys to my sisters ‘cause my sisters are the best sisters in the whole wide world! I got two big sisters and one baby sister who’s only younger than me by a few minutes, but she’s still kinda my big sister because everypony in my family is so so so SO big~~~!”

“Ehrrr, Pinkie Pie,” Applejack began slowly, “are ya sure ya’ve bin feelin’ alright?”

“Yeah, of course~! Never better~” came the chipper reply, but Twilight had to admit that she saw what Applejack was seeing as well.

“Ah mean, yer eyes look a mite bit… swirlier than before.”

“My eyes are always swirling about, Jackie, tryin’ to find the best way to make all my friends happy~”

“No, I mean…” Twilight began, before she felt something ponderous pressing against the back of her mind, telling her to drop it. She fought to break past that urge, but the more that she persisted to continue her train of thought, the greater that feeling in the back of her head became, to the point where it felt like her skull was going to burst.

Pinkie Pie is one of my best friends, she told herself, but I don’t even know what she is. Whatever she is, she’s not a pony anymore, but how did this happen to her? What made her this, and how did the Sonic Rainboom catalyze it?

Oh, but are you sure you want to know? asked that ponderous feeling at the back of her mind, in a voice that sounded uncannily like Discord’s. Are you sure your little pony mind can handle the truth?

Yes… I think so.

Are you sure~?

Twilight prepared to repeat herself with greater emphasis, but one more glance at Pinkie Pie stayed her mental tongue. Although the pink Earth Pony was not presently engaged in any inequine activities, there was still something in her unashamed giddiness in spite of the rise of a mad draconequus that made Twilight Sparkle second-guess her internalized notion of “When you hear hoofbeats, think ponies and not zebras”.

…I’m sorry, Pinkie, but I can’t think of you as a pony anymore. You’ll always be one of my best friends, but after you’ve hugged me with a dozen hooves, after your stint as a mime in Pundamilia, after everything I’ve seen you do that no magic can make a pony do…

“Twilight? Are you alright?”

She blinked, looking about herself. Fluttershy’s oval-shaped cyan eyes were creased in concern, pinkish hoof curled in towards her foreleg nervously. Each of Twilight’s friends was giving her looks of confusion matching so much of her feeling inside.

“You were kinda staring at Pinkie Pie,” Spike added, one of his brows creasing quizzically.

“Yeah, you were totally spacing out,” nodded Rainbow Dash.

Twilight brought a dark-sapphire forehoof up to scratch behind her ear, “Sorry, girls, I was just… thinking. Something was just… pressing on my mind just now. About Pinkie. But… we have to focus on finding the Elements, and quickly, before Discord’s taken too many strides towards taking back Equestria.”

“Seems like he’s already takin’ it a tad slow, doncha think?” asked Applejack, resting an amber hoof on the sill of one of the ports along the inside of the caravan. The passing landscapes, from the ridges of the North Equinus Mountains, to the flat expanse of the Wide Earth Plains, had thus far proven to be almost unsettlingly peaceful. Occasionally, though, they would sight something that just should not be, like an octopus swimming along through the air while budding infant octopi from its body, or a purple cart with eyes where its hitches should have been continually murmuring putt-putt, putt-putt to itself, or an over-sized flaming hayburger wearing a crown half-humming the words what is love? on its spot along the road. But generally, considering Discord’s admission of pulling their collective legs over having been at a diminished level of power, it was surprisingly how conservative his chaotic spree had been thus far.

“Maybe he’s just really bad at being chaotic,” offered Rainbow Dash with a shrug.

“I dare not say,” answered Rarity. “Goodness knows he disrupted the proceedings of Ponyville, even with what seeming ‘little’ he did.”

“That wasn’t chaotic,” Twilight shook her head. “That was just nonsense. I mean, chaos is like… like…”

Blushing, Twilight closed her mouth. What was chaos like? Who was to say that chaos was different from what Discord provided? Flipping through the pages of Comprehending Incomprehension: Recountals of Witnesses to the Age of Discord did little to elucidate the mystifying period of Discord’s rule; if anything, it only served to make that era even murkier in Twilight’s mind.

“This doesn’t add up,” she murmured.

“What doesn’t, Mom?” Spike asked, looking over Twilight’s shoulder into the pages of the book she was reading, at the minuscule cornuscript of long-dead Unicorn scholars.

“Just… these accounts are completely unreliable. Not a single recounting of any event matches, even between two ponies who were supposedly side-by-side as the event occurred. It’s like nopony bothered to cross-reference any of these witness accounts…!”

Rainbow Dash scoffed, “Really, Twilight? ‘Oh no… the Age of Discord isn’t neat or orderly at all.’” Her falsetto impression of the lavender Unicorn was paired with her hastily messing with her forelock, in an attempt to get it to mimic the bowl-cut of Twilight’s. Shaking her mane back into its normal messy shape, the cerulean Pegasus continued with a cross tone, “For real, Purple-Smart, you need to see the possibilities. I mean, you’re friends with Pinkie Pie!”

“Yup, that you are~!” added the rosy Earth Pony, her eyes practically glowing with her joy.

Twilight sighed, a smile nonetheless crossing her muzzle.

“Thank you, Rainbow. This is a very unusual situation for me − for all of us, really − and I’m used to the answer being very clear, or at least logical. This whole ‘second Age of Discord’ ordeal is the very antithesis of logical, so I should probably begin to get used to such uncommon thought processes…” She smirked. “Especially since I’m likely to spend the night at your family’s rock farm, Pinkie.”

“Ah don’ rightly know th’ Pie family, but Ah feel kinda like Pinkie’s th’ special snowflake a’ th’ family,” Applejack commented, before turning to face her fellow Earth Pony. “You are a diff’rent sorta pony from the rest a’ yer folks, aren’cha?”

“Weee~ell, kinda. I mean, I am a Pie, but I was never really the sort to do the rock-farming that my family has done for grossenturies because I was always a little round pudgy little round Earth Pony filly and my sisters were always made of the toughest stuff that Earth Ponies could possibly be made out of − would it be fair to say that Maud isn’t an Earth Pony and is really an Iron Pony? − and then I saw Dashie’s Sonic Rainboom even though I didn’t know that it was Dashie’s Rainboom at the time − I thought it was just a really pretty rainbow − and have I mentioned that I really really really love you, Dashie? − and then I got my cutie mark for making ponies smile and then Daddy found that deposit of rock molasses and I went to the university for making all sorts of contraptions and gadgets for making ponies smile and…”

Pinkie slowed to a stop as she looked at the ponies (and Spike) seated around her, the only sound being the huff and puff of the hired stallions drawing the caravan as well as its rattling wheels. Her friends were all giving her looks of tremendous astonishment. Ears twitching nervously, Pinkie gave a small toothy grin.

