• 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 3!: Secrets Told and Untold

Darkness closed in around Rainbow Dash as she gave pursuit to the light of her Element of Harmony. The voices of her companions hot on her tail bolstered her full gallop, even as the corridor opened up on either side to reveal the crypts of numerous Pegasi long since passed on. What their names were, or what deeds they had performed in the name of Commander Hurricane, the cerulean ex-Pegasus did not know. Any one of them could have been foresire or foredam to the indomitable General Firefly, but it didn’t matter. What was paramount was Rainbow Dash and her comrades reclaiming her Element of Honesty from Discord, the mad draconequus.
Rainbow Dash nearly stumbled, and out of the corner of her eye spotted the skeleton of a Unicorn, the petrified spine of a long-unreadable book laying beside it. Shrugging off the discomfort, Rainbow set her mind to following her Element again…

And then it turned down a left-hoof corridor.

Gritting her teeth, and pushing back the encroaching fatigue, Rainbow hung a left, catching a momentary glance of the citrine glint down the stony hallway before it turned right down at the next intersection.

It felt like the game of cat-and-mouse continued for hours. Left, right, two left, two right, four left… Just how much stamina did a stinkin’ piece of jewelry have?

Under ordinary circumstances, Rainbow Dash was capable of extraordinary peripheral detection, but that was when she was in the air, with her wings. As it was now, she was deprived of this ability because of Discord’s removal of her pride and joy, and as much as she willed it, Rainbow Dash could not force this innate ability forth if she couldn’t fly…!

The glint of her Honesty came to a halt at the end of a hall after one more turn to the right, and the cerulean Earth Pony bolted with all the speed she could muster in the face of the onsetting debility. The stale air and the scattered bones of so many lost travelers to these High Eyries did not forestall her, nor did the fabled weakness that would befall any non-winged ponies who dared make entry. Nothing would separate Rainbow Dash from her Honesty if she had her way!

The Element of Honesty floated glimmering above a cold stone tomb surrounded by solemn watchmares of graven rock. It had to be the burial site of Commander Hurricane herself, but Rainbow Dash didn’t care. All that mattered was this Element. And if she could be frank with herself, the sooner she got her hooves on it…!

Ahem. A word?”

Rainbow Dash spun about with a start at the sound of the oily voice. Standing to her right was a Pegasus who looked quite unfamiliar, old and ancient and definitely nothing like Discord. He had a look not unlike one of the stone statues about the chamber, one of the statues’ plinths empty and unoccupied…

Rainbow growled; she didn’t have time for ghosts. She jumped up and grasped for as much purchase as she could along the edge of the high grave of Hurricane.

“Yeah, yeah, sorry pal, ain’t got time for words. Gotta get my Element offa this… this thing here, whatever it is!”

“Not a mare of many words, I see? Ahh, but I see that you do fancy jewelry~!”

Rainbow Dash flushed.

“No, it’s not like that! I just need my Honesty, is all!”

“Ohh, ‘honesty’, you say?” The definitely-not-Discord stallion looked intrigued, his definitely-not-mismatched wings spreading slowly as the mountains grew. “Funny you should mention that; my special talent is in fact honesty itself. They used to call me Truthsayer, for that very reason.”

“Ugh… You know, you’re really not helping here.”

“Actually, the way I see it, it’s quite the opposite,” Truthsayer persisted even as Rainbow Dash continued her attempt to mount the tomb. “I don’t think you quite grasp what my special talent means. I always tell the truth, even if I don’t know that it’s the truth. It could be something that somepony would come up with centuries or millennia later, it could be something that just spills out of my mouth randomly; it just comes into my head what will happen. Whatever I say, I’ve seen that it will be the truth.”

Rainbow Dash wanted to roll her eyes, but something in the way Truthsayer said those words caught her attention. Clambering down from Hurricane’s final resting place, the cerulean mare examined Truthsayer’s cutie mark. Truth be told, it did seem to look kinda… truth-ish. Those eight arrows pointing in different directions… didn’t the truth take you to all sorts of different places?

“Uhhh so… you say you always tell the truth about stuff, right?”

“That I do.”

“So… could you tell me, what’s gonna happen? You know, after me and my friends defeat Discord?”

Truthsayer tilted his head to the side confusedly.

“‘Discord’? Can’t say I place the name.”

Rainbow Dash sighed; of course the spooky scary ghost up in the High Eyries wouldn’t know who Discord was!

“Big, scary, half-dragon-half-horse guy? Has a goat beard? Spirit of chaos and disharmony?”

“Ohh yeah? Well, good luck beating him with jewelry, dearie~”

“Hey! The Elements of Harmony beat him before, and they can beat him again!”

“Really? Were you there to beat him that first time? Uhp uhp uhp, no need to answer, I can see it in your eye. Aaaaand nope. I really don’t see it working out second time around. So, you know the drill: blah blah blah, eternal chaos, blah blah blah, end of the world, blah blah blah, rapid onset of societal and planetary decay, blah blah blah…”

Rainbow Dash never felt more disheartened, not when her father kicked her out as soon as she was old enough to take a job, not when the Wonderbolts had gotten that bad first impression of her, not even when Fluttershy called off their engagement. The weight of the bleak future pressed down upon her shoulders, and the indomitable mare felt suddenly weary.

“Are… are me and my friends going to stay friends, at least?”

Truthsayer laughed.

“Why don’t you see for yourself?” he cackled, his alicorn alight as he touched it to Rainbow Dash’s forehead.

The catacombs vanished around Rainbow Dash, and the sneering face of Truthsayer as well, leaving the cerulean mare in a void. To call it darkness would have been inaccurate, because even the dark is substantial. Nothingness yawned before Rainbow, threatening to consume her, before it yielded to a much more welcoming and familiar sight: Ponyville.

At least, it used to be Ponyville. Most everything was twisted and contorted, as though some artsy abstract painter pony had decided that their portrait of the village needed a bit of sprucing-up. The streets were paved from some sort of checkerboard soapy material, and the Golden Oak Library was turned into crystal for some weird reason. A sign floating through the air read ZHOFRPH WR SRQBYLOOH. A herd of buffalo could be seen traipsing down a side street in frilly pink tutu skirts, and whatever ponies could be seen were in such a state of delirium that it was all they could do to drool at one another.

Just as Rainbow Dash was beginning to wonder where anypony of even passing sanity was, six ponies faded into view. It was herself, and her friends! She wanted to approach, but found herself frozen. It was just as well; that one story in the Daring Do fanmag made it clear that if the same pony was in two different spaces at the same time, and that pony met themselves, their entire front halves would explode and the universe would end. But as the half-dozen mares came into greater clarity, Rainbow Dash felt something heavy forming in her throat at their expressions.

Disgust.

Distaste.

Hate.

“Ah hope Ah never see any a’ y’all ever again!” snarled Applejack, stamping her hoof.

“Me too!” growled Fluttershy, looking more fierce than Rainbow could ever recall seeing.

“Fine!” snapped Pinkie Pie.

“That’s the one thing we’ll ever agree on,” hissed Rarity, eyes narrowed.

“It’s all settled, then,” said Twilight flatly, her alicorn glowing pink and the lavender Unicorn winking out to Maker-knew-where. The remaining five trotted off without taking a second glance back…

And the void claimed Ponyville, Rainbow Dash returning to the catacombs.

“No…” She took a step back from Truthsayer, who still definitely did not look like Discord, even with the lion’s paw or eagle’s claw. “Fluttershy… Pinkie Pie… It just can’t end like that…!”

“Well, don't look at me, the truth isn't easy,” shrugged Truthsayer as he stalked towards Rainbow Dash, “and it don't care if you get angry, sad, or queasy.”

Swirls of dying colors spiralled out from the center of each pupil, filling the totality of Rainbow’s vision as they peeled off from the rims of his irises…

“When all the truth does is make your heart ache,”

Truthsayer stood up on his hind legs, mismatched wings spreading out wide behind him as his grin spread impossibly wide…

You’ll find that a lie is easier to take!


“‘Lyin’’?” Applejack asked skeptically. “Now Ah’ll admit that that was a mighty tall tale comin’ from Rainbow Dash, but a liar?”

“Dashie doesn’t lie; she’s just brutally honest~” Pinkie said abruptly, coming to an abrupt halt from her darting to and fro about below the vaulted ceiling of the antechamber to speak her piece before returning to her Whee~~-ful soaring.

“But what other explanation can there be?” said Twilight. “Discord has nothing to lose and everything to gain from keeping us from being able to use the Elements of Harmony. He must’ve done something to Rainbow Dash when we’d lost sight of her…”

“What are you even talking about, Twilight?” snapped Rainbow, eyebrows knitting together. “Discord didn’t do a thing to me; I practically gelded him to get this baby back! Him and his parents, to boot!”

Twilight arched an eyebrow, “Funny, you didn’t mention his parents before. Was this before or after the Wonderbolts got creamed?”

Rainbow opened her mouth to retort, but the High Eyries around them began to quake. Dust and miniscule fragments of stone shook loose from the domed ceiling and settled among the seven standing (or floating, in Pinkie’s case).

“Oh no…” gasped Fluttershy. “Is Commander Hurricane coming back?”

Cracks appeared in the stony dome above, and larger rocks fell free. Spike gave a yelp as he narrowly avoided having his skull crushed.

“I don’t think so; the dead can’t affect the living world like this,” Twilight mused.

“Uhhh, Twilight,” Applejack cut in, “just in case ya missed it, we kinda had a bit of a rendezvous with th’ undead just a minute ago.”

“I know, but Applejack, Rainbow’s already had an encounter with Discord (regardless of what she claims happened therein). These High Eyries are nowhere near any areas of significant tectonic activity so it stands to reason that…” She sighed. “Look, the point is: everypony, RUN!

As soon the word had left Twilight’s mouth, the herding instinct kicked in in the small band, and the lot of them darted up the passage from which they had entered. The tremors intensified, dark fissures splitting the floor and walls and ceiling and making the otherwise straightforward path onto the starlit cliff-face rather more perilous. Falling stone or collapsing wall impeded their full gallops, but Pinkie Pie proved more able to maneuver around with her new wings. Applejack proved that not all of her strength came in Earth Pony magic by bum-rushing through a fallen rock or two, clearing the path for the rest of her galloping band.

The terra-cotta rank-and-file trembled but stood firm in the face of the boulders that fell from the mountainside above, even as some were claimed by the plummeting stones. Twilight found herself thanking her lucky stars that the seven of them made it out of the tunnel when they did, for mere moments later a great avalanche came crashing down behind them and buried the entrance.

But there still remained a very important question, voiced by Rarity in a shrill shout:

“How in Equestria are we to get back down…?”

Truth be told, the answer eluded Twilight Sparkle. Winking out was impossible, as she was now an Earth Pony and incapable of utilizing her Unicorn magic. And even if either Rainbow Dash or Fluttershy could manifest some semblance of Unicorn magic themselves, there was no chance that either would learn how to wink themselves down to the Pie Family Rock Farm, never mind their entire band…

“Quick, everypony, hop on!

Pinkie’s voice rang out far keener than anything should have in light of the escalating avalanche behind and around them. Looking off in the direction of where her friend’s voice had come from, Twilight gaped.

Pinkie was gigantic, huddled against the ground over a spot where several columns of terra-cotta Pegasi had been felled, wings spread wide for a speedy boarding and a quick take-off.

Under ordinary circumstances, Twilight Sparkle would most likely have blown a figurative gasket at this latest in Pinkie Pie’s flagrant disregard for so many laws of physics and thermodynamics. As it was, however, the drive to survive overrode any attempts at reaching for rationality.

“Goodness, Miss Pie, your plumage feels rather ill-kept up here…!” mused Rarity, trying to keep a level voice as she took her position on the over-sized pink Pegasus’s back.

“Sorry, Rarie, haven’t had any downy-ness on my back before, so I haven’t had the time to preen it up for anypony,” Pinkie said with a sad smile. Then she giggled, “‘Shy, Dashie, that spot tickles~!”

“No time to stay still, we gotta take off now!” Fluttershy squeaked in terror, her hind legs kicking frantically.

