• Published 16th Nov 2011
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My(stara's) Little Ponies: Friendship is Adventuring - JohnBiles



The Mane Six. Typical D&D Adventurer Hijinx. As told by an adventurer rescued by them.

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Sequel Short Story: The Bringers of War

This short story is part of the continuity of my story Mystara’s Little Ponies: Friendship is Adventuring. I have retconned something from the original story, as I have decided to make Cadence and Shining Armor part of this story’s canon.

The whole story is from Twilight’s perspective.

--John

*******************

The Bringers of War

By John Biles

Part of the Mystara’s Little Ponies: Friendship is Adventuring canon.

*******************

“HEEEELP ME!” I heard Pinkie shout in the distance. I was busy trying to finally solve the Four Solid Body problem which had eluded me for so long. However, a casual remark from Spike about things floating in milk had *finally* unlocked the answer to it.

Or so I hoped as I needed another half hour or so to get it to work.

I prayed this wasn’t some Pinkie prank and I promptly teleported to where she’d been yelling.

This landed me in a street nearby; Pinkie, however, was far down the street, pulling a very large cart full of desserts; she was running full tilt and there did not, in fact, seem to be anything she needed saving from.

Then Spike shouted from the balcony of the library, “Twilight, if you can hear me, I just got a message from Celestia!”

It never rains but it pours, as Grandmother says.

“Read it, I have to save Pinkie or possibly lecture her for wasting my time!” I shouted and teleported over to Pinkie.

Who kept going; I gave up on teleporting and ran after her. “Pinkie, what’s wrong?”

“If I stop, the cart keeps going and if it hits me, I’ll lose all this food I’m supposed to deliver!” Pinkie shouted.

Studying her as she ran, I could see that she’d rigged up some improvised hitch with ropes instead of using the cart’s actual hitch, which was now propped up so it wouldn’t drag on the ground using more ropes. Why wasn’t she using a proper hitch which would transmit her slowing down to the wagon? So the laws of motion dictated it continued to move, since she could only transmit acceleration, not deceleration with the ropes. But why not just use the wagon’s rig?

“Pinkie, why didn’t you properly hitch yourself to this wagon?” I asked. I had this vague feeling of impending doom and I didn’t know why.

“I’m too big and the halter doesn’t fit me any more!” she wailed. “And I didn’t have time to buy a new one because then everything would be *late*.”

I felt foolish for not noticing the problem; we’ve all grown a lot larger as we begin to progress towards Immortality. I hadn’t thought about it because I rarely pull a cart and like most Ponies, I only wear clothing for formal occasions. My bed is still big enough, though if I reach Celestia’s size, I’ll need a new bed.

Among other things.

I began to telekinetically push on the cart, slowing it. “Gradually slow down, Pinkie.” She gradually slowed down from a gallop to a canter to a trot to a walk. We stopped about ten feet shy of the docks on the East River.

“Where were you delivering these?” I asked her.

“Filthy Rich ordered them for his daughter’s birthday party,” Pinkie said. “Diamond Tiara probably would have cried for hours with no cake!”

I stared at the huge amount of desserts. “Nopony can eat that much dessert, not even you.”

“*Party*,” Pinkie said. “All her friends will come and eat cake and everything else too. It’s just, she’s the birthday girl.”

“Well, I hope she has a good time,” I told Pinkie. “I’ll help you get the cart over, then you had best go get a new halter at the…” I paused. “Wherever you buy one.” I’ve never actually bought one.

“I’ll have to ask Big Macintosh,” Pinkie said. “I’ve never actually bought one that wasn’t free with the cart.”

“The cart shop, then,” I said. “Let’s go!”

***************

You know how things mount up. Spike sent me a letter, but I didn’t have time to read it because we had to stop the Crusaders from ‘inspecting the desserts for Oards’, then deliver the desserts, then go to the cart shop and then we both had to sit for halter fittings, since I needed a bigger one, then we had to get lunch and then Daisy somehow got stranded on a cloud. So I had to get her down and then the Mayor needed me to fix the new Early Warning Monster Detection System, which of course turned out to actually be some shiny rocks in a box and a complete *fraud*.