“Oopsie… Sorry, everypony, I just got waaa~ay too chitty-chatty there and I think that everypony didn’t need to hear me getting so chit-chit-chatty.”

“Don’t worry none ‘bout it, Pinkie,” answered Applejack with a flippant wave of a forehoof. “Ah jus’ asked a question ‘bout’cha an’ yer family; ain’t no big problem that’cha got so much passion fer yer ma, pa, an’ sisters.”

“You said that your family’s farm is located at the edge of the Descort Fields, right, Pinkie?” asked Twilight, Comprehending Incomprehension closing in her dwimmer shimmer.


“Well, judging by the way the mountain range is starting to recede,” the lavender Unicorn continued, looking out the right-hoof windows of their forward motion, “we are closing in on the edge of the Descort Fields themselves. (The High Eyries must be really close to your family’s rock farm, now that I think about it.) Do you think you could share some pertinent details about your family so that we know what sort of protocol to follow?”

Pinkie verily began to shudder in her seat, the round pudge of her physique almost quivering like a bowl of jelly, a grin practically splitting her face.

“My sisters are all the best sisters in the world ‘cause Limestone runs the farm all super-serious-like and gets kinda angry when ponies get too close to the Quarry of Holder’s Boulder and just anytime she really wants to be but she really is a nice pony deep deep down, and ‘cause Maud is just the smartest funnest big sister ever with such a big heart and the best pet ever next to Gummy of course and she’s going to get her rocktorate in rock science and we’ve traded rock-candy necklaces since we were fillies and she’s just so awesome, and ‘cause Marble is the sweetest shyest pony I’ve ever met and I’ve met a lot of ponies ever since I graduated from the university and even though she’s really quiet she’s still really good at farming rocks and making sure that the right minerals are in the right magic streams in the right fields and just you guys are finally gonna meet Mommy and Daddy and Limestone and Maud and Marbly and you guys are gonna get along so great with them~

Rarity laughed hesitatingly.

“Well, your enthusiasm is quite apparent, Pinkie Pie, darling, but…” The alabaster Unicorn grimaced slightly. “Maud Pie? I am almost afraid to ask, but… is she named after mud pie?”

Pinkie replied with a high giggle. “Of course not, Rarity. Her full name is Maudstone Rock Pie and she was named after the maudstone which is a type of sedimentary rock, her favorite kind~”

“Well, guess that worked out, didn’t it?” Rainbow Dash quipped. “Didn’t have to change her name with her cutie mark or anything, did she?”

“That’s rarer than you think, Rainbow,” Twilight interjected. “A pony changes her or his name to reflect on their cutie mark for reasons related to the field of employment that their special talent calls for, or related to more of a personal connection to their cutie mark than the name they were assigned at birth, or a myriad of other reasons that somepony could have for changing her name. I mean, it’s not like I changed my name to Magic Tome or something of that sort.” She laughed dryly. “That would be absurd.”

“Lady Twilight,” cut in the low voice of one of the stallions drawing the caravan, turning his head back while his compatriots kept their eyes ahead. “We are approaching a settlement at the edge of the North Equinus Mountains. The Pie family rock farm complex should be close by.”

(“Ooooh, I hope that we bump into somepony in the marketplace~” Pinkie squealed in a voice rising so high that only the Drow Bat Ponies would have been able to hear her if she’d continued.)

“Thank you, sir,” Twilight said with relief; it was nearing sundown, and the sight of groves losing their hue as their leaves surrendered to the looming autumn was weighing on Twilight’s spirits, and she felt the urge to find somepony to talk to who had read books. The Pie family had a long history in their farm nestled at the border between the North Equinus Mountains and the Descort Fields, and there were surely some history books kept in their old store-rooms which held answers to the Age of Discord.

And then, from there… the High Eyries, and the Element of Honesty!

The caravan came to a slow halt at the edge of a paddock fencing in cows at the edge of the village of Holderton.

“Are you certain you wish to disembark here, Lady Twilight?” asked one of the Royal Guards as Twilight and her band disembarked.

“I’ll be alright, Phalanx,” Twilight said steadily, Spike attempting to carry Rarity’s saddle-bags despite how far apart the girth-straps were compared to his forelegs’ span. “My friends and I can handle any trouble that comes our way. And besides…” She added with a light laugh as she tilted her head towards the cobblestone thoroughfare into Holderton. “Do you really think we could run into any trouble from Discord out here?”

Phalanx’s eyes traveled briskly yet fearlessly across the passing bands of Earth Ponies from one side of the thoroughfare to the other, each one almost as dully colored as though this was a motion picture at a high-class theater. Nearly every expression was subdued, even somber, as though joy itself was a foreign concept to them. A beard was bestowed upon all stallions, and each mare’s mane was tied up in a bun. It could not have been more different from Ponyville, a town so overflowing with love and happiness.

Phalanx let out a short snort of a laugh through his nostrils, “I see your point. Are all of your belongings secured, ladies?”

“Yes, sir!” grinned Rainbow Dash with a mock-salute, which all six caravan-stallions returned.

“Well then, we wish you the best of luck, Bearers,” added one of Phalanx’s partners, and in short time the caravan had turned itself around from Holderton and traveled back up the road it had come from.

Twilight prepared to turn to pass down the thoroughfare, but a particular palomino pony blocked her view.

“Sugarcube,” began Applejack, “are ya sure that we shoulda ditched them as escorts ta th’ Pie farm? Ah mean, we’re in completely unknown territory; ain’t there safety ta be had in numbers?”

“Ohh p’shah, Applejack,” beamed Pinkie Pie, her eyes darting back and forth between her party and the thoroughfare so rapidly that it seemed as though each iris and pupil had gone from a circle to a beam. “We’re in my ‘hood right now; nopony’s gonna do anything to try and hurt us while I’m here~”

“You came from a place like this, Pinkie?” asked Rainbow Dash with a liberal amount of skepticism. “Sorry, but… when it comes to wet blankets, this place looks like it’s soaked. Seriously, how much more Haymish could you get? And, well, it always surprised me to hear that you weren’t Mr. & Mrs. Cake’s filly; you look so much like you could be their kid.”