Rainbow Dash sneered, “Oh come on guys, we can take this on, just like we took on Discord together! Oh come on, you can’t tell me that you don’t remember that!” she snapped, upon seeing the incredulous and disbelieving expressions on her companions’ faces. “I mean, you guys didn’t help me out at all, but there’s no way you could’ve possibly forgotten how awesome I was when I took out that sword and took his head off!”

Spike glanced up at the mountain up above. The difference between starlit sky and mountainside was miniscule, but the silhouette of the latter could be discerned with enough of a squint. Large chunks of mountain fell away from either side, and there was a faint orangish glow from spreading fissures along its surface…

Pinkie lifted off from the cliff-face and with wide-spread wings began to glide down from the High Eyries. Just in time, it would seem, because the mountain-peak split asunder and a torrent of blazing lava burbled out from summit and fissure. What graven figures of Pegasi remained were quickly swept away from the cliff-face by the rushing eruption, the zig-zagging path the seven had used to scale up to the High Eyries being completely smothered beneath the lavafall.

Holding onto Pinkie’s back proved to be rather treacherous; this wasn’t like when she’d hoisted them all out of the water onto a Pundamilian beach. With a much larger mass to grasp onto, the odds of losing one’s grip would have seemed a matter of inevitability. But to Twilight’s mixed relief and befuddlement, a sort of fuzzy static kept the six of them firmly affixed to the over-large pink Pegasus’s back.

“What in the name a’ Queen Celestia’s happenin’…?” Applejack gasped, glancing back at the lava spewing forth from the mountainside.

“Must be the beast Lavan giving me a super-awesome send-off for having single-hoofedly taken down Discord’s monopoly on his magma shares!” Rainbow asserted.

“Dashie, please… just stop!” cried Fluttershy, her expression pained. “You know that that’s not true!”

“Oh knock it off, sweet-cheeks,” the cerulean Unicorn replied lasciviously. “You got so excited about me and how awesome I was to shrug off all that lava, that you took back that dropped engagement of yours and threw yourself all over me!”

Fluttershy’s jaw twitched, and her pupils constricted as her eyes widened madly at her ex-fiancée.

“Discord, you feather-flipping canary-killer! You get out of Rainbow Dash this minute, or so help me, you’re going to wish that you stayed encased in stone, because when I break your jaw, it will at least stay attached!”

“Whooo, Fluttershy, turn the boiler down a bit back there, I think you’re kinda singin’ my feathers a bit~” said Pinkie, her voice making her entire barrel rumble.

“Look!” Rarity cried, pointing down through a gap in Pinkie’s frizzly mane. “There’s the rock farm!”

“Okie-dokie-lokie, a dive-bomb it is~” squealed Pinkie.

“Wait what―?”

If it were not for the magical magnetism affixing the band to Pinkie’s back, they would all have been hurled off the instant that Pinkie drew her wings in and straightened out for a direct dive upon her family home, like an arrow upon a target. Twilight’s scream was barely heard over Rarity’s, but itself easily drowned out Fluttershy’s.


Limestone couldn’t help but to curse under her breath. While this would not have seemed out of her character, as she was wont to indulge in more colorful language than any of the rest of her family, the fact remained that she swore because she was worried sick.

As much as she pretended otherwise, and as cross as she could be with them, and as much as they wound her up with how high-maintenance they could be, she loved her sisters dearly. Maud, with her absolute adoration of anything related to geology; Pinkamena, with her uncanny ability to do whatever it took, even breaking the laws of thermodynamics, to elicit a smile from somepony; and Marble, with her sweetness and demure charm hidden behind her reluctance to speak…

And now, so soon after returning to the Rock Farm, Pinkamena had to go and make Limestone worry so much by running off to that Maker-forsaken cliff-face anypony in Holderton knew that to approach it was suicide!

Limestone gasped, which quickly turned into a surly growl. She felt a cold wetness under her green eye, her beige eye following suit barely a moment later. A feeling as if the world were trembling beneath her became apparent, as though to impress upon Limestone how little she could do to help her little sister at the moment.

“Damnit, Pinkie, why are you making me worry so much…?”

Her ears twitched; it sounded to Limestone as if there were some sort of disturbance out near the west field, like several someponies were bumping into one another. Was some group of ne’er-do-wells out to steal their rocks and boulders…?

But when Limestone kicked open the door and prepared to take in a deep breath to bellow at the top of her lungs for whichever trespassing party it was to make themselves scarce, she saw that it was Pinkie and her group of friends!

…At least, they looked almost exactly like them. But, Limestone was fairly certain that her little sister didn’t have wings, and that that ‘Applejack’ mare was not a Pegasus. The High Eyries were a fell and dangerous place, but what in the world could have possibly happened up there?

As it was, best to be sure that they were all alright…

“Pinkamena Pie!” Limestone shouted, stomping up towards the fallen mares (and drake). “What were you thinking, making us worry like―?”

The eldest Pie daughter stopped herself when the tremors she’d felt inside and dismissed as being inside her own mind began to intensify, along with a hellish orange glow from up at the cliff-faces that dimmed the light of the stars and nebulae. And beyond, numberless shapeless forms floated into the air the way that only clouds did…

“What in name of Holder Cobblestone…?” mused Igneous Rock, appearing at the door behind Limestone with his wife.

“The fault line remains unperturbed,” Maud said, looking out past her parents at the potent offender near to the quarry. “I don’t understand what could be causing this.”

“Marble,” ordered Cloudy Quartz, her mane having fallen out of its tight-knit bun for the comfort of sleep, “thou shalt help Limestone bring Pinkamena and her friends in.”

“Mhm,” answered the youngest Pie daughter, sliding between her parents to reach her eldest sister.

“It’s alright, Mrs. Pie,” groaned Applejack, standing slowly. “We cin handle ourselves fer now.”

“Regardless of the fact that that ruffian Discord has switched our races all around…” lamented Rarity, her lack of horn giving the impression that she was a particularly stick-skinny Earth Pony.

“He even made me into an Alicorn,” Rainbow Dash said proudly, “but I didn’t need to be transformed into an Alicorn in order to beat him!”

“Ohh, just… shut up, Rainbow Dash!” snapped Fluttershy, her mane flying about as she thrust herself at the cerulean mare. “You had to go and get your head twisted around, and now you’re going to break Fluttershy’s heart because she can’t stand to see you like this―!”

A great rumbling roar interrupted the normally timid pony’s tirade, and the mountain of the High Eyries almost literally exploded with the force of the magma within. The sky lit up red as a chain of fissures down the mountainside spewed forth lava that was heading straight for them…!

Twilight Sparkle shot to her hooves, “Oh no… Not after we’ve just gotten the Element of Honesty back! We can’t be buried in lava like the ancient town of Pommelpeii…!”

“Noooo…!” cried Pinkie, burying her head in forehooves and wings. “I can’t make parties to make ponies happy if I’m in a lava-bath…!”

Three dull blurs shot past the band as lightning crackled about in the sky, revealing the forms of Limestone, Maud, and Marble Pie, each of their faces creased into intense expressions. The three came to a halt in almost perfect unison as they reared up, Limestone bringing her forehooves down with such force that the stony ground cracked, a beige light surrounding her fetlocks. Chunks of rock ripped themselves out of the earth, enshrouded in that same light, before hurtling upwards to intercept the lava. As each great stone made contact, the lava seemed to disappear, apparently immediately cooling to a solid as soon as touching Limestone’s hurled rocks.

Maud brought down a single forehoof shining with a light-turquoise aura, the lava itself that had already hit the ground sweeping itself aside from the path and the rock farm into a single blob of glowing-red liquid stone. A channel carved itself out from beneath the lava-stream, ostensibly to allow for safer jumps across the continuing lava-flow.

Marble came down from her rear rather more timidly, the stone beneath the lava-blob of Maud’s making giving way to a perfectly circular depression which contained the lava, harmlessly away from any paths leading to or about the rock farm.

Twilight gaped. The marvel of Earth Pony magic never ceased to amaze her. It was far too easy to look at any of the three pony races, and assume that the Earth Ponies were the weakest because of their lacking of either horn or wing. But there was a reason that the Earth Chancellery had endured so long against the Unicorn Kingdom and the Pegasus Empire, and it was not because Chancellor Puddinghead was too insane to deal with.

Well, not entirely.

Maud tapped her other forehoof, and a wall of rock erected itself along the side of the path leading back to Holderton, deflecting any further running lava towards the fresh lava-pit.

Then she faced her elder sister.

“Care to join me in a late-night rock bath?”

Limestone rolled her eyes.

“Maudstone, it’s lava. Molten. Frickin’. Lava.”

Maud blinked. Slowly.

“It’s liquid rock. How often does such a situation present itself?”

But Limestone was undeterred, and Twilight watched with her mind still numbed by awe as Maud strode casually towards the pit of lava, her bare hooves treading across the semi-molten earth, the hardening lava that had barely a glow about it, before she set first her forehooves, then her hind hooves, into the circular pool of lava…

Before dunking her entire form beneath the molten surface.

The exact moment that Maud Pie had completely vanished below the lava, Twilight Sparkle’s mind caught up with her surroundings, and she snapped.

“Pinkie Pie, your sister, she just… nopony can… lava’s too… Your sister killed herself in lava!

But Pinkie just giggled behind a perfectly round forehoof.

“Oh Twilight, you silly filly! Maud really loves rocks~”

“I DON’T CARE HOW MUCH SHE LOVES ROCKS, THAT’S NOT GOING TO STOP HER FROM―!”

The sound of lava sloshing about cut off Twilight’s tirade with surprising effectiveness, and Twilight turned boggling eyes upon the source of the sound. Almost totally expecting to spot a burnt pony skeleton emerging from the pool of lava, Twilight gaped at the sight of Maud Pie, completely unharmed, minute volcanic crystals caught in her mane and coat and on the ends of her eyelashes. Her eyes were closed, and as the lava slowly sloughed down her back, a look of serenity crossed her face.

Spike crossed his forelimbs and raised an eyebrow at his surrogate caretaker, “Feeling kinda silly right about now, Twilight?”

Twilight barely registered the mulberry drake’s remark, as dismissive and cutting as it was. Just as she thought she’d made a full reckoning about the capabilities of Earth Ponies, something new cropped up and sent her reeling.

Maud’s eyes slowly slid open, and she addressed the gawking band.

“Dragons’ scales are capable of withstanding temperatures of dozen-and-six-gross degrees. Molten lava is only dozen-and-one-gross degrees. You’re more than welcome to join, little dragon. The lava has rejuvenative properties for dragons and Earth Ponies alike.”

Perking up immediately, Spike strode off to join the large gray mare without even asking for Twilight’s permission. For what it was worth, Twilight yearned to scold her ward for refusing to acknowledge her authority over such a reasonable statement as she’d made on the cliffs.

But, Twilight thought to herself as Spike slid down the side of the circular depression and joined Maud down in the lava, Spike wouldn’t see it as reasonable, would he? He had such a crush on Rarity, that he must have half-thought he was in love with her. I… I can’t fall in love… can’t I?… so I couldn’t understand how much it hurt, what I’d said.

Casting a glance to Applejack, Twilight tried to communicate with just a glance the hurt that she was nursing. The palomino Pegasus returned her gaze, the dim reddish glow of the lava turning her green eyes brown, but failing to mask the sympathy and the vicarious sorrow that the apple-farmer bore.

“Pinkamena, how in the name of granite didst thee and thy friends return so swiftly?” Igneous Rock asked wondrously.

“It was easy; we flew~”

Cloudy Quartz blinked blearily behind her glasses, “Pray tell thy mother & father what the true meaning of this is. Is it connected to thy new pair of wings?”

Pinkie giggled, spreading her wings to their fullest span.

“Yup, that it was. Bad ol’ Dizzy switched our races all around and I was even a Unicorn for a little while, and I was shooting confetti and streamers and stuff from my horn like pew, pew, pew~, but then when Dashie here came back with her Element of Honesty we got all switched around again and I got to have wings just like my Granny Pie, and then―!”