So I went to go get Spike to send a complaint to the Magical Registration Bureau, which had allegedly inspected this thing, and he said, “Celestia needs to see you, like right now. I’ve been running all over town trying to find you.”

Oh no, now I’ve let Celestia down! Spike had even sent me a letter immediately, and I *didn’t read it!* I could have avoided messing up but I didn’t! Guilt plagued me as I rushed down to the station and hopped the next train with Spike, spending the whole time fretting that I would have to start over on Immortality from scratch. This is what happens when my careful planning gets disrupted!

My nightmares of having to go all the way back to being a filly were disrupted by arriving in Canterlot. Moondancer was standing there, looking bored, but she perked up when I arrived.

“It’s good to see you again, Twilight,” she said cheerfully.

I suddenly became keenly aware that I was taller than everypony and all of them were looking at me. Which happens all the time now. “It’s nice to see you too,” I told her, suddenly feeling guilty I had blown off her birthday party back when I left Canterlot to go to Ponyville. But I was a different pony, then.

“I am going to teleport us to save time,” she said. “Since you’re late.”

I winced at that and Spike got on my back to make it easier for her to move us; it’s harder for him to climb up, though; I’ve grown more than him. So I gave him a little telekinetic nudge.

Moondancer moved in close to us, her black mane with silver star-flecks spilling about. Then her mane suddenly spread out like a thundercloud and there were stars everywhere and then we were inside a stone room I didn’t recognize. The walls were laden with runes and the floor and ceiling too. I could feel massive amounts of magic.

“What is this?” I asked her.

“It’s a secure teleportation room. Anyone without a cutie mark can’t get in at all, and it only allows those with certain marks to teleport in or out,” Moondancer said. She pointed to the walls; I could see my own mark, a platinum helmet (which I didn’t recognize as that of anyone I know), Moondancer’s, Luna, and Celestia. The one for me looked recently added.

“How did I get in?” Spike asked.

“My magic brought you,” Moondancer said. She opened the door out with her magic; there were two squads each of Earth Pony, Unicorn, and Pegasus soldiers outside, in a large square stone room; there were no windows and the air was weakly magical. Further, the room was teleport-blocked. And scrying-blocked. And a lot of other things were barred too.

Where on Mystara are we?

The Captain of the Guards was a huge Earth Pony, as big as I am or Big Mac, who wore rune-covered armor. His platinum helmet cutie mark was the same as the one I’d seen in the teleportation chamber, but how could an Earth Pony teleport? I guess it’s not impossible he learned Wizardry, but it’s very hard for non-Unicorns. I would have thought I would have heard of him.

Or could he be a Bard? But I don’t think Bards can teleport.

“The Princesses are waiting,” he said impatiently, looking displeased at us.

Now I really wanted to die. “I am so sorry, sir, things were very hectic in Ponyville.”

“Twilight, this is Captain Blue Pop,” Moondancer said, sounding close to laughing. This made the captain grimace more. “Captain Blue Pop, this is Twilight Sparkle, student of Princess Celestia.” She emphasized ‘Celestia’.

He grumbled, then said, “They are awaiting you.”

“Why on Mystara are you named Blue Pop?” Spike asked.

SPIKE!!!!

“Why hasn’t someone made you into gumbo, alligator boy?” Captain Blue Pop said irritably. “Moondancer, there are no pets on the guest list.”

“Spike goes where Twilight goes,” Moondancer said smoothly. “He’s only a baby, please forgive him.”

“I am a *young* dragon! I already had my first period of Dragonsleep!” Spike protested.

Moondancer glared at him, and he said, “I’m sorry, Captain.” He didn’t sound very sorry.

“The Princess trusts Spike’s discretion to transmit messages,” I told him. “Please let him in. Also, he is a dragon, not an alligator-man.” I quickly sketched out a picture of the alligator-men who live in Western Brun. “They are known as Gurrash. You may notice the prolonged snout, the tall muscular build and the long tail, all of which Spike is lacking.”