“Nope, I’m not~ (at least, not biologically),” answered Pinkie gaily. “They gave me a roof over my head and all the sweets I could eat in exchange for digging Sugar Cube Corner out of its debt crisises − long story~ − and Ponyville’s been my home away from home ever since! It’s been so forever since I’ve seen Ma & Pa and Limey and Maud and Marbly and oooh I can feel the Haymish flow through me ‘cause I’m calling ‘em ‘Ma & Pa’ again instead of ‘Mommy & Daddy’~”

“If I may ask,” Rarity said sharply, drawing the band’s attention, “must we continue to crowd this town’s doorstep, or will we proceed to the Pie family estate?”

“Oh my,” breathed Fluttershy, staring down past her chest-fluff to her dainty hooves with a degree of guilt. “Were we really crowding this spot so much…?”

“Heavens, no, Fluttershy, darling, but… well, let us progress, girls!”

“Ah agree,” Applejack nodded. “Sooner we get to a place a’ proper shelter fer th’ night, the happier Ah’ll be.”

“So,” said Rainbow Dash, “where is the Pie family rock farm?”

“Weee~ell,” grinned Pinkie Pie, “we could just follow the scent of rock molasses~”

Turning her nose up to the air, Twilight did catch a light smell in the air that she hadn’t quite noticed before. It made her want to retch.

Rainbow Dash beat her wings more fervently than before, to try to waft the odor away from herself.

“Urgh… What curled up and died here?”

“That, Rainbow Dash, is the scent of rock molasses,” explained Twilight.

“We put this stuff in our food?”

“Well, it has to be processed before we eat it―”

“It smells like something lost a foreleg and then just bled out out in the fields―”

“Rainbow Dash, keep your voice down; we don’t want to seem rude to the villagers of Holderton.”

The cerulean Pegasus sighed heavily.

“We’re not here to make friends, Ms. Friendship-is-magic; we’re here to find my Element of Honesty, and we gotta start somewhere!”

“MAUD!” screeched Pinkie Pie suddenly, beginning to pronk up and down so quickly it seemed as if gravity was taking little part in how she’d accelerated back to the ground. Her eyes were set upon a particular tent in the thoroughfare’s marketplace from which a particularly large pony had already emerged, a rather petite mare waving the giant of a pony off.

“That’s one big stallion, isn’t it?” Spike gasped at the slate-gray frame as it trotted slowly down the thoroughfare.

“Very burly, too, by the looks of it,” Twilight added in assent, noting that the muscles rippling under that coat made Applejack seem like a twig.

“And, with such a subpar sense of fashion at that,” Rarity mused with a wary look at the giant Earth Pony’s dull-blue frock.

“Ohh, I think she looks very nice,” said Fluttershy.

“Wait, what?” Spike blinked at the Pegasus mare.

“You mean…” Rarity double-taked.

“That that pony’s not a stallion?” Twilight kicked herself. Now that she looked more closely, there was a feminine shape to the eyelids of that over-sized mare, eyelashes which she had overlooked before.

“WE’RE OVER HERE, MAUD!” Pinkie Pie bellowed down the thoroughfare, and slate-gray ears twitched at the shout. The Earth Pony who could only be Maudstone Rock Pie turned her head slowly towards the pink Earth Pony, slowly and surely turning on the spot and making a beeline for the band.

A very, very, very slow beeline.

“Well, she sure ain’t in a big hurry, is she?” hissed Rainbow Dash.

“Rocks don’t move too often,” Pinkie Pie replied in a voice of low excitement. “Maud doesn’t move much sometimes, either. So sometimes, Maud really is like a rock~”

As Maud approached, it became increasingly apparent to Twilight Sparkle that “giant” was a very accurate assessment. Though it was easy to see that the populace of Holderton was generally bulkier than most ponies from Ponyville, Maud Pie was a figure of particularly intimidating statue. Not even Big McIntosh could hope to meet Maud at the withers, although he could have met her eye-to-eye if she stooped low. Her expression became clearer as she reached the end of the thoroughfare, and it was obvious that the only word which could describe Maud’s expression was stony. Her face was frozen in an expression of dull disinterest bordering on mild irritation, light-turquoise eyes half-lidded beneath the flat curtain of a pale-purple forelock.

This is one of Pinkie Pie’s sisters…? Twilight gasped internally. Whatever she had expected when she thought of relatives of Pinkie Pie, it was not this.

Maud stopped a few paces short of Pinkie Pie, bouncing excitedly before her big sister. The size difference was almost comical; even holding her head upright, Pinkie would have been able to trot straight under her sister’s barrel. Where Pinkie was round and fluffy, Maud carried the look of being able to turn a boulder to dust if she felt the motivation. Where Pinkie was in constant motion and constantly changing expression to varying ways of expression unbridled joy, Maud may as well have been a statue with how stiff her well-chiseled features were.

Then she tilted her head down to look at Pinkie Pie, and when she spoke, it was in exactly the sort of voice one would expect from looking at her: A flat droning tone that inspired absolute boredom and tedium in the listener.

“Pinkie Pie, we heard about what happened in Ponyville. The message arrived just yesterday about what happened. You can’t imagine how happy I am to see you alright.”

“I know~ I’m so happy to see you too, Maud~” Pinkie squealed, throwing all four legs around one of Maud’s. The gigantic mare’s expression did not change a whit, not even as her eyes passed along the five mares and the mulberry drake who accompanied her (Spike looked quite faint at her gaze).

“Ohh yeah!” Pinkie dislodged herself from her big sister’s leg (an act which Twilight assumed was a difficult task otherwise, given how much she idolized the stolid mare), and gestured with emphatic glee at her fellow Ponyvillagers. “Maud, these are my very very very best friends who I made in Ponyville when we all saved the world from NightMare Moon! This is Twilight Sparkle and she likes vanilla ice-cream and books but is afraid of quesadillas so don’t try to offer any to her and she’s really smart and knows just about everything you could print in a book, and this is Applejack and she’s a farmer like you except she farms apples instead of rocks and she’ll really stick with you through the good and the bad and she keeps her orchards safe from all the monsters of the Everfree and she has the scars to prove it, and this is Rainbow Dash and she wants to be a part of the Wonderbolts and she’s waiting for their letter right now and she also made that Sonic Rainboom that made me realize how much I loved to smile and making everypony in the world smile and I really really love her, and this is Fluttershy and she takes care of all the animals around Ponyville like Marbly did that one time we had a bunch of bunnies come in from a warren in the Everfree except that Fluttershy takes care of all the really big nasty tough ones and you can see all the scars that she got from taking care of them and she’s really sweet and shy and I really think she’s cute, and this, last but not least, is―…!”