“And then you went big,” droned Twilight, ears going slack and her tail swishing irritatedly, her eyes wide. “What − what is wrong with you Pies? Everypony else is left magically gelded because of Discord’s swapping of all our races, except for Pinkie, who could use her alicorn as if she were a Unicorn her whole life, and her wings not six seconds later! And, she increased in size to fly us all down from those cliffs, even though I’m reasonably sure that she’s not a Burgeoning Earth Pony! And now, I’m looking at her elder sister, swimming about in a pool of lava like it was just a cool lake in spring!”

“Lay off my little sisters, purple!” snarled Limestone, blade-shaped eyebrow arched up over her green eye. “Maud’s got the toughness to stand the lava without even breaking a sweat! And Pinkie, she’s our special little Pie, so don’t think that you can question what she’s capable of doing when it comes to helping her friends and family!”

Twilight withdrew, suddenly feeling almost microscopic under the gaze of that evil eye of Limestone Pie’s, even if the Pies’ firstborn was barely much larger than she was.

“I’m sorry, Miss Pie,” Twilight said meekly. “I’ve… had a bit of an ordeal with this before, but whenever I feel like I’ve gotten Pinkie figured, something new happens and…” Her eye twitched. “Why can’t everything just be perfectly orderly and logical?!”

Limestone cast a glance at her youngest sister, “Got a bit of a stick up her rear, don’t she?”

Marble hesitantly gazed at Twilight from behind her mane, before nodding slowly, “Mhm.”

“Well, regardless of the orderliness of these proceedings,” Rarity said wearily, “I must say I’m quite overwhelmed at the moment. So much energy being forced into me while I was a Pegasus in the High Eyries, then having it drained with interest when I became an Earth Pony… I have never needed my fainting couch more in my life!”

Limestone blinked, “Your… ‘fainting couch’?”

Rarity turned to the bluish-gray mare, “Whenever I have worked myself to exhaustion on any given orders for dresses or saddles of any sort, I simply must call upon my most comfortable chaise lounge.”

“But, ya only have one chase lounge, Rare,” interjected Applejack.

“It is chaise lounge, Applejack,” Rarity replied with a brittle tone, “and I’ll have you know that that fainting couch has served me well through many stressful tribulations.”

“Well then,” asked Discord, poking his head out from the frizzing curls at the end of Rarity’s mane, “maybe it wouldn’t hurt to be able to call upon it at your leisure, now would it~?”

Everypony screamed in alarm, the Pies especially loudly, as they had not seen such a feat before. Maud was the only one who remained silent, not even flinching as lava splashed in her face from Spike causing a splash in shock.

“Stop doing that, Discord!” Twilight shouted, stomping a forehoof.

“Ohhh do pardon me, I was never given a proper lesson in etiquette and introductions,” growled the draconequus, crossing his forelimbs sourly as he returned to full size. Espying the Pie family, Discord suddenly lost all semblance of bitterness and beamed brightly… literally. Beams of light like spotlights emitted from his irises and pupils and caught Pinkie’s parents and sisters in his gaze.

“Speaking of introductions, I spy some little ponies who have not had the privilege of being told my backstory~”

The beams of light picked up Igneous, Cloudy, Limestone, and Marble like great hands, setting the four down into an opera box on the side of their house that everypony was fairly certain had not existed at the start of this sentence.

Discord cleared his throat. A spotlight shone down on him from up above, a most pompous and tacky theater dress appearing on him as quick as blinking.

He took a deep breath…

“Keep yer trap shut, Discord!” snapped Applejack. “We already dun heard yer so-called sob story!”

The palomino’s lips became either end to a zipper, a pull-tab roughly drawing her mouth shut. Discord’s claw-tips came apart, as if he’d personally drawn the zipper shut.

“No interruptions during the recitation,” he snarled darkly. “There’s a reason you can find eruption inside interruption; if they cut you off, you put them in a volcano!”

He clacked his cane against the ground, a sound like a bouncing spring ringing out.

“Now then, with that out of the way, in the shadow of my soon-to-be-completed fortress, I will tell you… how I became what I am!”

Spraying some perfume into his mouth, Discord brought up the cane which was suddenly a microphone, inhaled slowly…

“So a long, long time ago, I was known by a different name than I am now. Perhaps you may have heard of it, if you’ve ever opened up a book in your life. I crafted at least two-hundred-eighty-eight spells over the course of my life as a simple Unicorn from the North. It was my very special talent to plumb the deepest depths of our magical nature…”

Discord pulled off his monocle and wiped it off on a hoofkerchief held in a third arm, both of which had appeared as he needed them, for dramatic effect.

“Just to spell it out for anyone who hasn’t put two and two together yet, I was once Star Swirl the Bearded.”

A snort cut through the tense atmosphere, a laugh that was hastily disguised as a cough. Twilight had covered her mouth with her pastern, the creases under her eyes betraying the smile she wore. It evaporated almost instantly under the withering glare that Discord leveled at her.

“Well?” he hissed. “Care to explain what you find so amusing?”

“I’m sorry, but…” Twilight’s tense and wide-eyed look laxed into a silent snicker. “But you just can’t be Star Swirl the Bearded.”

“Ohh? And, why not, pray tell?”

“Well, it just doesn’t make sense, for starters, because―”

Twilight felt suddenly quite tongue-tied, and she felt as though she were involuntarily regurgitating something. Looking down at the something which was poking out of her mouth, she saw that it was Discord, still in his obnoxiously ostentatious outfit, wearing a triumphant expression.

“Well, there you have it. It doesn’t make sense, ergo it’s the only answer that makes sense about me.”

Light filled Twilight’s vision, and Discord returned to his place in the spotlight.

“Now, as I was saying, I, when I was Star Swirl the Bearded, that is, I studied so many different branches of magic, like… you know, that bit with the magic things and the, you know, the ley lines and such? It’s all kind of a blur to me. But then again, after what I’d learned, you’d probably understand exactly why it all became a bit of a blur to me.

“You see, everything changed for me when I wrote the omniomorphic spell.”

“The amniomorphic spell!” snapped Twilight. “Amniomorphic! With an ‘A’? If you’re going to bluff about your so-called backstory, at least get all your facts―!”

Her mouth kept moving, but no sound came out. Inhaling sharply, Twilight continued trying to speak, to no avail.

“Well, forgive me for expecting a mare who lives in a library to know the difference between ‘A’ and ‘O’,” Discord snapped. “Anyways, the omniomorphic spell let me freely transform any part of any creature into something else. The idea, I suppose, of poor old Star Swirl the Bearded, was to allow me to experience the world from the perspective of any other creature, how they touched magic. And so, as I morphed myself into more and more and more creatures, my personal knowledge of magic expanded… too much, it would seem, for my small pony mind. I suppose you could say that I ended up going completely bonkers.

“But I knew more about magic than anyone else who’d ever lived. I meant to share my knowledge of magic with all of Equestria, but all those little ponies just couldn’t stand the sight of me…! Well, I figured, if Equestria wouldn’t care for a lecture, then maybe they’d prefer a practical demonstration!

“Of course, it didn’t take long at all before these two pony mares showed up to me: my ex-fillyfriend and her little sister. Ohh I’m sure you know who they are~! She got so cross with me for wanting to share the true meaning of magic with Equestria that she pulled my right hoof out! Seriously, that was my last real connection to being a pony. It really didn’t do me much good, as you can imagine, but before you know it… poof, I’m trapped in a stone statue for centuries. So tell me, who’s the bad guy here: The guy trying to advance knowledge of the magics, or the divine figures who are trying to keep ponykind in the dark ages?”

Silence answered the draconequus, who stroked his goatee with an impatient look.

“Well… color me quite underwhelmed,” he grumbled, turning a quite powerful shade of underwhelmment.

“Knowledge is indeed power,” said a very dark and level voice. Maud Pie approached with Spike sitting side-saddle on her back, a light coating of volcanic glass crackling across her coat every time she moved. “But, with that raw knowledge must come the tempering of a calm temperament, a level mind. Only then, can the real cornerstone of a smarter future be set down.”

Discord rolled his eyes so hard that they fell out of his skull.

“Oh gracious, you’re just far too stolid for my tastes,” he growled. “You need to learn how to rock~!

He snapped his fingers, and in an instant Maud’s utterly plain and lank mane and tail frazzled themselves into a much more rockin’ and awesome style. When set against her dour expression, it was actually somewhat comical.

The secondborn Pie looked up at her mane.

“This doesn’t suit my style at all. I much prefer to keep it cut perfectly neat and tidy, so that I can really PARTY HARD!

The change was astonishing in its suddenness. Maud Pie’s face exploded with emotion, her stiff body language immediately being betrayed by a sharp head-bang and unabashedly violent buck, sending Spike flying. Twilight caught the flung drake mid-air in her dwimmer shimmer… or would have, if she’d had her horn still. As it was, he landed in front of the lavender Earth Pony dejectedly. Volcanic glass tinkled off of his hide as he avoided looking at Twilight.

“NOOOO, MAAAAUD!”

Pinkie’s shriek sounded far harsher than anything that anypony present had ever heard out of the pink pony’s mouth. She flew to her sister’s side − figuratively or literally, a difference couldn’t be told − and leapt up to grab Maud’s face.

“Please Maud no, this isn’t like you! I can’t read your expression at all!

Maud gave a wide irreverent grin, nightmare-may-care joy bursting from her face.

“Who cares about reading, little sis? What we gotta do is rock till the sun comes up, and then from dusk till dawn~!

Pinkie began to sweat, a worried smile crossing her face.

“Ohhh, I get it Maud! A rock concert, because of rocks, right~?”

Fury blazed from Maud’s eyes, practically throwing Pinkie to the ground.

“Rocks…? Rocks?! I HATE ROCKS! DON’T YOU DARE MENTION ROCKS AROUND ME AGAIN, YOU LITTLE PINK POSER!”

Pinkie shifted from pink to blue as quickly as a candle being snuffed out, her mane and tail unfrizzing as she gazed up at Maud with unbelieving eyes.

“Maud… no…”

“Mm-mm,” Marble shook her head vigorously. “Mm-mm, mm-mm, mm-mm, mm-mm!”

You…!

Fluttershy approached Maud-the-Rocker with the same degree of fury as she had the hemolupe on the Wide Plains. She tossed her head so that her forelock did not cover one of her eyes, and Twilight gave a double-take. Fluttershy was presently a Unicorn, but did she have…?

“You!” Fluttershy growled again. “Don’t you dare yell at Pinkie Pie! Even if you’re her sister, I won’t let you get away with this!”

Maud scoffed at the yellow Unicorn, “It’s none of your business how I treat my little sister.”

“It is, when she’s one of Fluttershy’s dearest friends!” shouted Fluttershy… or, was it another mare, speaking through Fluttershy? “I couldn’t stand to feel Fluttershy feeling so sad for Pinkie, so I’m here now to teach you a lesson!”

“Oh yeah? And what could you do to me with those little horns of yours…?”

I… Wait. Horns?” Fluttershy’s entire demeanor relaxed immediately, her cyan eyes looking up to the singular alicorn just at the base of her forelock… and then to either side, at the pointed bony nubs just in front of either ear, like a calf’s on the cusp of maturity.

“Fluttershy’s… growin’ horns…?” wondered Applejack.

“It’s a gift!” beamed Rainbow Dash, “From when I saved the Minotaurs from Discord with my first-ever Sonic Rainboom! I couldn’t be with the Minotaur Prince, but he gave horns to Fluttershy because he knew that our love was true!”

Discord laughed out loud, spilling half off his tub of popcorn.

“Ohh come on, Shutterfly, don’t stop now. It was just getting good~!”

Fluttershy turned her gaze upon Discord, pupils constricting to quill-points as they locked onto the draconequus’s muzzle.

“You’re the one who did this to Fluttershy! So, you’re the one who’s gonna fix it for her, or else I’ll…!”

She lunged at Discord, but he vanished into a cloud of Discord-colored smoke with a high laugh. Fluttershy swiped her hooves to and fro through the dispersing smoke, gnashing her teeth and shouting. In a matter of moments, though, her energy had been spent, and she collapsed into a shaky pile, burying her face in her forehooves. And if Twilight’s eyes were not deceiving her, then it seemed as though her horns had grown half an inch longer, maybe a shade thicker as well…


Licking their wounds and gathering their wits, the Pie family and their guests retired to the living room of the main homestead. Maud was detained for some seconds to ensure that she didn’t “track lava into the house”, and after a short outburst on her part regarding her everlasting hatred of all things related to geology, the party of eleven ponies and one drake had come to settle in various corners of the slate-colored room.