“He doesn’t look much like a dragon either,” Captain Blue Pop said irritably. “Anyway. Go!” He pointed to the only exit door.

I suddenly wondered how all these guards got down here if the only way in was teleporting. As I assume they are guarding the room beyond and it’s not how they got in.

But we went without further ado.

*******************

“I am muscular,” Spike grumbled as he walked with us into the room in which the Princesses were. “Hi, Princess Luna, Princess Celestia!”, he said cheerfully. “Hello… hello?” He was now staring at the third figure in the room.

It was a spectral pony, translucent and purple like myself in color but with a curly red mane and a long beard. He was male and wore a pointed hat and a robe covered with stars and fringed with bells.

It couldn’t be.

I stared, eyes wide.

“Starswirl the Bearded?” I said in absolute shock.

“I am but his creation,” the spectral pony said, but he smiled, clearly pleased to be known. “It is my duty to watch over our guests below.”

“Guests,” Luna said, frowning.

“Welcome, Twilight, to one of the greatest secrets of Equestria,” Celestia said to me, then came over and nuzzled me gently. I blushed a little and nuzzled her back. She’s always so kind to me.

While we did this, Moondancer was talking quietly to Luna and Spike wobbled on my back, then hugged Celestia’s head.

In addition to Luna, Celestia and the Starswirl construct, this room had runes of protection all over the walls and in the center was a very large cabinet attached to cables; it looked like it could be sent down through a hole in the floor.

“This chamber allows us to descend to a room so secret we cannot mention it until we reach it,” Luna said solemnly. “Let us go quickly.”

Celestia gently nuzzled her sister, who jumped. “Relax, dear. It will be fine.”

The fact that this made Luna nervous made me nervous. If an Immortal becomes jumpy, it is not irrational to feel jumpy yourself. But I did a quick mental exercise and then I followed them into the cabinet, which then began to descend.

“You must be very old,” I said to the construct. “What is your name, sir?”

“I am the Watcher,” he said. “But Celestia liked to call me Ruddy, and that is fine too.”

“But you’re not actually ruddy,” I said hesitantly.

“His hair,” Spike said.

“Manes and coats can’t really be ruddy,” I said to Spike.

“Are you alright? You are exceptionally yourself today,” Celestia said, sounding a little worried.

“I have no idea where we are going or why, but I can tell it’s important,” I told her. “I hope I can live up to your trust in me.”

“You always live up to my hopes for you,” Celestia said warmly, and I relaxed. “I was going to tease you but I feared it would be too much.” She sighed, clearly disappointed.

I laughed nervously, then said, “Where are we going?”

“You will learn soon,” Ruddy said kindly, even if his name isn’t actually very accurate, but neither was Blue Pop. I’m not even sure what ‘Pop’ is.

“What is Pop?” Spike asked.

“Spike,” I said a little chidingly. We had enough trouble with the Captain.

“Captain Blue Pop’s name remains a mystery to us,” Princess Luna said very seriously. “His parents had a dream and named him that but it remains unclear why he has the name.” She shook her head. “Many pony names are appropriate but I always feel bad for those stuck with one that does not fit.”

“He could apply to have it changed but he’s stubborn,” Celestia said, shaking her head.

I had so many questions for Ruddy but was afraid to ask. I didn’t want to completely geek out in front of the princesses but he must know so much. Starswirl lived during the Age of Shadows, before the Princesses were born, even before Ponies were enslaved by the Orcs. There are five great Mysteries which he hinted at only enigmatically in his memoirs. This must be one of them!

“I… are we going to the Hollow World?” I asked excitedly. “Or the World Shield?” Mystara is hollow and there is another sun in the middle and lots of ancient civilizations saved from destruction by the Immortals. Starswirl somehow visited the Hollow World; normally, you have to go to the huge openings at the Poles to reach it.

“This is indeed the Fantabulous Elevator of Starswirl the Bearded,” Ruddy said solemnly.

“Is it true there’s a kingdom of dragons in the Hollow World?” Spike asked excitedly.