“Thank you, Pinkie Pie,” Rarity said abruptly, placing a hoof gently in front of Pinkie Pie as a polite gesture of interruption, “but I believe that I can introduce myself with a bit more volume control, if you don’t mind.”

The alabaster Unicorn cleared her throat.

“Miss Maudstone Pie, I am Rarity Belle, proprietor of Carousel Couture and eager designer and manufacturer of all manner of garments for all manner of incomes!”

Maud blinked. “Never heard of it,” she said flatly.

Rarity withdrew slightly, her ears flicking and her winning smile faltering for a moment.

“Uhhh… yes well, Carousel Couture is a local establishment in Ponyville, hardly a blip on the radar at the moment. But the quality that I aspire to cannot be denied! I see that you are a mare of fashion? Tell me, what does your outfit say?”

“It doesn’t say anything,” Maud replied. “It’s a dress.”

Rarity looked ready to press the subject, and Twilight didn’t like the new furrow to the mare’s brow, so she stepped in.

“Rarity,” she hissed, “I’m sorry, but we’re not here to advertise for Carousel Couture.”

The alabaster Unicorn held her gaze with the lavender one, and for a moment looked almost tortured, before letting out a low sigh.

“Very well, Twilight Sparkle. I will refrain.”

And so Rarity fell back to a spot beside Fluttershy, nose in the air.

“Ehhh, so, why don’t we all head back to the rock farm, right, Maud~?” Pinkie beamed with a slight nervous crease to her smile.

“Sure,” replied Maud, turning back down the thoroughfare. “Oh, and Pinkie, if you thought that apatite was high on the Mohs scale of hardness, wait until I tell you about quartz.”

“Ooooh, neat~” Pinkie seemed genuinely interested. “Now, listen up, everypony. My baby sister Marbly cooks up a mean brew of rock soup, so I hope each of you brought your apatite~”

Twilight groaned; rock puns?

This would take forever.

If there was a higher being in charge of rock puns, Twilight suspected that she or he would have become really rather cross with what followed mere moments after they’d entered Holderton: Most everypony reacted to Pinkie’s presence in town, offering her bright and jovial greetings… or, rather, as bright and jovial a greeting could be from those born and bred in a Haymish county such as Holderton. Each one knew Pinkie Pie by name, and she greeted them in her usual Pinkie Pie fashion.

Based off of old census knowledge which she had overheard at the end of certain meetings of Queen Celestia’s prior to her personal lessons with the monarch, Twilight knew Holderton to be a county of a much larger populace than Ponyville. Nearly a dozen-gross ponies called this town their home, all of them bearing a long lineage consisting nearly exclusively of Earth Ponies. The more she looked about herself, the more the uniqueness of Ponyville was impressed into her mind. Almost everypony in that hamlet settled beneath Canterlot held some degree of mixed blood in their heritage, and that did not require a look at any genealogy charts to confirm. Here in Holderton, the strength of Earth Ponies remained untouched (relatively speaking) by the branches of the genealogical trees of either Unicorn or Pegasus.

(Well, excepting Pinkie’s famed Granny Pie, who was apparently a Pegasus.)

The stench of raw rock molasses grew stronger and more pungent as they followed a particular path through the winding streets of Holderton. A far more rural setting than Ponyville it was, which at the very least conceded to a very slow trickle of technological advancement. This town was like stepping back in time a grossentury or two. There were no mass-produced products; everything was made-to-order by speaking directly to the pony who you requested that particular good or service from.

The sandstone-framed homes became smaller and sparser as they reached the southern edge of Holderton, the plots of land allotted to each household becoming larger as the cliff-faces of the abrupt eastern edge of the North Equinus Mountains loomed closer and closer, the overhanging cliffs casting a deep and dark shadow from the setting sun behind the range. A sign denoted the edge of Holderton property, marking the path ahead as progressing towards the Pie Family Rock Farm (with ‘and Rock Molasses Foundation’ added in almost as an addendum below it). Atop the sign, though, was a far older piece of signage, its age much more closely matching the pole the sign was mounted to, indicating that the Rock Farm signage was a more contemporary addition. The sign bore only a single character upon it:


“What in tarnation is that?” Applejack asked, a sandy eyebrow quirked inquisitively at the monogrammed sign.

“It’s a table, silly filly~!” bubbled Pinkie Pie, prancing about on Maud’s back as she eyed the symbol.

“It’s the letter ‘pi’, the character representing the ‘p’ sound in the Magnesian alphabet,” Twilight interjected smartly, rubbing her chin with a sapphire-colored forehoof. “It’s the dozen-and-fourth letter in their alphabet, and is used in mathematics to represent―”

“Booo-riiiing…!” Rainbow Dash droned by way of imitation of a fog-horn. Twilight scowled at the cerulean Pegasus, but abstained from verbal comment.

“The rock farm used to be home to a group of cultists dedicated to rocks,” Maud Pie explained. “They called themselves the Cult of Pi, because pi encompasses everything in its circumference, as rocks encompass our entire planet. The pi became Pie with an ‘E’, and the cult became a real family.”

“I think I remember,” Twilight explained, “Queen Selena mentioning something about pi that happened in the past… something that wasn’t quite so kind, or sane.”

“What happened in the past doesn’t affect us now in the present,” Maud replied flatly. “We know rocks waaaaay better than we did back in the old days. Did you know that some rocks make very great pets?”

“Errr, well, I can imagine so,” Twilight stammered in reply. “I mean, not very much in the way of upkeep, I imagine.”

“You’d be surprised.”

Maud reached into a small (for her) pouch in the corner of her frock and in her hoof was balanced an unremarkable pebble… except that it was a pebble for Maud’s size, so it was nearly as large as one of their own heads. She tossed it to the ground where it settled with a loud thump.

A beat.

“…His name is Boulder,” Maud said with as much affection as her vocal chords could muster… which amounted to zero.

Another beat.

“Ohh… well, look at you, Boulder,” Fluttershy began awkwardly as she kneeled down to run a pink-ish hoof along Boulder’s surface. “You’re such a… well, a big rock. I… I think that you and Angel Bunny could become really close. So that I could smash his fluffy little head in…!