“I’m really not tired, I swear!” snapped Maud, fighting the pressing of her sisters onto a couch that was made from slabs of rock. “And I’m not gonna fall asleep on some stupid rocks! I swear, if you make me lay down on these slabs of stone, I’m gonna―!”

Whatever the Earth Pony planned to threaten was lost, for as soon as she made contact with the slab-couch, she began to snore at the top of her lungs, her eyes slamming shut and her posture relaxing sharply.

Now that they’d entered an environment of proper lighting, Twilight could see that Discord’s effect had on both Rainbow Dash and Maud Pie. She’d ascertained that Rainbow Dash’s color was off when she came back with her Element of Honesty, and it seemed as though some of her color had been washed away. It was as though a grayscale filter had fallen over the ex-Pegasus in Twilight’s eyes. It was difficult to say whether the same was with Maud at a single glance, but judging from the duller-than-usual shade of her frazzled mane and tail…

“Oh, what I wouldn’t give for my fainting couch right now…!” Rarity lamented. “After our ordeals up there, why, I feel as though I shall collapse where I stand!”

The alabaster ex-Unicorn flumped over to her side, apparently making good on her word… and rather than the hard wooden floor, felt a very familiar plush softness. Blinking, Rarity gaped in astonishment, along with most everypony else in the room, at the richly overdyed red chaise lounge which had popped into existence mere microseconds before Rarity would have hit the floor.

“M − my fainting couch! But, what… how did it… how could even…?”

At which point, Rarity Belle fainted for real.

The moment that her head hit the cushion, a puff of pink smoke emblazoned with the words ‘POOF!’ appeared overhead, producing a small scrap of parchment that fluttered down in front of Twilight Sparkle’s face. She read it:

A little gift to one of B̿̊͏̧͇͖̜͔̱͉̮͓̖̝̻͖̱͚̋͑̋̄͆̽̀̊̒̃̄͊̓̊̄̈́̽̋͆̄̑́̂́́͋̃̆͘̕̕͘͝͝͠͠͝͠W̸̐̍̿͘҉̅͊͏̛̹͉̫͉̣͇̥͍̘̟͙͇͉̳͕̺̺̉̆͋̓̐̈̔̾̾̇̇͋̉̾͆̾̍̌̈̅͐̈́̔̓́̿̊͌͐͘̚͘̕͝͝Z̴̢͓̩̬̮͉͕̩̣̘͇̘̣̣̍̌̆̅̇͗̋̌̓̈́̽̾͊͂̎͂̾̾́̅̀̒̒̾̋̍͛́̐̆̇̍̈́̆͞R̴̷̡̛͂͛͂̃̍̄̓̏͡͠͏͕͈̳̗̱͑̃̽̈́̉̿̅͊̇͋͠͝I̋̈́҉͋̓͛̍̓̀͋̾͢͝͝͏̛̮̝̱̲̹̫̤̮̬̲̣͍̦͓͎̄̆̓͐̈̆͊̌̾̒̊̌͒͒̄̂́͑̑̇̂̋͐̏̊̕͘̕̕͠͠Ứ̶̢̛̛̭̹̠͎̝̦̹̮͈̥̦͔͚̞͚̭̭͒́͋̓͑̇́͒͊̎̀̂́̈́̍́̆͗͋̾̈́̍̈́̿̄̎̄̔́̀͑̃͘̚͘͠L̸̮̖̮̦̫͉̮͍̰̺̘̟̫͉̆̊͐̈́̃͌͗̇̑̈́̋͊̈̊̽̏͋͒̋̋̄͗̈́́́͘͠͝͠͝͠͝W̴̶̦̟̘̱̼̼̱̯͔͉͓̳̱͎͙͐̽́̌͒̀̌̂̒̔̃͌̊̇͗̈̔̓̏͛̀̾̅̿̒̈́̊͑̅̃͗̆͗́̃̊̂̍̕͘̕͘͞͝͝Ç̵̧̛͕̠͇̘̣̹̻̳̘̫̖̩̻̩̠̳̗̱͌̅̐͆̔̾́̈́͂͌̒̿͂̌͒̄̀͌̌̃̈́̈́̌̂̓̃̌̓̍͛̇͊̇̉͒̑̄̉̃͌̚͘͘Ï̶̬͇̤͓̑͌̿̌͆̐̌̈́̅͗̈́̓͡͝G̨̝͍͔̲͓͔̐̒͗̐̿̏̄̅͋͂̾̈̑̌̿̐̽̄̂̉̕͝͠͡͝͞͝͠Y̴͎͉͓̜̙̩̥͇͍̥̼̟̖̟͈̊̇̀͋̀̌̉̎͋̀̀͑̈́̆̋̈́̌̏̌̾̐̇̅̓̓̑͑̊͌̊̉̑̆̂̀̽̔͌̓̋͊̇̐̍̕͟͝͡͝͠ͅͅ’s chosen bearers. I do hope that her ‘fainting couch’ will always come to her whenever she thinks of it~! Oh no, don’t bother thanking me; it’s always my pleasure to be ambiguously good or bad. You never know when you won’t need a fainting couch~~!

PS: Fine, you can have your voice back, Book Horse.

Twilight blinked her eyes rapidly at Discord’s note. For who else could have sent them such a missive? Part of it was illegible, almost seeming to bleed off and float in mid-air outside the edges of the parchment. But, leaning in towards the postscript…

“Did I read that right, girls?” she asked aloud.

Twilight blinked, flicking her ears.

Did she just…?

“You were reading it out loud the whole time, Twilight!” beamed Pinkie, looking up from her spot near the dozing Maud. “Bad ol’ Dizzy gave you your voice back! That’s so nice for him~”

Applejack cocked an eyebrow at the pink Pegasus. “Ya do realize that Discord ain’t a nice guy ta begin with?”

Pinkie’s eyebrows knitted together, “I said ‘That’s so nice, for him’, and that doesn’t mean that he usually does nice things. I just like calling him Dizzy ‘cause of how mixed-up he looks~”

“Oh you think Discord is mixed up?” interjected Rainbow Dash. “You really shoulda seen his parents, and his brothers and sisters! Man, just the… man, they were made of so many more creatures! But, none of them were a match for me on the warpath for my Element!”

“Please, Dashie…” whimpered Fluttershy, covering her head with her forehooves and hiccupping occasionally from her sobs. “Please… just, stop… I can’t take it… every time she comes out… my… my horns…”

Twilight looked down at the prone Unicorn… the term meaning ‘one-horned’ no longer being applicable in lieu of the burgeoning bull-horns in front of either ear.

“Fluttershy…” she began hesitantly. “I don’t mean to press, but didn’t you promise that you’d explain this… ‘she’ you keep speaking of?”

The yellow mare looked up from underneath her forelock, cyan eyes going red from tears.

“Twilight… please, you don’t want to know. I know I promised, but… You said I could take my time with letting it out.”

The lavender Earth Pony took a step back, her own words resonating in her head.

“Well… yes, of course. I’m sorry, Fluttershy. Whenever you feel up to speaking about it.”

“And… what I if I never feel like speaking about it?”

“That’s… that’s perfectly fine, too. I mean − all things considered − I’m not the best people-pony,” Twilight finally admitted, smiling meekly.

“Ah think what Twilight’s gittin’ at,” Applejack said, cutting in, “is that we’ll be there fer ya, regardless a’ whether ya feel like openin’ up ‘bout yer problems.”

Fluttershy wiped at her eyes and nose with a foreleg, slowly rising up and offering a demure smile to the palomino Pegasus.

“Thank you, Applejack. I… I think I’m ready to tell you about her.”

“Her?”

Rarity had recovered from her fainting spell, rubbing her eyes blearily. Her almond-shaped eyes were set upon the ex-Pegasus with sympathy.

“Yay, Rarity’s awake again~!” beamed Pinkie Pie, perching herself atop the backrest of the alabaster mare’s chaise-lounge.

“Yes, I am, thank you for your concern, Pinkie,” Rarity replied shortly, “but for now, I believe we should direct our concerns towards Fluttershy. Now, who is this ‘her’ and ‘she’ whom we’ve heard such ominous presentiments about?”

Fluttershy took a deep breath.

“There’s… there’s another Fluttershy. Only, she’s in my head.”

Twilight gasped, “Dissociative identity disorder?”

Rainbow Dash laughed at the lavender ex-Unicorn’s interjection.

“We don’t need any of your big-city thoroughbit words, Twilight. I mean, I never opened a book in my life, and look at me now! …Well, I mean, A.K. Yearling did publish some of my more humble exploits in certain little books you may have heard of. Does Daring Do ring a bell? Never read one of them, granted, but that’s ‘cause I lived them!”

“That’s enough silly little stories for now, Dashie!” Pinkie Pie half-shouted, half-sang, diving onto the cerulean Unicorn’s shoulders, clamping her forehooves over Rainbow Dash’s mouth. “That’s not the Rainbow Dash that I know and love…!”

“Thank you, Pinkie Pie,” Fluttershy said testily… or was it ‘the other Fluttershy’? After a moment to take a breath, the pale-yellow Unicorn continued in her usual soft tone,

“When I was growing up, my parents Warm Front and Posey… they hated each other. They fought all the time, screaming at each other any time the other one displeased them − which was almost every moment of any day. They… got mad at me and my brother whenever either of us were too loud… or too assertive… or too forceful. My brother, he was my only strength, but then… he ran away. That’s… that’s when Mom and Dad really started to put me down. And, then the other Fluttershy showed up.”

“Ya poor thing…” Applejack looked like she wanted to cry. “How did ya git outta that?”

Fluttershy bowed her head, trying to hide behind her mane as she usually did, but her new horns treacherously parted her forelock.

“It was after Dashie got kicked out of her parents’ home − ” The cerulean mare in question bucked mutinously under Pinkie but failed to dislodge her “ − and I had a really bad fight with Mom and Dad, and the other Fluttershy must have taken over, because the next thing I know I’m out at the Cloudsdale cloud-racetracks. Rainbow Dash was there, and she told me what had happened with her that day. We’d already been seeing each other a bit by then, and I’d been checking at home retailers during lunch-breaks at school and found a vacant plot for sale in Ponyville. I suggested to Dashie that we could move there together, and… well, we did. I took a job as animal caretaker to keep close to my beloved little critters and away from all the scary ponies, and Rainbow Dash became a weather-mare.”

Fluttershy looked about her friends to take in their reactions to her story. Once she saw that they wore wide-eyed looks of mingled fear and pity, she took a step back with flattened ears.

“Ohh, I didn’t realize how much I was talking. I’m so sorry…”

“You don’t need to apologize about anything, darling,” Rarity said, stepping off of the fainting couch and reaching out a hoof. “By all rights, you’ve been through a dreadful ordeal as a foal.”

“Did those sorry excuses for parents ever try to find you again?” Limestone growled, muzzle wrinkling up in distaste.

Fluttershy shook her head, “No… They didn’t. And, I never heard from my brother again, either. They must have thought I was too bad of a filly to bother finding again, especially after the other Fluttershy―”

“Mm-mm.”

As quiet as it was, Marble Pie’s dissent cut through the air like Queen Celestia’s heralded sun-bladed halberd. The imposing but withdrawn Earth Pony mare, tallest pony in the room, gazed down at Fluttershy with sympathy and shook her head sharply with another Mm-mm.

“Marble is correct,” nodded Cloudy Quartz. “Any parent that will not search for a runaway foal of theirs, regardless of where the fault lies, is no parent worth their salt-lick.”

“Much agreed, my wife,” Igneous said with a bow of his head. “Now, while we all are here, couldst somepony perhaps explain what has befallen Maudstone?”

“I… really can’t say,” Twilight replied lowly, “although it seems to be the same thing as Discord did to our friend Rainbow Dash. She’s been turned into a pathological teller of tall tales, and by all rights, your Maud’s been twisted around from a stoic lover of rocks, to a passionate lover of rock music.”