That was a great book: Daring Doo and the Hidden Kingdom. I’m not sure how historically accurate it was, though; I only know a little of the Hollow World.

“There is,” Celestia said to Spike. “We are not going all the way to the Hollow World, though we could if we chose.”

Looking around, I could see no sign of actual controls; Ruddy must control it.

“We are going part of the way to the World Shield,” Luna said. “To the Secret Crystal Observatory, built by Starswirl to keep an eye on the Burrowers.”

“But aren’t they all inside the World Shield, trying to destroy the Hollow World?” I said, frowning. The Entropics released them to wreck havoc there; most of them are currently deep asleep but sometimes they wake and cause trouble.

Celestia looked around, concentrated for a few seconds, then said softly, “Two of them escaped, forcing the Equestrian Plateau and a huge amount of other rock upwards, enabling them to slide through the World Shield and begin to wake here, on the other side. Starswirl discovered them and tried to organize Ponies to keep watch over them.”

Ruddy sighed. “But few took it seriously enough, and eventually, he departed for the planes after creating me to run the observatory.”

“Tell me he didn’t become Keraptis,” Spike suddenly said.

Ruddy blinked. “What?”

Luna looked at Spike in confusion and Moondancer said, “Why would you think that?”

“He talks about Celestia like she was his old girlfriend,” Spike said, frowning.

“No, I knew him long ago,” Celestia said softly. “But that is another story.” She looked distant and old and I felt uncomfortable, worried we’d brought up bad memories.

Luna sighed, then said, “No one knows his final fate. Just that he is not dead or if he is, his soul has gone missing. But that’s a story for another day too.”

My eyes widened. “His soul is missing? I had read that he was thought dead.”

“We know things mortals do not,” Celestia said. “Do not spread it around. You are all trusted with things that others are not.”

Spike looked kind of nervous but I felt very proud. Moondancer nodded solemnly.

We chatted about inconsequential things; Luna and Celestia both seemed worried someone would overhear us and that they’d said too much already, though this thing is warded so strongly, I know that *I* could not scry into or out of it.

“Does that mean…,” I began.

“Not yet,” Celestia said. “I trust them greatly but we must be sure they do not turn aside from their paths before we tangle them up in things which touch on the affairs of Immortals.”

I gulped, and Spike looked very nervous now.

Especially since Moondancer was studying him. I don’t know her well, not as much as I should. I was too anti-social then. She is very smart, far more nimble than I am, and she likes to show off her dancing skills. But I don’t really know her beyond that.

And knowing she started studying with Celestia and Luna after I left Canterlot.

“I will do my best to be discreet,” Spike said. “But why me?”

“You and Twilight’s fates are tied,” Celestia said. “Further, you will have to handle any special communication on this topic, anyway.”

Spike smiled brightly, and I felt good for him, that Celestia trusted him so much.

“You can’t tell your coltfriend either,” Luna suddenly said.

“He’s not my coltfriend,” I said. Yet. I’ve been seeing West Wind, a Pegasus courier who works for Franich House in Darokin. But we can’t see each other much, so I don’t know if it will go anywhere. But he’s a cool guy and I like him.

“I know someone else with a not-boyfriend,” Celestia said cheerfully with a naughty grin.

“You shouldn’t brag about yourself,” Moondancer said, though she was smiling.

Luna said, “You shouldn’t lead him on, Celestia,” shaking her head.

Celestia’s eyes widened slightly. “I suppose I have no room to talk. I am interested, but not sure if I should pursue it.” I am not used to hearing Celestia uncertain; it makes me uncomfortable.

“Well, you should make up your mind,” Luna said, shaking her head.

“I could say that of you,” Celestia said, smiling a little again.

“We are just friends,” Luna said firmly.

“Well, I have an actual coltfriend and we know what we’re doing,” Moondancer said, rolling her eyes. “But I won’t tell him.”

“I won’t tell anyone,” Spike mumbled, then sighed.

Sorry, Spike.

“Anyway,” Celestia said. “I don’t have fluff on me again, do I?”

She did have some fluff on her, I now noticed.