The words almost didn’t register in Twilight’s mind, but there it was: a small change in her intonation, a new tension in the Pegasus’s posture, and it was like the Pegasus was a whole new pony. It was as though some other soul was inhabiting the body of her good and kind friend…

Then she stood upright from Boulder, backpedalling with all the speed her hooves could afford her, and she was Fluttershy again.

“Ohh… oh no… oh no no no no no no…”

The fear that they saw on Fluttershy’s face was startling. Even the puppet-dead of NightMare Moon had not provoked such a frightful expression out of the yellow Pegasus, her cyan eyes constricting tight around her pupils as she flared out her wings as if to fly away and never return.

Maud quickly swept Boulder up into her hoof and pocketed the pet rock.

“Does your friend have petraphobia? …That’s a fear of rocks.”

Pinkie dove off of her big sister’s back and bolted towards Fluttershy alongside Rainbow Dash.

“No, don’t come any closer!” Fluttershy continued to backpedal down the road. “I don’t want you to get hurt!”

“What could possibly hurt us?” Rainbow Dash asked, a deeply concerned look on her normally wild face. “Come on, Fluttershy, what’s going on?”

“I don’t like it when one of my friends is sad,” Pinkie said with a slight whine, the tip of her forelock starting to uncurl as her ears fell limp.

“I…” Fluttershy’s face creased itself in wrinkled fright, bearing her teeth. “I don’t want to talk about it. It’s… it’s too hard.”

“Maybe talking about it will help!” Rainbow Dash persisted, placing a hoof on Fluttershy’s shoulder.

“I always like to talk!” Pinkie offered, standing on her hind legs and attempting to place her forehooves on Fluttershy’s chest-fluff…

But the lanky Pegasus withdrew sharply, tears streaming down her muzzle.

“Please, just… stop. I don’t want to talk about it. I can’t talk about it! Not even with you, Dashie… Please, don’t ask me anymore!”

Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie gaped at Fluttershy with eyes full of astonishment, as if they couldn’t believe what they were seeing. They weren’t alone, either; Applejack bowed her head and brought her Stetson down slightly, Rarity brought a hoof up to her mouth as her eyes locked onto Fluttershy, and Twilight Sparkle was narrowing her eyes at the lanky Pegasus as though she were trying to decipher a particularly difficult cryptogram. Maud Pie’s gaze was set down the road towards their destination, and Spike was gazing at his lavender mother in concern.

“What’s going on, Twi − Mom?”

“I… don’t know, Spike,” she answered. “If I had to guess, Discord is behind this somehow. But, it can’t be made up out of whole cloth, or it wouldn’t have affected Fluttershy so badly. Based off of her reaction, though, I don’t know if I’d be able to get much from her…” Purple eyes locked onto Fluttershy’s face. “What in the world happened to her…?”

“Amethyst geodes are good for enforcing peace of mind,” Maud said suddenly. “They help me to prepare for my entrance exam to Shale University. I can ask Marble if we can borrow from her geode collection to help your friend feel better in her sleep.”

“Oooh, that sounds like that’ll help~” Pinkie said with a quick beam. “And the sooner we get to the farm, the sooner we can help you out, Fluttershy~” She pronked up and planted a quick peck on Fluttershy’s cheek, and the yellow Pegasus locked wide eyes upon the small pink Earth Pony before hiding her pinkening face behind the curtain of her forelock, though Twilight could have sworn that she caught a small flash of a smile

Pinkie really does love everypony, thought Twilight. Sometimes, though, she has a really weird way of showing it…

The remainder of the journey to the Pie Family Rock Farm was spent in trepidation as the sun set even further behind the mountain range to their right, Pinkie straddling across her big sister’s back and waving absentmindedly at Rainbow Dash. Twilight looked back and forth between Fluttershy and the bulge in the side of Maud’s frock where Boulder doubtlessly sat. Something did not sit quite right in her mind about this whole situation.

What in the name of ponydom just happened there? I’ve never seen Fluttershy act like that before… well, since before Discord turned that canary inside-out. Her insides turned at the memory. He has us all on a silver platter, so why is he giving us a chance to find the only items which can defeat him…?

Fluttershy’s thoughts were racing as well, her face largely hidden still behind her mane, although enough of a gap was present for a single eye to keep the Pegasus on the road with her friends.


She turned her head sharply; it was Rarity. The alabaster mare gave her a look of deepest sympathy.

“As one of your oldest friends,” Rarity began delicately, the verbal equivalent of testing one’s steps across thin ice, “let me caution you on one regard: a pony hiding a huge secret about her past can be positively murderous. Sometimes, letting one’s friends in on such secrets can be the only way to ease the pain.”

Fluttershy could not meet Rarity’s eyes. Her ears drooped.

“Well, sometimes… a big secret needs to be kept from a pony’s friends, so that they won’t be hurt…” A fresh bleeding pain was in her eyes as she looked towards her oldest friend in Ponyville. “I wouldn’t want to see you girls hurt.”

Rarity nodded.

“I see. Well, in its own time, I suppose… provided you ever feel the urge to share in it.”

The Pie Family Rock Farm complex was comprised of a small number of buildings, the oldest and smallest clearly being the living quarters of the Pie family. Like so many buildings in Holderton, it was clearly built for ponies of a larger stock like Maud Pie, so Twilight and her band felt utterly dwarfed as they approached. A windpump and a silo beside the old timber-framed abode showed their age, while fresher and newer windpumps demonstrated the more contemporary side-business of rock-molasses. A new facility stood behind the home building, built of stucco and plaster, with larger windows than could be seen on the Pie Family home, doubtlessly based around the processing, packaging, and shipping of rock-molasses. The other buildings, roughly the same size as the household, had to be live-in residences for the hired hooves to assist in the rock-farming and the processing of rock-molasses. A quarry sat at the left-hoof side of the pathway approaching the complex, a rough-hewn path leading down into the stone abyss hidden away by the dimming daylight. The work out in the fields seemed to have come to an end with the setting of the sun; the lights in the live-in residences were coming on, the chimneys sending forth smoke carrying the aroma of burning wood.

“Well, here we are,” Maud said flatly, almost morosely.

“EEEEEEEEEEEEEE…!” Pinkie started shuddering so vigorously that Twilight would not have been surprised if she fell to pieces on the spot. Instead, the pink Earth Pony almost literally rocketed off of her big sister’s back, a succession of pink after-images flashing behind her as she darted at Rainbow Dash speeds towards the front door. Standing on her hind legs, Pinkie rapped crimson forehooves against the door with such speed that it sounded as though two giant woodpeckers had taken an interest in the oaken panelling.