Cloudy Quartz brought a hoof up to her mouth, “Is there a way to reverse this, Twilight Sparkle?”

“Not to my knowledge,” she answered. “This is no hypnosis spell, because somepony who’s under hypnosis can’t be made to do something they either couldn’t or wouldn’t do on their own. You couldn’t hypnotize a painter into destroying her own magnum opus, for instance. And neither is this like any brainwashing spell I’ve ever read about.”

“But Ah thought’cha said that there weren’t no such thang as brainwashin’ spells,” Applejack queried.

“There is much in the way of spellwork that remains unknown to us,” Twilight said. “I still can’t understand how NightMare Moon worked hypnosis upon half the Royal Guard, but I think it safest to assume that that was the work of the Miasma. Discord, his hexcraft is a complete enigma to us. We have no idea how to unweave what he’s woven into Rainbow and Maud.

“And, even if I knew, I couldn’t do anything. You’ve seen what Discord’s done to us. I’m Unicorn without a horn, and an Earth Pony with none of the relative magic.”

“And I got wings like a Pegasus~” cried Pinkie, spreading wings and forelegs wide.

It only took a moment, but Rainbow Dash had bucked Pinkie Pie off her back, the pink Pegasus rebounding herself off the ceiling and sailing over to Marble, hovering beside her twin sister.

And then Rainbow Dash set off on her torrent of untruths.

“I was turned into an Alicorn by Discord, because he thought that he was setting it up to be a fair fight to stick me with a horn that I had no idea how to work. Heh… he really didn’t expect me to be a real whiz with this stupid doohickey here!” She flicked her prismatic forelock back to accentuate the presence of her anomalous alicorn. “He had to have ripped off my wings, like, eight times, but then I let him and his whole family tree know what was what! And you know what? The Wonderbolts were just so in awe of how awesome I was in getting my Element back that they tore off their own wings in commemoration! And then they called me Ghost-Wings Rainbow Dash, the One True Wonderbolt!”

Fluttershy had crouched down and covered her head in her forelegs, ears almost completely flat against her skull. Even from this short time contemplating the revelation that Fluttershy had a split personality, Twilight could sense two different body languages fighting for dominance of the ex-Pegasus’s body. One had more frightful and rapid gasping breaths, and the other longer and more ragged breaths. Twilight could only guess which one was the pony she’d known the past few months, but the fact presented itself that the ragged and furious breaths coincided with a minute growth in those two abominable horns by her ears…

“So, in short,” Twilight cut in with a sharp tone, “we’ve reclaimed the Element of Honesty, but in the process lost Rainbow Dash’s personal sense of honesty.”

“I dunno, I kinda think it’s a cool story, Twilight,” grumbled Spike, crossing his forelegs and offering a quick distasteful glance at Twilight.

“Twilight, darling,” Rarity asked gently, “is everything alright between you and Spike?”

“Oh sure, everything’s perfectly fine, Rarity, but what do you care?” the mulberry drake snapped, the shadow of a cry looming over his tone. “I mean, it’s not like Twilight thinks that things are gonna work out between us…!”

Applejack leaned down towards Spike, “Spike, tell us what happened. Did you an’ Twilight have a fallin’-out?”

Spike’s mouth opened and closed but made no noise as he glanced back and forth between Applejack and Twilight and Rarity, eyes darting between the latter two for several moments, before he darted off and out of the Pie living room. The clatter of his claws against the polished wooden stairs told them that he’d gone up to the room he’d been granted for their stay.

“Ah take it that that’s a ‘yes’, sugarcube?” Applejack offered a sympathetic look to her lavender friend.

Twilight nodded sadly.

“So, we can’t trust a word outta this one,” Limestone tilted her head irately towards the cerulean mare, “but what about that dragon-looking guy that twisted Maud’s head around all backwards? I don’t know about you six, but I don’t trust him as far as I could throw him.”

“None of us do,” said Rarity, eyes glancing up at the ceiling where Spike was, “because he’d spun us all a rather different tale as soon as we’d left earshot of the rock farm.”

“And also,” Twilight cut in, yearning for something, anything, to draw her mind away from her amanuensis-turned-son, “there’s no possible way that he could be Star Swirl the Bearded, aside from the obvious reason. While it’s true that Star Swirl the Bearded was a contemporary to the age of the United Tribes of Equestria, that was only possible because of the use of a time-travel spell.”

“Why?” asked Fluttershy, who had peeked back out once Rainbow Dash had piped down. “And how did…?”

“How did Star Swirl write that time-travel spell?” Twilight responded brightly. “I really don’t know, but it’s very fascinating! The history books made mention of a very unusual pony called ‘Star Swirl the Bearded’ who’d served as the mentor to Clover the Clever, who I think some of us would remember as a significant figure in Equestrian history.” She offered a glance to Marble Pie, who nodded shyly.

“Mhm.”

“But, how do we know that there weren’t two Star Swirls the Bearded? …s?” asked Applejack, looking nervous about her grammar.

“Well, it would be a very plausible theory… but, the fact of the matter is that the description of the two Star Swirls match perfectly, down to the bells on the brim of the hat, and also the distinctly luxurious quality of their beards. And also, Queen Celestia’s good friend Star Swirl had a very distinct coat and mane color, and that matches up with descriptions of Clover the Clever’s mentor, so the odds are far longer that there were two ponies named Star Swirl the Bearded at two different points in Equestrian history.”

“But why did Star Swirl the Bearded travel back in time in the first place?” Pinkie Pie asked, nuzzling in next to Maud on the rock-bed.

“Clover the Clever, at that point simply Clover, had a very particular mindset, a weariness of the stand-off between Cornucopia and the other two pony tribes, yet an open-heartedness that would allow for a bolder, more loving age. She had eyes of two different colors, though, a sign of bad luck among ponies in that day.” Twilight noticed Limestone grimace in her peripherals. “She would have been overlooked as a right-hoof mare to Princess Platinum, in favor of one more in line with the Princess’s staunch views. So, Clover had to train in some of the most advanced thaumaturgical arts of the time, work past the stigma of her mismatched eyes.

“If we only knew what was going through Clover’s head when that bearded, berobed figure appeared before her. When she learned that she would be taught the highest level of magic that a Unicorn could attain, though, she was positively beside herself. In short time, she was bedazzling the Court of Cornucopia with magic they’d never seen before. She was redubbed Clover the Clever and became a member of Princess Platinum’s inner circle, never leaving her side.

“Ohh, we can only wonder what would have happened to our history if Clover the Clever was not there with Smart Cookie and Prancing Pansy. With the fire of their friendship, Clover’s alicorn produced a fount of warm magic that banished the Windigoes to oblivion. It was around this magic that they drafted the Articles of the United Tribes, which Clover herself provided many points to.

“And none of that could have been possible, without Star Swirl the Bearded’s time-travel spell.”

“Whoa… That sounds like a dead useful bit a’ spellwork,” Applejack gaped. “How’d one get ta doin’ it?”

“Not terribly easy, as it’s apparently a specific weave of magical energy woven directly into a specially prepared piece of parchment, activated by a very specific incantation. If performed incorrectly, the results would be… undesirable.” Twilight shuddered. “As such, there were very few such time-travel scrolls produced. Officially, there are none that remain, but according to Queen Celestia herself, one or two might remain still. She wouldn’t say where, though, because time-travel is a matter of paramount national security. Nopony can guess what issues could arise from errant traveling through time.

“And, speaking of time,” Twilight turned her attention to Pinkie’s parents, “would it be too much to ask that we remain here while we decipher where the remaining Elements of Harmony are? It’s… not like we’re much safer here than anywhere else in Equestria.”

“Here?” asked Cloudy Quartz. “What has befallen Canterlot that would render it less safe than our rock farm?”

“Discord arose from out of Canterlot’s own Sculpture Garden, and if I had to guess, whatever he’s done to the North Equinus Mountains is going to have affected Canterlot as well. And other than that, it seems like Discord’s goals have been remarkably low-key compared to accounts of his reign so long ago. But, we don’t know exactly how the Age of Discord had begun, so we’ll need to remain on guard for any pony or, well, anything behaving in a nonsensical manner.”

Igneous shared a glance with his wife, before the both of them looked to Twilight once more.

“By mine honor as the son of Feldspar Granite Pie, I grant thee and thy company indefinite leave of our premises.”

Limestone growled, “If it was up to me, you lot would all be out on the doormat for what happened to Maud. That Discord guy wouldn’t have come here if it wasn’t for you. But, since Ma & Pa own the farm, my hooves are tied. Just, don’t get in the way of our jobs, and we should get along okay.”

“Also,” Twilight added, “if you have any books or ledgers or any reading material regarding the Cult of Pi, that would be―”

What does the Cult of Pi have to do with any of this?” Limestone hissed, eyes narrowed to beige-and-green slits. Twilight balked, but stood firm.

“Because I believe that knowledge of what brought the Cult of Pi here, here to this specific place at the edge of the Descort Fields, might be instrumental in our defeat of Discord.”

The bluish-gray mare’s face slackened, fury giving way to resignation.

“Very well,” said Igneous Rock. “If thou believest that it will help.”

Truth be told, I have absolutely no idea, Twilight admitted to herself, only nodding to the Pies. But any edge we can get over Discord is bound to be of assistance.


Unseen by anypony in the darkness of the new moon, the mountains of the North Equinus Range on either the east or west of Alicorn’s Peak left their earthly roots and floated like helium-filled bricks up to form a singular mass, miles above Canterlot…


ZXLNAEE DVL NHNDQJ JDTH BNZY LUL IBNGP

ZQL MAQPS OSA IDRWF KUD VGLA QYRMESQQ

XPF ZQL ZAAWEQKG ADHPC UY COTC UKF MJR ZA FIVXR

RU MQA YTDUYL AS HDRK, JSE UERTZY GOUACN RGUS

Author's Note:

…we’ve gott to stop meeting like thhis, my lovely readerrs. I mean, seeriously, I want to write this story, deemonstrate my authorshipp chops to the lot of yoou, spiin you a fannciful yarn… but somebody up tthere thoought it would be a real laugh if my externnal hard-drive dieed. You know, the hard-drive that I had everything on.
Oh don’t be so self-righteous. Everything dies eventually, my little author. Even dear B̨ͤͥͬͯͩ͂ͮ̓̾̑̔ͩͧͮ̆͑͛ͩ͆͞҉̫͍̻̹̠̬͈̞̤͕̣̖̭̟̲̘͔̝̦W̶̴̸̸̤͈̮̼̞̼̳̮̰̝̒ͩ͐̒ͪͮ̓̄͡ͅͅŻͦ̋̓ͭ̌̂ͭ͗͌͑̋̄ͨ͛̆͛̚͘͘͞҉͈͓̯̠͟Ṛ͙̬̯̠̗̲͖͆͑ͪ̚͠͠I̛̱̩͎̝͚̙̘͉̰̭̊̄ͣ̓̆ͩ́̈́̃̇̈̏ͅU̧̢̜̻̰̮̙̠̬̦̲̱͍̟̳̽ͪͭ̉͊͐̌̈́̾͒̏ͧ̈́ͅL̢͎̹͚̤̳͔̜͙͋ͪͥͮ̌ͦͧ̔̂̅ͤͥ͛̓̍͒̾͟͞W̛̒̇̔͊̔̇̈́̉̔ͯ̑ͧ҉҉̩͍̬̞̮̩̙̩̙̖͇͍C̢͙̼̹͙͇͉͚̼ͫ̾͛̀̊͒ͅI̶̢̧̲̹̪͙̘͇͙̱̣̬͗̎̑̌̉ͅG͂͑̒͆͊̇̃͏̟̳̩̪̻̀͠Y̴̴̘̖͓͕̭̖̒̒̽̿͒̂́̆̀̄̆̀̄̉̀̕’s beloved sun will burn itself out one day.
That’s no excuse to screw around with the author, even iff it suits your chaotic needs. …also, that wasn’t the same bleeding-letters effect as when you wrote oout Celestia’s real name in that fainting-couuch letterr.
pffft! You think that that’s something? Wait till you hear my real name~!
…oh no, you wouldn’t. You − oh dear Bonnie you are
Yes, I am~~~
…please avert your eyes, readers. And know that I love you all.