Somehow getting her groomed kept us busy until we reached our destination and stepped out into another room.

******************

Take a gem the size of a very large house and hollow it out; that is what the Crystal Observatory is like; it’s a huge soft blue gemstone with other gems set into the main gem, with tunnels and ramps inside it to various levels with some walls carved to be very smooth and project images. The elevator opened into the middle level and we went down a ramp to the lowest level.

Here, Ruddy worked the controls, an array of gemstones forming a rainbow with fourteen colors. A wall lit up with lights and resolved into an array of runes, numbers, and two pictures of huge monsters. One was a giant worm-like creature with purple scales and many teeth in his mouth, which worms don’t normally have. The other had a cubical body with a hard shell and long tentacles coming out of two opposing faces and a giant mouth at the base of each set of tentacles. Each was ringed by fancy crystalline apparatus and was inside otherwise solid rock. Readouts which intrigued me but which I didn’t understand kept flashing on the screen.

“These are the Burrowers. We perform the daily moon and sun ceremonies to draw power to fuel the engines which keep them asleep,” Celestia said. “This is one of Equestria’s deepest secrets.”

Spike studied them. “They just look like giant monsters.” He was not impressed.

“The Burrowers feed on chaos and then feed it back to make more chaos. When they’re fully functional, they feed on trouble, then push people’s minds to cause more trouble, which gives them more power to work with,” Moondancer said a little lecturingly, before I could answer. “I know, I wasn’t impressed the first time I came here, either.”

I hadn’t thought about it but it was clear she already knew about this place. Which made me feel kind of down that she found out first.

Which is why my mark was just added and hers was older.

I guess I have been off in Ponyville, but…

“Before you go, I will show you what must be done for the ceremony,” Celestia said. “Since you’re operating from Ponyville, you may not need to use that information for a good while, but it’s best to let you train in advance.”

I wanted to ask her why she hadn’t told me before but now I was afraid to find out. Had I done something wrong? But Celestia didn’t look disappointed at all.

“So these things were made to destroy the Hollow World?” Spike asked. “They seem kind of small for that.”

“Not so much to physically destroy it as to render it chaotic. Four immortals worked together to create it but the Entropics were not invited and this was their revenge, to make something that would destroy their efforts to preserve cultures close to destruction,” Luna said. “An entirely petty revenge. Their purpose is to be bringers of war and death and destruction.”

Ruddy cocked his head. “Someone is trying to activate the elevator from the Hollow World end.”

“Can you handle it or do we need to intervene?” Celestia asked, suddenly very serious.

“I will see,” he said and winked out.

“I wouldn’t mind riding down while we’re here,” Spike said hopefully.

“I’d love to see it too,” Moondancer confessed.

For just a moment, I was afraid the Cu… Immortality Mark Crusaders had somehow gotten down there. Surely not.

Even if they had tried going to the poles recently.

Which reminds me, I need to finish planning our *adult* polar expedition, since Dash wants to go so urgently. I’m proud of her, but this is going to complicate things.

“You haven’t told Marcus about this place, right?” Spike suddenly asked.

“Not yet,” Celestia said. “Eventually, he will need to know but not yet.”

Spike looked happier than the brightness of the sun.

My brain suddenly put three pieces together. “Did Tirek serve the Burrowers?” He was an ancient centaur warlord who battled Starswirl the Bearded back in the Age of Shadows. He served a mysterious immortal who doesn’t show up anywhere else in the records, and the temple was a big stone cube. Rather like that burrower but without the tentacles.

“Yes, and Grogar as well,” Celestia said. “And they had an influence on the Orcs who ruled here as well. Many ancient horrors were drawn here by the Burrowers. But now they are too weak and torpid to cause trouble, so long as we keep them so.”

Rudy reappeared. “It’s a group of Azcans,” he said. “I should be able to handle this easily; we get groups like this every so often.”

They’re the descendants of the humans who lived in this area before Ponies; they got wiped out by a disaster but the Immortals saved them and took them to the Hollow World. However, from what little I know, they seem to have decided the outside world was destroyed and now they sacrifice people to the inner sun for fear it will go out and they will die out.