“Ma, Pa! Marbly, Limey! I’m back and I’m with Maud and all my bestest friends from Ponyville…!”

Twilight wondered if the Queens could hear Pinkie all the way in Canterlot.

After a few moments, the door swung outward, Pinkie skipping backwards to avoid being struck.

A bluish-gray mare stood in the doorway, lank opalish-gray mane ending in a perfectly horizontal line over dark blade-shaped eyebrows dropped in a perpetual scowl. She was not large like Maud was, actually slightly smaller than Applejack, but with a burlier build, and with a demeanor that demanded that you would underestimate her for her diminutive stature at your peril. Her eyes, the left a dull beige, the right a bright piercing green, fixed themselves upon Pinkie.

“Welcome home, Pinkie,” she grumbled in a voice that carried nothing but contempt. “We’re glad to see you in one piece.”

“I’m glad to see you with me in one piece too, Limey~!” Pinkie leapt forward to embrace her big sister, but found herself being swept back by a beige hoof.

“We don’t have time for any of your silliness right now, little sis. You brought in some newcomers to these parts, so first thing’s first: laying down the ground-rules.”

The bluish-gray mare narrowed her eyes at the party behind Pinkie, pulling down the eyelid of her green eye with a dry and cracked hoof. The effect, Twilight noted, was quite striking; her constricted pupil stood out all the more against her piercing iris, and it felt as though the curses of ancients were being cast upon the lot of them from that staring eye.

“Gaze into the eyes of Limestone Pie, newbies, and remember this: Ma & Pa might own this farm, but the one that keeps it running is me. So long as you don’t cross me, we just might get along alright. First and foremost rule is this: Keep out of the Quarry of Holder’s Boulder!” She pointed with her eyelid-pulling hoof towards the quarry to her right, her mane spiking straight from the back of her head, and Twilight caught a flash of her cutie mark as she turned, a slice of a half of lime over two salt rocks, before directing her gaze to the quarry which caught her eye on the approach. “It’s bad enough that Holder’s Boulder fell in there and split ages ago, so just leave the Boulder’s halves be!”

“Limestone Miriam Pie, hast Maudstone returned from the market?” asked a matronly voice from within.

Limestone Pie stepped sideways from the doorway and glanced at the two approaching figures from within: an Earth Pony couple of stocky build and stately posture. The stallion had a dull amber coat, a scruffy mane gray with age, and brilliant-amber eyes framed by sideburns. He wore a simple white collar accented with a black necktie, and a broad-rimmed black hat. His wife beside him had a grayish-opal mane tied back in a very tight bun, piercing arctic-blue eyes behind gold-framed half-moon glasses, and a light-cobaltish-gray coat.

“Yes, and she brought Pinkie Pie with her, and Pinkie’s friends.” Twilight could not help but to wonder if Limestone always held such a contemptuous tone, or if it was particular to Pinkie and her band.

Ma & Pa Pie turned their eyes upon Pinkie, who was waving with unabashed glee at her parents, and then upon the group of mares with her.

“We bid ye, friends of our third-born daughter Pinkamena Diane Pie, welcome to the Pie Family Rock Farm!” said Pinkie’s father in a projected tone. “I am Igneous Rock Pie, son of Feldspar Granite Pie.”

“And you shalt know me as Cloudy Quartz,” said Pinkie’s mother.

“May Providence smile upon all of ye,” finished Igneous Rock.

“I thank ye, Mr. & Mrs. Pie,” replied Twilight with a bow, offering the customary Haymish response. “Your daughter has been a very dear friend to myself and my herd, and surely her good heart had to have come from the ones who raised her.”

Igneous & Cloudy glanced sideways at each other, their stolid faces softening with tender smiles.

“Thy words show thy benefaction, friend of Pinkie Pie,” Igneous said with a less forced tone. “Please, come inside, one and all, and partake in the Pie family’s traditional dinner, prepared by our youngest, Marble Magdalen Pie!”

“That was seriously the most boring conversation I’ve ever heard,” Rainbow Dash hissed through gritted teeth into Twilight’s ear. The lavender Unicorn merely bowed her head and trotted through the doorway into the Pie household.

A sparsely decorated hallway with dully-colored wallpaper greeted her, dotted with fading portraits of long-dead members of the Pie family. The far end of the hall displayed a large framed portrait of a small round pink filly bouncing up and down in front of a table laden with all manner of party wares, a fresh glow from her hind flanks as her parents and three sisters looked on with pride. This could only be representative of the moment when Pinkamena Diane Pie earned her cutie mark. A particularly peculiar aroma grew as they trotted down the carpeted corridor. Twilight had never smelt it before, and it was…not necessarily good or bad, but simply… indescribable.

“A work by our Marble for last year’s Hearth’s Warming Eve pageant,” explained Cloudy Quartz, as they passed a small table. Sat upon it was a carving of a traditional Hearth’s Warming image: Smart Cookie, Clover the Clever, and Prancing Pansy the three founders of Equestria standing in a circle, facing inwards. Each one traditionally wore a solemn look upon their faces in commemoration of the three ponies lying dead and frozen at their forehooves: their seniors Chancellor Puddinghead, Princess Platinum Platter, and Commander Hurricane, their faces contorted by blind hate even in death. Though each figure was not even a hoof tall at the withers, it astonished Twilight just how intricately detailed each one was; curiously, Chancellor Puddinghead seemed to resemble Limestone. Shrugging internally, Twilight felt she should offer Marble Pie her compliments over dinner.

The kitchen was unsurprisingly ascetic for such a household, with amenities that were more befitting of the time of a grossentury past. Polished-wood drawers set into sandstone counters ground down to smooth cutting surfaces, and a steel stove with a pipe leading up and out of the ceiling. Standing at the latter was a lanky pale-gray mare with a long gray mane covering half of her face, holding a stirring spoon in her mouth as she worked at a saucepot that could only be the source of that scent. She was less than two hooves shorter than Maudstone Pie, but her slender barrel and thin legs gave the false impression of greater height. It was obvious now that Limestone was the odd pony out for being (comparatively) shrimpy in the Pie family. Her cutie mark was of three deep-purple spheres, doubtlessly marbles, and she had patches of feathers as dark as her mane along her shoulders.

“Marble Pie, is the dinner nearly finished being prepared?” asked Cloudy Quartz.