H̴̴̷̸̶̵̴̷̴̶̷̸̸̸̴̸̴̷̡̢̨̡̧̡̡̡̧̢̧̧̡̡̢̪̥͉̪̖̜̫̰͚̦̻͚͓͈͕̞͓̲̺͕̠͇̺̹̩̙̗̹̪͍̭͎̝͓͔̪̱̥͍̭͕̭̮̞̘͎̪̹̪͓̭̠̙̞̬̣͓͔̜̼̗̲̠͍̞̪̙͔̘̠͈͕̮̼̖̤͉̬͎̮̙̮̖̩̬̪̪̰̲̗̘̝̗̞̘͇̤͔̻̝͇̘̤͓̤͕̳̫̯̤͍̺̼̞͓̥̬̝͎̬̠̣̮͉͚̠̖̠͇̞̦̯̼̐̄̅̈́̄̋̇̀͘͘͜͢͜͟ͅͅͅͅͅͅG̷̴̷̷̷̷̷̵̶̶̸̸̴̨̧̡̨̢̢̢̨̡̺̗̱̲̟͔̘̖̖͓͙̯̬͉͖̹̞̼͚̫͙̣͎̥̗̹̥̻̪͕͇͚̼͓̦̘̰̳͔͇͖̘̱̻̜̙͎̺̲̪̭̟͙͙̬͙͖͎̗̥͇̺͉̻̤̱͇̥̙̭̦̼͙̠̙̲̖̲̘̖͙̦̘̦̳̦̱̞̳͈͖͙̝̮̘͇͎̻̤̙̼̯̫͙̟̣̜͎̠͓̠̔͆̊̋̓͜͜͟ͅK̸̴̵̴̶̵̷̷̵̶̶̴̴̵̷̵̢̨̡̨̨̧̡̡̨̧̡̨̡̨̨̖͎̻̳̫̰̠̳̤͉̮̬͇̳̪̤͔̭͉͔̼̭̣͓͇̦̥̩̮̹̗̤̥̘̯̪͇̘̰̪̞̦̦̭͖̹̙̯͇̲̫̹̝͎͇͈̣͈͍̙͇̪͖̬̯̣̙͇̣͇̩͇̠̯͓̗̝̲͙͇̭͕̬͎͙̯̺̥̭͇̭͇͍͔͔̬̩̜̗̬͍̺͕̮͇̩̫̥̪̘̻̱̩̰̭̠̟̣̣͚͍̝̫͇̲͛͌̔͌́̚̕̚͘͜͜͜͜͜͜ͅͅͅͅT̵̶̸̸̵̸̶̵̶̸̸̶̸̸̷̵̸̷̸̶̨̡̨̡̢̢̡̡̢̡̡̨̬̯͚̬̝̮̼̪̗̦̞̲̞̖̭̠͇̜̬̞̼͈̝̱̺̠̖̠͈͔̤͎̤͕̻̖͙̥̱̙̳̜̝̲̜̭͚͍̟͇̝̪͇̼̱̣͖̖͓͈͔͔͍̥̤͔̰͈̼͙̦̟̩̳͖̥̹͖̺̻̰̣͚̻̺͕̖̮̟͔̲̭̭̟̬̳̲̱̟̙̱͖̞̼̬̥̩̣̝̝̰̲̹͍̭̣̭̳̫̗͕̗̬̘̗̼̘̘̲̺̪̞̰̩̙̲̪̮̣͓̭̳̟̖̰̦̺̣̠̯͍̼̫̠͖̹̲̥͙͚͈̤͓̱͈̹̮̭̻̰͛͗̓̈̐̌̃́͘͜͜͜͜͜͜ͅͅM̵̶̶̵̶̵̶̵̷̴̸̶̷̷̴̵̷̡̢̧̧̨̧̡̧̨̧̡̨̨̨̨̡̧̭̹̼̯̠͚̬͉̘̺̳̖͉͓̖̳̩̲̹̱̖͔̬̤͚̪͓̥̻̱͓̹̱͓̤̟̙̠̦̘̫̣̲͙̗̬̙͕͚̪̼̟͚̙̩̫͖͔͕̗̻͖̠̙̰̮͎̝͔̥̭̬̙̬̘̪̗̜͇̺͓͕̟̱͈͎̠̪͖̠͕̙̘̣͓̜͚̼̰̪̭̦̠̝̦͉̹͉̟̖̹̞̤̝͔̤̪̱͉̭̻̣͔͈͔͎̙̩̯͉̗̺̰̬͍̙̜̫͚̳̤̺͌̓̈̓͘͜͡ͅͅͅJ̶̴̸̵̵̸̴̴̶̸̷̷̷̨̧̢̨̡̡̧̧̨̢̡̮͎̞̦̘̣̼̖̱͙̟͉͔̩̯͖͙͇͇̞̫̳̭͚͙͓̘̟͕̻̗͈̮̳̗̩̜̱̜̥̣̙̺͙̱͓̭̪̩̖̳̺̰̬͓͔̖͔̭͖̱̘̲̠̟̬̱̳̗̙̟̫̞̹̼̣̙͇̲̜̘̱͉͚̪͎̦̣̭̥̭͓̫͓̫͖͈̩̟̠̗̜͈̞̬̙̩̎̐͗̿̄͌͜͟͜ͅͅL̶̸̶̶̶̷̴̵̶̵̵̶̴̡̨̨̡̨̢̢̢̨̢̧̟͕̜̪̪̹̱̩͚̯̝̗͔̰̞̗͔͙̥͕̳̙͔̪̪͉͇̣̖̣̳͚̮͎̭̰̫͙̲̪̙̫̟̬͎̫͍̲̻͙̫͔̦̰͙̥̥͍̟͈̮͙̻͈͍̮̗͈̗͕͔̭̮̭̜̬̫͖̣̟̖͓̰͔̞̣̭̘͈̝͎̼͕̘̝̱̹̪̖͈̲̺̩͖͕̟̼̳̫̙̾̅̓͜͜͡͞ͅŲ̸̸̵̷̶̸̴̸̷̵̷̸̷̷̴̸̶̨̧̡̨̧̢̡̨̧̨̫̹͎̭̭̯̬͍̼̲̱͍͈̹̤̼̪͇̥̲̮̝̙̣͕̫̰̬̤͖̟̠̹̩͕̳͕͙̹̞̙͚͍͔̳̟̤̖̰̤̭̟̦͍̟͚̟͍͓͇͉̤̣̦̲͔̩̫̗̻̳̠͈̩̰̗͍̝̜̥̩̱̗̙̣̤̣̭̜͍̩̜͓̥͍̼͇̙̮͙̮̝͚̤̣͉͈̪͖̮̹̞̩̹͎̫͇͉̙̲̪̺̭̠͍͎̯͍͙̜̼̞̩̦̭̜̬̱͉͉͉̤͍̫̼̎̇͛̋̐̇̾́͜͜͜͝ͅW̴̸̵̵̴̶̸̸̸̵̸̶̶̷̨̡̧̡̨̢̨̢̡̨̡̧̡̢̡̛̻͕̘̺̖̞̻̳̭̟̩̯̥̯̫͎͎̝͇̪̪͓̺̰̫̜̪͙͙͈̹̟͍̰͉̣̖̟̩̘͓̘͔̟̦̠̺̪͚̖̲͔̼͕̼͇̻̞̫͓̻̥̜͉͚̞̫͍͔͇̝̹̞̤̱̯̺̰͚̮̼̲̼̼̪̮̞̞̙̬̲̩͍̼̣̙̝̥͍̥͉̰̖̪͓̦͎̲̗͇̪̤͕͉̤͉͚̆̚̚͜͞ͅƯ̴̷̵̷̵̶̷̸̷̷̸̷̵̵̵̶̡̨̧̢̨̡̨̨̧̢̡̨̧̢̢̙̗̫͇̥̤̱͎̹̻͇͖͖̘̖̖̥̭͖̺̤̦̻͖͎͇̱̬̲̰̮̜̝̙͓̗̰͔̪̤̜̫̺͍̙̙̣̠͕̞̤̬̙̤̲͍͚̼̤̜̱̞͚͖̘̮̫̗̻͕̞̰̘̗̗̜̙͓͓̭͇̲̗͎̲͚̺̪͇̻͎̩̜͖̤̖̣̞̜͖͓̣͈̼̦̦͇̟̪̖̯̝̮̤̫͖̩̮̞̬̞̥̣͓̣̯͙̦̖̽̈́̓̀̒̇̽̚͘͜͢͜ͅͅK̵̷̶̶̶̷̸̶̷̶̷̵̵̷̴̶̸̸̴̷̨̨̨̢̡̨̨̧̢̨̡̡̡̨̨̢̡̡̧̨̨̢̧͍̗̫̰͓̮̱̲̜̲̳̲̹͈͙̲̰̣͇̝͍͎̘̘̖̤̱͍̲̻̟̬͙̥̣̼͇͎̹͉͕͚̠̼͇͈͚͔̥̻̣̣̲͔̱̘͚̮̞̹̬̥̥̥͍̘̰͕̞̭̳̳̞͚̬̠̦͎̘͙͕̙̜͕̻͈͙̣̖̼͍̲͔̣̣͖͎̱̯̲̯͕͈̳͓̼̖͇̙̩̯̞̙̲̞̫̳̻̦̥͉͈̱̗̙̞̘̟͎͓̤͓͓̻͕̬̙͔̼͈̹̺͚̠̤̣̰͍̦̻͚̭̔̀̊͗͆̍̀̒͜͢ͅͅͅF̸̵̷̴̸̷̷̶̷̸̴̷̸̴̡̡̢̢̢̡̡̙̙̟̣̩̬͉̹̳̯̟͈͖̗̯̜̤̖̦̭̠̖̣̩͙̞̥̹̦̠͚͇̙͖̻̪̘̳͖̯̥̜̩̣̱̫̯͇̜̩̞͈̲̬̫̦̙̪̪͔̮͖̬͕͎̳̬̥̱̮̞̯͕̹͔̘̦̼̮̝̗̠͈̻̝̫̹̜̰̝͍̗̯̼̗̥̞̻̗̳̺͕̦̭͖̪̘͙̥̟͚̪̭̥̖̋̈͋́͂͜B̴̵̴̴̶̷̶̷̵̵̸̷̸̸̸̴̨̢̢̢̨̢̢̡̡̨̡̨̡̧̡̢̨̨̡̡̫̳͚̞̤̳̰̥̗̪͚͚̰͈̟̼̹̙̦͇̭̲͙̺͇͈̰̬͙͓̦̞̬̺̳̭̼̖̞̹͎͇̣̻̹̰̠͕͔̙̣͓̭̤͔͎̙̹̝̤͈̲͔̟̫̩͙̼̻̝̺͉̳͍͉͇̼̞̝̫͖̹̘̩̰͕̠͉̪̯͔͕̰̺̝̜̖̹͍̣͇͔̝͎͈̙̱͇̞̹͎̥̤͖̬̙̼̩͚͚̤̳͙͉̭͐̏̊̂̑͛̕͜͢͜ͅͅͅͅF̸̸̷̸̷̴̶̵̴̴̶̵̷̴̵̡̢̨̢̨̢̧̢̢̧̧͈̪̹̖̺̮̦̼̼͔̥̳͕̙͍͚̲͙̤̹͔̯̳̰͈̰̹͍͍̱̖̮͓̗̪̮̩̗̳̱͍̗̺̹̗̤̙͕̱̳̙͖̘̝̩̘̖̯̳͇͇̭͈̬̼̣̻̦͕̲̼̱͎̦̰̻̣̪̤̪͓̟͈͈̘̟̮̠̣̩͈̗̠̙̤̻͎͙͕̘̫̦̯̯̹̙̻͎͙̪͖͈̪͕͈͚̺̻̼̼͚͖̥̟͚̥̥̪̃͗͆̽̈̈́͜͢͟ͅE̴̴̵̵̶̷̶̸̴̴̸̸̷̴̸̸̴̶̡̢̨̨̡̡̧̨̢̢̢̧̲̝̭̤̣͍̬̬̯̠̪̲͉̯̖͈̹̹̹̗͓̦͍̗̜͔͈͓̜͓̳̣̯̖͍̟̟͉̺̻̞͙̪̻̻̺̩̹̤̙̦̖̲̙̩̯̘̫̺̩