“Just in case, I will go,” Luna said, taking on a human form but with flashing red eyes, fangs, and four extra arms. Each of which carried something for killing people. It was rather disturbing and I jumped back instinctively, while Moondancer stared, eyes wide. “This should scare them off,” she said, then disappeared.

That would scare me off if it wasn’t really urgent.

Celestia smiled gently at us. “Do not be afraid, my little ponies. Though you are not little any more, Twilight.”

Moondancer looked envious but said nothing. I smiled, though it made me nervous. “Everyone treats me differently,” I told her. “Not my friends but even people who know me well, seem…” I wasn’t sure how to describe it.

“Intimidated. Respectful. A little awe,” Spike said.

Celestia sighed. “Yes. Which is why I am glad you have your friends to accompany you. Why I am glad to have my sister back. We all need friends who can see past that. But you must expect more of that.”

“Who created these things?” Spike asked.

“Thanatos, the current hierarch of Entropy,” Celestia said. “After the War of Lost Memories, he took command of the Sphere and has ruled it ever since.” She grimaced, then shook her head and sighed.

Long ago, before ponies or humans or dwarves or any of us who live here now, the Immortals made war and it was such a mess that only a handful survived and even they no longer remember their origins, immortals like Odin, Thanatos, and Ixion. The Elements of Harmony pre-date the war, one of a handful of artifacts to survive from that era.

“Let’s show you the rest of the features here,” Celestia said and we got the whole tour; even though you’re deep inside the plateau here, you can still see the night sky from one of the observatories and look down into the Hollow World as well; we watched Luna chasing Azcans around, shouting about how she drinks souls and eats shadows and they fled, clearly planning to never come back. Spike kept laughing the whole time.

Celestia laughed softly. “Luna’s always been good at scaring people.”

Like when she was Nightmare Moon, I thought. I suddenly wondered what Nightmare Celestia would be like. Not that I want that ever to happen.

Finally, the Azcans were gone and Luna came back to us, reverting to her normal pony appearance. “Problem resolved.”

“Are all the cultures in the Hollow World directly under their original homelands?” Spike asked.

“No, the geography is different and some groups would have to be put on top of others if the Council of the Hollow World did that,” Luna said.

“What happens when they run out of space?” I asked. “There’s only so much room.”

“It hasn’t happened yet, but it will,” Celestia said, looking thoughtful. “But that will be the Council of the Hollow World’s problem, not ours.” She frowned, then said, “Anyway, we should return to the surface before people begin to worry and then show you the ceremony in its fullest aspect, Twilight. You will help with the Moon ceremony tonight and the Sun in the morning. Along with Moondancer.”

Moondancer now did an elaborate spin on one hoof; I would probably break half my bones if I tried that. “Don’t worry, it’s easy if you’re nimble,” she said proudly.

Which I am not.

“Man, I’ll go get some healing potions in advance. And bandages,” Spike said.

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Spike.

*********************

Moondancer was relentless, never mean or harsh but relentless, pushing me like crazy as I tried to learn the ceremonial dance, which is actually a way for us to channel the magical energies involved in the ceremony. I handled the singing part a lot better because I sing well. But I am a terrible dancer.

It was never all that important before! If I had known… I had always assumed it had to be Celestia and Luna.

How am I going to fit dance classes into my schedule???

Especially when I have all these other new things too.

Then I managed to trip and fall on Spike, who thankfully just laughed.

“Focus,” Moondancer said. “If you don’t pay attention, you could hurt yourself a lot more than that during the ceremony.” This time her voice was harsh.

“I’m not much of a dancer,” I confessed.

“I know,” Moondancer said. It wasn’t harsh but it cut like a knife.

“Are you angry with me?” I asked her.

“No,” she said, but I think she’s lying. Rarity would probably know why. I don’t get it. “Now, let’s try it again.”

I tripped again! This isn’t acceptable! Princess Celestia is relying on me! But the more I tried, the worse I got.