Marble turned her head to face her mother, revealing a pair of violet eyes, and let out a meek Mhm. She prepared to turn back to the saucepot, but double-taked at the sight of Pinkie Pie’s party behind her parents. At the sight of the new mares (and the drake Spike), her pupils narrowed and she hid her face behind her mane in a very distinctly Fluttershy-esque fashion, her ears flattening as she tried to look invisible.

“Awww, don’t be shy, Marbly~” smiled Pinkie Pie as she darted up to her twin sister and leapt onto her back, squishing her sister’s cheeks together in her forehooves and turning her head to face the newcomers. “These are all my very bestest friends from Ponyville! I wrote all about them to all of you and I know you know all about them but I didn’t send any pictures so I’m just gonna give you the run-down! They’re Twilight Sparkle the purple Unicorn book-horse who bears the Element of Magic, and Applejack the orange Earth Pony apple-farmer who bears the Element of Loyalty, and Rainbow Dash the rainboom-ing Pegasus who wants to be a Wonderbolt and who bears the Element of Honesty, and Rarity the pretty dress-making Unicorn who bears the Element of Generosity, and Fluttershy the shy and quiet animal-loving Pegasus who’s exactly one year older than me and you and who bears the Element of Kindness! Aren’t they all just the bestest best friends who I could have other than my adorable little baby sister~?”

Marble’s face burned pink, the stirring spoon left to idle in the saucepot, and she tried to look somewhere other than at the new ponies who had suddenly more than doubled the amount of servings that would need to be dispensed at meal-time. But at a small nudge by her elder twin, Marble Pie nodded quickly and uttered one word:


I guess Pinkie does all the talking for the both of them, Twilight thought. That certainly explains Pinkie’s inability to remain silent.

Twilight felt an elbow poking her in the side, and she looked up and to the side, to see Applejack winking slyly at her. Knowing that AJ had to be sharing the same thought as she did, Twilight felt a boost in her spirits despite their rocky entry into the Pie Family Rock Farm.

“It’s a good thing that Marble always cooks far more than she needs to for dinner,” Limestone grumbled, “considering how many more mouths we have to feed tonight…!”

“Yep, it sure is, big sis~” smiled Pinkie with an unironic smile on her face.

“Limestone, these are Pinkie Pie’s good friends,” Maud said with a trace of irritability in her tone, although the change in her expression was limited to perhaps a microscopic creasing of her eyebrows. “We should treat them with the respect that you normally reserve for Holder’s Boulder.”

“Look here, Maudstone!” Limestone growled, practically nose-to-nose with her eldest younger sister. “Just because you’re the biggest Pie here doesn’t mean you’re in charge!” She glanced down at Fluttershy, who was withdrawing behind her mane more and more as Limestone’s voice rose in volume. The firstborn Pie gritted her teeth, ears flopping, her mismatched eyes flicking down to her hooves. “But… I suppose I can try to be less abrasive.”

“Thank you, big sister,” Maud said.

“Mhm,” Marble smiled with a quick little nod.

The stirring spoon started to rattle in the saucepot, and the youngest Pie mare let out a soft gasp and turned off the stove’s heat.

The following minutes found both parties − the Pie family, and the band of Ponyville friends − seated around the Pies’ dining room table, the latter party seated atop a stool apiece so that they could reach the tabletop.

The meal of the day: rock soup.

Twilight grimaced at the bowl in front of her. She really should not have been surprised.

“Ughhhh… I had too much rock soup…”

Twilight groaned as she came to at first light the next morning, a hoof rubbing her belly tenderly. The rock soup of Holderton was one recipe on the books which she had always found questionable at best, unnecessarily taxing on the gastrointestinal system at worst, but never in her worst nightmares had she ever dreamt that she would end up eating some of it. It was incredible what Earth Ponies could stomach, as hardy a race as they were.

Still, she thought as she gazed at the mulberry drake curled up in a basket at the foot of her bed, at least Spike seemed to enjoy it the most of the Ponyvillagers.

Well, discounting Pinkie Pie, but she grew up on rock soup seemingly from birth. Even Applejack, the other Earth Pony in their group, was complaining of stomach cramps prior to turning in the previous night. Pinkie, meanwhile, had worked out some way to somehow drink the rocks themselves straight from the bowl.

Leave it to Pinkie Pie to drink rocks, something that’s supposed to be solid, she thought dryly.

Not helping matters at all was the sadistic grin on Limestone’s face as each of the six took their first sip − or bite − of the rock soup.

Spike and the Pies had the least trouble passing the rocks of the soup through their systems, but Twilight and the Ponyvillagers had difficulties until Maud provided a tonic of antique invention that aided non-Earth Ponies in the digestion of rocks. Applejack, being an Earth Pony, was able to pass the stone with time, but not at all with the ease that the Pies could.

Two-dozen-gross-and-a-half years, and the consideration of one race for another still astonishes me, she thought.

Breakfast in the Pie household consisted, apparently, of rock toast. How the Pies were able to produce bread from grinding up rocks and using the resultant powder in lieu of flour was beyond Twilight’s comprehension, but at least with the tonic that Maud provided it proved to be quite palatable. The addition of their own rock-molasses as an ingredient helped greatly; it really was top-of-the-table when it came to naturally-forming molasses.

“I just wish that Maud could have waited at least till this morning to tell you about the petropepsis tonic,” grumbled Limestone as Marble gathered the dishes to carry to the sink.

“But why in the name of Cloudsdale should she have waited? Those rocks were a nightmare before that!” Rainbow complained loudly.

Limestone smirked devilishly.

“Because it’s fun to watch newbies squirm.”

Sadistic tendencies of Pinkie’s eldest sister aside, the band of Ponyvillagers found their saddle-bags’ provisions stocked with rock-based food products, as well as liberal amounts of the petropepsis tonic.

“No food lasts longer than the sort that has rock as an ingredient,” explained Maud on the doorstep of the homestead, turning to her youngest sister. “Isn’t that right, Marble?”


“But why the tarnation don’cha just put that whatchamacallit tonic in th’ rock foods ta begin with?” asked Applejack.

“Ohh Applejack, you silly~” Pinkie smiled brightly. “It’s ‘cause then there wouldn’t be any rock in the rock-foods, and they’d be no-rock-foods like no-rock soup, or no-rock bread, or no-rock candy~”

Twilight laughed sheepishly, “Well, I guess that makes sense.”

“Dost thee have to leave so soon, Pinkamena?” asked Igneous Rock, looking quite concerned.

Cloudy Quartz had a hoof to her shawl as she added, “Thou hath only just returned to the domicile which took you in and raised you.”