̞͚̟̜͎̦̳̬͎͈͍͓̤̣͈̬̪͖̗̠͎̭̻͎̭̱̞͈̼̜̗͙̗̥̤̠͍̪̳͙̙̲͙̟̫̲̠̭̻͉̘̮͕͉̦͇̖̭͉̝̪̝̝̠̞̫̳̥͇̩͚̩̻͔̦̥̪̬̪̮̘̩̯͎̻̱̳̙͂͋͌͌̇̀̒̕͜͜͡ͅͅͅͅͅͅͅͅT̷̷̴̸̵̶̶̴̷̵̸̴̸̸̸̶̸̨̡̨̡̡̢̡̡̧̧̢̨̢̢̡̢̢̡̛̮͓͍͔̙̹̜̘̝̣͙̻̱͉͇̝͉̫͙̠͚̳͓͈͙̣͚̰̪̝̪̯̥̭̤̳͎̤̬̦̻͖̟̞̼̟̪̯̳̘̞̩̤̖̰͍̟͈̥̭̭̰̬̹̘̯͖̻͉͈̠̹̦̺̱̼̥̺̘͚̦̠̱̭̱̘͓̪͍͚̹̙̺̠̫̳̤̻̱̝̜̖̲̲͙̳͎̮̭͙͚̤͇̦͎̘̬̙͈̮̣̠̩̪̞̹͈̪̜̻̙͚̭̜̼̈̌͋̈́̉́̇́̈́͜͜͜͜ͅͅĬ̴̵̴̸̷̵̸̷̶̸̴̸̸̸̸̶̢̨̨̡̢̡̧̨̢̢͔͎̺͉͉͓̹̩̲̫͙͎̳̦̜̲̱͎̪̹̦̜͚̠̮̭̖̘̜̲̹̹͙͖͈͙̰͔͕͉̱͓̻͈̖̼̟͎̰̲̭̦͙̱͔̮̟͇̻̗̯̳̟̘̼̻̲̺͇̳̹̘̝̠̦͙̫̣̭̘̠̳̥̯̟͔͓͎̗͔̗̦͕͎̜̲̘̥̪̯̤̯͎͎̬̮̟͈̰͎̝̞̥̬̩̤̘̤͕̗̞̣̼̰̻̖͓̠̯͙̱͕̝̑̾̊̂͑̍͛͜͜͢ͅͅͅͅͅH̴̶̵̵̶̵̶̴̶̸̵̸̴̴̨̧̨̢̨̨̡̡̡̡̨̦̩͈̠̝̗̫͚̼̦̭͙̤̮̻̠̝͔̱̲̥͔̙͉͈̜̲̬̝͕̘̪͉̭̟̤͉͖̤͉̟̱̱̜͙̠̫̬̼͚̯̘͙̥͈͚̟̲͔̳̫̪͈͉̠͎̞̭͕̟͍̼͇̝͔̜͙̱̮͖̻̭̺̘͈̥̥͕̲͚̱̳̮̘̝̜̪͔̭͍̳̺͙̯̗̦͕̓̆͐͒̏͜ͅͅͅͅQ̶̶̶̷̵̶̴̶̴̴̸̵̴̶̸̵̸̵̸̶̧̡̡̨̧̢̨̡̨̨̡̨̮̯̳̩̝͇͈͉̖̮̟̲̘̺̩͖͓̻̪̬̬̫̯̟̰͚͖͔͓͕̣̠̞̙͕̟͕̹̣͙͓͔̞̘͇̭̱̩̰͍̱̣̺͙͉͎̳̩̯̳̘̥͍͖̝̥̪̞͉̮͈̪͕͇̥̮̠̯͍̙̦̟͚͓̮̘̘̤̦̭̥̹̝̟͈͓̘̹̳̪͇̠͍͍̤̲̳̱̪͎̱͈̩͇̝̟͇̠̙͚͙̼̗͔̫̼̯͔̝̳̞̙̺̱̼̰͖̮͈̯͉̥̮̩̜̪͎͇̖͖͔̮̳̗̣̻̜̮͕̰̲̓̄͐̏͛̾̅̈́̚͜͜͜ͅͅͅƯ̷̶̶̶̴̶̵̴̶̴̶̶̶̶̸̷̶̢̢̡̡̨̡̨̨̧̨̭͉̳̤̮̗̣̭̜̦͖̭̝̱̭̭͎̞͇̳̮̣̝̻̰͇͈̲͎̘̜͓̳̘̟̣͔̯̜͎͇̩̯̱̻̪͖̬͔̖͓̟̲̞̥̰͎̖̣̥͕̦̫̩̫͕̰̤͈̝̬̣̠̫̮̱̤̳͈͈͖̯͍̬̤͔̪̼̼̳̥̻̮̠̦̲͕̯̼͉̘̣̺̣̰̦͙͙̻̺̪̤̼̠̙̺̩̩̮̮̣͎̳̞̤̲̝̺͍̙̙̣̠̯̤̿͑͋̎̓̕͜͜͟͜͝ͅP̴̴̴̷̸̷̵̷̸̶̸̸̶̴̴̸̶̵̵̨̡̨̡̨̡̨̧̧̧̢̧̧̡͉̤̱̫̫̱̬̩̝̺̳̪͈͎͓͇͈̯̱̗̬̪̪̠̹̞̳̭̖̱͖͇̹̻̳̹̲̲̤̪͎̣̟͚̣͈̬͔̳͔͓͍͔̩͙̼̬̙͇̘̻̫̩͖̫͔͇̳̳̳͕͈͓̜̭̮̯͚̯̦̻͔̤̻͇͍͍̱̮̦̖̤̙͚͓̲̫̣͓͕̝͓̭̣̘̩̯̥̳̮̜̯͓̺̹͚̜̮͉͍̱̭̯̜̗̥̲̗̬̖̰̭̻͓̝̜̣̟͈̥̼͇͓̞͎̙̼̫̘̫̜͉͍̭̖̆̽̀̌͑̃̓̋͑͜͜͜͢͟͜ͅͅͅͅͅB̸̶̵̵̵̷̶̴̴̴̸̷̸̵̸̴̶̸̷̧̢̡̨̨̡̧̡̢̛͔̳̠̜̼̝̫͎͉̱̬̣͍͎̘̝͇̻͍̻͍̝̱͖̘͚̲̳͈͈̪̙͉̺̬̣̺̟͉̤̫͉̞̗̮͚̣̖̰̳̩̯̮̺̙̪̠̬̱̦̱̩̰̮͓̫͍̬̹̗̪̱̝̗̝̪̮̯̯̘̯̘̹̩̤̫͍͔̩̘̣̮͓͇̪͙̺̠̥͕̥͈̪̳̙̭͖̲̟̙͓̫̦̬̰̩͈̜̮͖͙͔̰͚̬͉̭̺̲͙̙̲̻͇̱͉̙̘͓̥͖̺̹̬͎̱͕̱̻̉̅͛̃̀̈́̈́̉͜͜͜͜͜͢͜͜͜ͅͅG̵̶̶̷̵̷̶̸̷̴̴̸̵̴̶̴̷̸̵̨̧̡̧̧̢̢̨̡̡̨̢̨̡̰̤̩̜͖̝̭̞͚͍̗̰̝̪̘̟̻̳̩͍͈͚̝̺̤̭͎̪̜͔̖͈̬̙̖͇̙̮̫͍͈͎̤̼̘̯̹͍͕̦̘̘̣̭̪̩̳̖̦̟͖͉̮̯̬͍̠͈͖̮̣̬̤͉̖̤̼̝̩̹̯̫͇͉̙̫̤̜̣̻̺͓͍̼͇̰̮̯̯̫̠̫̪̟͙̥̱̖̖͕̤̺̩̫͍͔̱͍̞̰̮̗̻͕͎̥͙̲̳̥͔͍̙͕̫̱̲̭̫̠̮̦̟̲͎̳̣̝͚̝͔̻͓̟͚͕̱͈̲̺̑̓̐̌̇̎͠͠͡ͅͅͅͅͅͅB̴̶̷̸̴̶̴̶̴̵̸̶̷̴̶̵̨̢̧̢̨̨̢̡̡̡̢̧̡͙̠̜̥̬̱̫̮̻̰̘̫̦͇͉͈̯̦͇̖̲͉͚̰͎͎͖̺͎̮̩̣̳͍̟͚̖͖̦̬̖̱̳̙̹̬͙̻̫̳̬̣̹̠͎̼̞̳̺̩̞͖͖̪͔͇̫̣̻̣̜̲̮̼̩̞̳̠̺̻̘͔̮̖̥̯̼̜͎̝̝͖͓̬̞͇̞̠̣͙̯̯̗̩̯͓̦̩̤͍̰̪̮͙̱͇͎͓̙͎͈̲͓͎̻̟̠̹̰̖̣̯̻̱̦̓̓͂̆̎͜͜͟ͅͅͅY̵̴̴̸̶̶̷̶̶̷̸̶̷̶̴̸̶̷̢̡̧̨̧̨̨̨̡̢̧̢̢̡͕͓̜͔͓̟̥̭͈̭̮̞͉̫̟͙̳̜̣̤̘̮̥̱͙̯̞̹̝̳͓̞̟̪̯̹̘͙͎̪͉̥͕͚̞̩͎͔͇͖̫̲̪̻̜̦̘̞̱̼̖̺̬̼̣̠̫͇͚̣̫͚͉͉͉̯̭̜̖̥̱̯͈̟͓̤͓̜̤̤̺͙͕͖͉̟͓̬̙͔̥̝̼̪̺̠͔̭̣̘̣͇̱̜͇͚̹͔̩̹̳̥̟̮̘͖͎̹̖̗͓̝͚͖̻̥̤̱̬̙̱̞̳̫͉͔͇͗͗̔̈́͗̊̒̈͘͜͜͜͜͜͜͜ͅͅŞ̵̵̸̴̸̶̸̶̵̷̷̸̴̴̸̵̷̷̵̵̵̡̧̧̧̨̢̢̡̡̧̧̡̢̡̨̨̨̨̡̢̺̝̬̣͙̥̘̟͕̭̱̘͔̬̜̘̼̬̞͈͖̠̬͎̩̞͚̳̤͇͈̮̺̹̝̺̣̲̹͙͕͇̟͉̣͖̳̬̘͙̱̫̠͎̭̞̩̩͔͍̟̝̻͔̘̤͔̥͖͈̤͉̼͍̲̪͎͖̮̥͓̜͇̝̝̙̯̼̫̼͔͓̥̟̳̟̲̬̘̻̝̟̱̝̹͙͉͓͈̖͉̻̠͓̠͚͙͍̰͈̲̩̖͚̩̣̩͔͍͈̫̮̮̭̰̳̭̜̰͕̩͔̪͚̯̖̬̰̗̟͙͖̘̳̳̖͉̻͚̹̆̂̉̿̾̀͆̈͜͜͜͢ͅͅͅͅͅR̸̵̴̵̶̷̴̷̷̵̴̸̸̷̸̨̧̡̨̧̡̧̡̢̨̧̧̧̢̨̧̧̨̮̠̯͇̤̙̠̬̠͉̟̣̠̺̲̥̜̙͉̤̺͓̜̦̼̪͈̤̘͈̲̦̳̩̟͖̠̰̦̫̟͉̖̰͈̤̖̦̗͉͖̤̣̪͈̺̝͎̗͔͚̲͕̦̣̣͍̰̭̦͈̥̮͎̺͎̝̜̩̪̱͕̰͔̟͇͍͍͖̹̝̟̻̥̼̜̭̲͕̝͍̬̜͓̟̬̟̘̮̯̙͔͔̲̖̲̝̻̹̆̒̾͑̽͜ͅͅͅͅͅͅK̵̶̷̶̷̸̴̷̵̵̵̴̶̶̶̷̴̷̢̡̨̧̧̨̢̨̨̡̢̧̢̢̢̢̢̮̯̯̤̪̬͈̺͖̰̯̦̝̯̺̞̯̩̖̘̩͓̦͇̙̘̳̦̬͍̗̘̼̟̯͖͕̻̯̦̣͇̖͖̠͇̘͈͍̲̼̭̖̗͈̮͎͍̪̜͖͙̫̦̲̱͖̩̟̰̭̙͙̖̦͈̘̮͈͔̙̜̺̥̰̥̫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̺̟̝͉͓̫̘̳̥̩̹̫̞͈̣̰̜̲̫͕̬̫͙͕̖̬̜͇͚͖̼̫̗͕̘̘̫̙̼̣̭̪̖̲̼̪̝̩̜̥̜͇̮̻͙͎̘̦͉̮̗̼̜͕̻̰̝̫̤̥͓͖̮̬̠̻̯̠̮͈̭̱̻̰̦̫̪̫̟̣̺̲̤̤̣̺̹̞̍̂̄͗̓̑͊̍͐̽͜͜ͅͅͅZ̴̶̷̵̶̵̷̴̷̴̷̸̷̶̶̵̷̧̡̨̢̡̡̨̧̨̨̡̢͙͙͉͕̼̬͔̘͙̰̻̝̮̦̦̺̯̬̗̳̻̙̱̦̩͚͉͕̳̗̳͈͚̗̖͓͙̤̪̲̰̝͙̝̼̦̲̬͕̭͍̻̖̤̖̥͚̺͇̙̖͈̖̬͕̹̯͖̳͔̪̖̖̗̘͎̭̯͚͕̭̩̝̱̟͚̣̙̪͙̖̰̗̳͎͙̩͖̮͕͇͎̣͉̣̠͍͖͓̘̭͖̙̭̝̖̞̘͖̖̟̩͈͎̼̼̯̫̖͔̰̩͖͓̲͓͙̻̰͍̼͚̣͐̌͑́̊̀̑̾͆͜͜͜͜͡Ṵ̴̸̶̶̴̶̴̶̵̶̸̶̵̴̴̷̵̵̷̷̷̸̶̡̨̧̢̡̡̢̧̡̧̧̨̡̧̧̧̡̢̢̧̢̧̢̨̨̡̧̞͙͖̻̦͚̞͈͙͈̙̪̝̗̰̬̬̲̻̝̙̗̮͔͕̤̜̞̥̮̠͉̯̥̞̩̠̹͚̜̣̮̫̜̰̘̪̖̘̹̜̹̹͉̲͕̬̜̦̰̠͓̩̯̹̮̣̭͙̗̩͚͍̳̺̟̱̬͖͙̣̳̬̜̲̱̗͎̺̖̰̪̗͈̖̙̻̤̩͈̙͕̝͍̖̳̫̞͕͚̺͙͇̺̼͎̥̤̝͕͉̱̩̺͚͔̰͎̰̥̮̼̱͙̙̱̜̪̗̱͔̬̱̪͓͔̖̮̺̮̗͈̣̮̘̹͕̤̬͇̩͚̪̖̳̂̈̈́̏̂̾͒͘̚͜͜͜͜͜͜͜͠ͅͅͅͅͅͅͅͅT̷̵̷̵̸̶̵̴̷̷̵̵̵̸̶̵̶̴̢̧̢̡̨̡̧̨̢̡̡̨̙̰̜̭͇̙̻̣͇̮̬͈̮͉͚̠̖͈͕̦̼̳͈͚̫̰͖̲̥͇̬̮̘̟̻͉̦̫̞̱̫͍̬̯͎̯̹̝͚̥̱͓̲̥͓̲̤̥͍̯̝̹̪͉̯̲̯͔̙͚̞͖͙̲͚̜̙͓̘̙̘͈̱͙͇̫̱̥͕͙̘̖̥͚̱̦̥͈̤̝̜̞̘͕͍̫͎̙̖̪̬̤̯̮̫̭͙͎̮̜̞̱͕̣̘̫̝͍̜͓̘͙͖̙̦̼̩̞̖̟̤̝̹̗̮͋́̏̑̽̓̇͜͜͜͜͟͠͠͝ͅͅͅͅͅͅͅW̷̴̷̸̷̶̶̶̸̶̴̷̷̵̢̡̡̧̢̧̨̨̛̲̣̬͎̮͈̝̹̙̣̦̲̻̥̰̟̹̠͔̱͓̗͉̹͙̣͕̩̤̯͔̳͍͎̖̙̘̣̘̼̖̜̱̘͇̰̗̦̯̼̝̼͖̻̲͉͖͔͎̮͕̹̩͇̠̙̺͔͎̪̙͖̱̺̪͙͍̙̞̦͈̦͕̟̭̼̣̳̼̩̳̦̤͕̬͎̞̱̪͎͙̖̙̩͙͈̝̳̲̘͙̥̟͚̦̠̜͉̺̰̐̈̈̚͜͜͜ͅͅͅL̸̴̴̶̵̶̶̶̸̵̶̷̨̧̨̬̝̫̱̰̙̪̝̭͙̝̼̝͔͕̼̝͙̮̱̺̭͙̼̜̠̭̤̭̲͔̭̣̤̤͎͉̬̝̞̣̜̳̮̭̻̥͓͙̬̤͖̜͓͙̙̪̠̼͚͖̬̬̣͙̤̟̼͉̯̺̤̗̺̱͖͈̣̝̫̲̠̱̠̝͚̻͔̘͉̹͕̦͎̩̭̠̬͇̙̰͈̰̬̦̗͙͖͂̍̿̉͜͜͠ͅV̶̶̷̵̸̵̴̷̵̸̵̸̸̷̶̧̢̨̨̧̨̨̡̧̨̧̧̨͙̭̤͙̩̥̹͓̟̬̭̱͙̪̮̩̙͎̠̠̫͚̤̤̝̪̟̯̣̳̖̥̺̟͕̬̜͓̙̤͇̣͍̖̘̭͙̟̤̙̳̳̼̼̣͓̺̟͈̥̣̪̦̘͚̰͚͖̲̣̝̭̳͙̤̟̦̟̰̪̺̘̣̲̫͚̤̗̙͙̬͔̖̟͖̫̥̩̰͉͓̙̪͈̝̪͎̱͉̤͑̑͋̈́͛͜͜͜͜͡ͅͅͅͅͅI̸̵̴̶̶̷̵̶̵̸̴̵̴̵̴̴̸̶̶̸̵̢̡̡̡̧̢̢̡̨̨̡̡̧̨̡̢̧̨̨̧̬̻̘̯͕̘̙͈̭̣̘̫̟̙̞̤͔͕͍̯̞̺̪͎̳̖͚̳̝̤̙̪̲̖̜̝̟̹͓̱̘͍͍̰̬̜̠͇͔͎̝͕͍̥̬̳̬̥͚̗̪̘̤͚̝̰̳̫͓̭̬͈͈͔͙̞̪͕͍̠̤̙̮̤̞͇̪̲̗̠̠̭͙̠̥̠̖̬̣̳̺̻͉̠͖̗̻̜̮͇͈͙̗͈͎̺̬̯͚̱̜̙̮̼̥̮̤͔̮̟̞̖̝͓̜̦̤̹͓̫̝̦̱̥̲̼̪̹̠̻̪̳͚̭̗̘̭̩̫̘̳̯͐̾̊͋̓̓͛͒͗̔͜͜͟͜ͅͅŤ̷̴̵̶̷̴̶̵̶̴̷̷̶̸̶̸̷̨̢̡̡̧̨̡̢̨̢̢̧̡̧̺͚̻̼̰̮̳͍̻͚͉̪͙̖̟͈̰̯͎̫̗̬̮̳̠̼̣͖̪̲̜͓̗̥͖̰͖̼̹̦̬͚̬̦̬̺͚̞̯͕̳̝̻͓̘͎̟̜̪͎̫̗̤̹̗̹̗̼̭͎̻͈̖̗̬͓͕̼̲̘̙̠̟̺̩̯̺̙͈̦̩̠̫̖̜̰̟̭̺̩̲͎̙͕͍͍͖͎̪̙̖̻͉͚̻̳̗̱͉͕̝̩̻̙̫͔̼̟̌́́̂̉̕͜͜͜͢͡ͅͅͅͅU̸̵̵̸̷̶̸̶̴̴̸̢̨̡̧̢̨̡̡̢̧̡̡͔͉͙̙͖̱̹͕̦͔̯̹̝̩̤̠̠̫̫̙̳̼̙̭͙̳̩͍̖̬̲̯̪̝͉̥͔̥͎̫̭͙̖̗̗̟̪͈̹͔̮̙̻͉̲̩̬̥̦̱̖͔̠̱̝̤̲̟̘̮͉͉̪͙̼̹̗̝͇̹̘͈̯͕̣̟̻̍́̐͛̃͜͢͜ͅͅR̶̵̸̴̴̵̸̴̷̸̷̶̨̨̨̨̡̨̧̧̠̜̲̯̝͉̤̤͈̱͎̺͔͔̟̪͙̺̺͉͖̻͈̘͎͍̠̞͕̫̖̘̲̭̩̫̼̯̪̲̱͖͓̩̖͍̻͍͖̫̠̮̘̞͕̯͍͉̥̳̩͓̯̯̭͔̟͚̺̤̮͙̗̺̘̥̞̺͉̫̭̜̞̞̪̹̱̭̦̮͖̞͍̬̯̺͙͖̾̾̆̽͛͜͜͜͜ͅͅͅͅÔ̵̷̴̸̵̴̸̷̷̷̵̶̵̵̸̸̸̴̢̨̨̡̡̨̢̨̡̢̨̨̨̢̡̢̹̖̦̲̙̩̻̪̘̳̠̙̗̖̬̬̲͈͈̖͍͔̟̩͕͓̰̣̥͉̗̦̠̻̜̦̻̦̗̥̪̮̹͎̱͓̼̭͔̠̱͍̪̹̰͈̘̥̱̯̤͚̟͓͎̝͈̱̞͔͔̺̲̘̭͉̰̭͙̙̜͙̜͔͖̳̰̲̬̜̬͓̯̝̟͔̜͙̥͓̘̙͇̯̲̱͓̭͔͍̼̹̙̹̱̘̮̞͓̩̲̞̼̩͕̘̻̥̰͉̲̗͕̱͔̅̈̃̇̅͜͜͜͜͢͜ͅͅͅͅͅĢ̷̸̷̴̷̶̵̶̵̶̶̸̸̡̡̡̡̨̨̢̢̨̧̡̡̢̧̨͖̮̖͓̦̣̩̯͙̤̭̟̲̘̘̙͙͖̪͔̞͔̲̱͉̗͔̗̳̺͇̳̝̰̱͎̪̙̦̺̲̦̩̤̗͖͈̙̠̝̦̦̠̳͍͕̤̲̯͙̰͍̺̺͔̮̟̼̯̬̣̘͚͇̹̘̬̹͈̤̳͈̹̺̦͖̗͍̰͎̬̰̙̘̖̯̝̼͖̬̭̩̦̏̈̆̔͟͜͝ͅͅͅŢ̶̶̴̴̶̶̸̸̴̸̸̶̴̷̴̵̵̴̸̸̨̧̧̨̧̡̢̧̧̧̢̢̡̧̡̠̺̟̯̭̤͖̼͍̣̪̻̼̳͈͍̠̲̤̣̲̝̲͔̤̝̝̟̻̩̝͍̜̖̲͙̫͚̙̺̰̬̩͎̦̠̼̰̬̗͎̞͕̖̖̞̹̣̫̙̻̠̼͚̳͈̭͔̼̺̻͍̙͇̣̲͈͇̘͖͕̰̭̠̝̤͇̥̱͉̼̯̘͚͉͔͍̳̱̮̪̳͎̟̘̙͈̼͇̠̲̖̯̜̝̻̮̦̣̰͕͈͖̟̳̭͎̥̥͕̭̻̮̩̯̜͍̝͉̣̫̩̣̯̟̲͕̻̹͖̥̮̖̺̺̠̥̟̳͎̣̬͍̭̜̺̣̫̄̾̂̂͐̒͆͗͜͜͢͞ͅͅͅ







































what’s even the point of all this