Wait, what? ‘Took you in’? Twilight froze. Pinkie Pie was adopted?

“Ohh don’t worry, Ma & Pa~” Pinkie beamed. “We’ll be dropping back in no time at all as we find each of the Elements of Harmony again! It’ll be like our own little base of operations away from our base of operations~”

And when we come back, Twilight thought, I’ll have the time, I hope, to research this Cult of Pi, find out what its connection with Discord was, and what they may have known about Discord’s reign…

“Where are these Elements of Harmony this time, anyway?” Limestone asked impatiently.

“We have strong reason to believe that Discord has hidden one up there,” answered Rarity, pointing an azure hoof up at the cliffs to the west, “up in the High Eyries.”

“Not too far away, then,” noted Maud. “You’ll be back in no time, then.”

“No we won’t,” Rainbow Dash countered with an edge of fright in her tone. “That place is frickin’ haunted.”

“Commander Hurricane’s armies sleep up there,” continued Fluttershy in a quavering voice, “just waiting for some silly little mortals to stir them from their undead slumber…!”

“Ghosts aren’t real,” Maud said with a miniscule lift to her eyebrows.

“Like that needs to be said,” Twilight replied. “But considering that we’re dealing with Discord here, we’ll need to be ready for anything.”

Pinkie hugged first her mother’s right foreleg, then her father’s left.

“I’ll be sure to keep my friends safe and happy, Ma & Pa~!”

“May the Maker and Providence smile upon thee, Pinkamena,” Cloudy Quartz said tenderly.

“Thy friends are welcome back here anytime,” said Igneous Rock.

Limestone begrudgingly allowed Pinkie to embrace her, her eyes glancing off to her left.

“T-Try not to get yourself hurt, okay?” she grumbled into Pinkie’s ear.

Pinkie giggled, “Let yourself be happy for a change, Captain Grumpy~”

“Be sure to tell me about the types of rock you see up there, Pinkie,” Maud requested as Pinkie embraced her foreleg.

“Of course I will, Maud!”

Pinkie leapt up and clutched to both of Marble’s forelegs, locking her youngest sister in place.

“Keep an eye on Limey and Maud, okie-dokie-lokie, Marble~?”

Marble nodded imperceptibly, “Mhm.”

With the farewells out of the way, Pinkie’s band trotted down the road leading north from the rock farm complex.

Out of the corner of her eye, Twilight caught a pinkish light coming from the quarry. Taking a glance, Twilight saw something at the bottom that had not been visible in the dusk: a large geode, as large as a small house, cracked in twain dozens of hooves below. The pink glow was from the tremendous quantities of pinkamena gemstone within.

So, Holder’s Boulder was a gigantic geode, Twilight thought. Is that what was so important about it…?

As soon as the main homestead of the Pie Family Rock Farm left her over-the-shoulder field of vision, Twilight gave voice to a thought that had been nagging her since they’d prepared to leave.

Very loud voice.

“You were adopted, Pinkie Pie?!” she shouted. “Why didn’t you ever tell any of us?”

Pinkie tittered nervously, “It was just never important. Ma & Pa always treated me like I was one of their own. And plus, you never asked~”

Twilight’s eyebrow twitched.

“Mom…?” Spike said hesitatingly.

“But, you said that Marble is your twin! How could she be your twin, unless you were both adopted!”

“Twilight, lighten up,” interjected Applejack, concern creasing her freckled muzzle. “Maybe she was adopted same day as Mrs. Quartz Pie had Marble. That don’t signify fer anythin’ too significant, Ah think.”

A sheepish feeling crept up in Twilight from her stomach. It certainly made more sense than any of the dozens of other ideas that were prancing around in her brain.

“Yeah… Sorry about that, Pinkie,” she said softly. “Got a bit paranoid about nothing there.”

“No biggie, Twilight. It could happen with anypony~”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” muttered Rainbow Dash, flapping her wings with greater gusto. “Meanwhile, my Element of Honesty is getting antsy waiting for all of us to high-tail it up there!”

A flash of light, a thump, and Rainbow Dash going, “Ow!”

Twilight felt suddenly quite prickly, and also quite air-headed. Somehow, she felt more closed in than she had ever felt in her life. Shaking her forelock out, Twilight decided that she needed to stretch out her wings and get the aches out wait wings?

Looking down to her sides, left then right, and saw dark-sapphire and pink plumage along the length of a pair of lavender wings.

Am I… an Alicorn…?

Twilight tried to send the signal down her horn to perform a magic spell to detect her physiological changes…

But nothing happened.

Feeling cold, Twilight ran a hoof along her forehead. She felt smooth fur below her forelock.

She was not an Alicorn; she was a Pegasus.

Her ears twitched; the sounds of numerous mares raising a din reached her, and it occurred to Twilight that the rest of her band had all changed as well.

“My wings…!” Rainbow Dash looked mortified, tearier than she’d ever been in the time Twilight knew her. “I lost my wings! I’m all heavy and I lost my wings!”

“Oooh wow~” Pinkie Pie’s alicorn lit up bright baby-blue, and confetti and balloons appeared out of thin air. “Is this what it’s like all the time, Twilight? It’s so cool~”

“My goodness…!” Rarity’s indigo plumage was surprisingly rough, and her expression oscillated rapidly between unabashed joy and unreserved horror. “I have wings, but… I’m not an Alicorn princess…!”

“Ohh, ohh my…” Fluttershy seemed the least bit put out. “I… guess this is okay… I was never much of a Pegasus…”

“Holy drakonakis…!” Applejack lit up her alicorn bright apple-green. “How do ya use this thing, Twilight? Ah don’ wanna call mahself a green-horn here, but…”

A high laugh rose from everywhere, and a blinding light erupted from overhead. A flare from the source of light, and after blinking the spots out of their eyes, Twilight and her band bore witness to the source of their malcontent.

“So, while everypony’s getting used to their new limbs or lack thereof,” Discord sneered, “would you like to hear the story of how I became what I am?”





Author's Note:

*sigh* These little ponies still haven’t figured out the secret to color film again?
Well, you have to understand, Discord, that not everyone is able to bounce back from a massive setback like, say, the downfall of their ENTIRE BLEEDIN’ SOCIETY.
Excuses, excuses… by the way, seems like you’ve gotten that spark back for the ink and pen~
Yeah, it does, doesn’t it? Just don’t dick around with the chapter order again, and things might be a-okay.

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