Finally, Moondancer got called away and I got a chance to take a bath and rest.

*****************

It is very kind of Celestia to let me keep my tower for my visits to Canterlot. It’s comfortable. So comfortable, I fell asleep on my old bed and Spike… I guess he wandered off or something. He wasn’t there when I woke up. Fortunately, I still had time before sunset; it’s summer and days are long.

Or I would have slept through it.

There was a note from Spike: ‘Went down to Donut Joe’s, see you at the ceremony.’

I decided to make some… I don’t think I have any food in here. It would go bad, so keeping food here would be a waste. Maybe I could drop by my parent’s place.

I teleported to their front door; I have learned, painfully, to never ever teleport into your parent’s house when they aren’t expecting you.

Mother looked surprised to see me but ushered me in and soon I was having soup with them. It tasted so good; I was really hungry. “This is something Boldavian, right?” The more potatoes and garlic, the more likely it’s Boldavian.

“It’s a vegetarianized version; we used kufo instead of the beef,” Mother said. Father was too busy eating to say anything. “So tell me about this boy you’re seeing.”

I hadn’t said anything about West Wind to her yet; I wasn’t sure if it would go anywhere. How did she even know?

“Mothers know, dear,” she said, amused.

“Spike visited while you were napping, mentioned him,” Father said and Mother looked disappointed.

So I ended up telling them about West Wind and the two dates we’ve been on. Three if you count the dance. Thankfully, neither of our dates ended in a monster attack.

The one we missed was missed because of a monster attack; a giant clam somehow wandered out of the Everfree. I still don’t know how a giant clam got into a *forest*.

And no, it could not have swum up the river.

When I finished that, then Mother asked, “And what’s this about twins?”

I had been meaning to tell her but I wanted to bring Dawn Gleaming to see her and she’s always so busy. And lives in the Broken Lands, though at least we can send mail via Spike and Spikey. “It’s complicated. She’s a duplicate of me made by the Moon Dragon.”

“I thought the moon was inhabited by cat-people,” Father said. “In fact, I’m pretty sure of it.”

“The Immortal. It’s a long story and I will explain it when I have time but I have to help with the moon raising tonight.” Assuming I don’t stumble into Luna, causing her to fling the Moon into deep space, where it hits one of the other planets and then the entire Solar system becomes one giant game of billiards!

“Breathe,” Father said.

I breathed and relaxed.

Then I had more of the soup, which soothed me.

“You really need to keep in touch more,” Mother said chidingly. “It’s not like you can’t send us letters.”

I’m just always so busy. “I’m sorry,” I said to her. “I’d better get going so I’m not late to the ceremony.”

“Good luck,” Father said to me.

“Keep in touch,” Mother said firmly.

I should send my brother a letter too; I’m not even sure where he’s stationed now.

I am a bad sister.

So I headed out for the ceremony, feeling rather down.

****************

The good news is that I did not fling either of Mystara’s moons out of its orbit into another planet. The bad news is that I fell down in front of everyone, causing panic, though Luna quickly settled everything.

“Few unicorns can pull anything that nimble off,” Luna told me afterwards as we walked together; Moondancer had gone off with Celestia, who was kinder to me than I deserved. “It helps if you can do that but I don’t expect you to start with it, especially since you will likely have a lot of time to practice before anything happens where you have to step in. Dance takes as much study as academic matters,” she said, sounding rueful.

“You were completely graceful,” I said, embarrassed.

“Due to centuries of practice and being an Immortal,” Luna said. “I had a hard time at the start. And your singing was very good.”

It’s hard for me to imagine Luna and Celestia having a hard time at anything.

“Oh, I was your age once,” Luna said. “I was far too impatient and tended to rush everything and get myself in trouble. And Celly had physical grace and I was so awkward.” She shook her head. “Your friend Rarity reminds me of Celestia in her youth in many ways.”

“Really? Rarity would be flattered.”

“It’s why I can’t tell her,” Luna said as we reached her chambers. “Her head would swell up.”

We sat down and had some tea; it’s easy for unicorns to be graceful at this. “Rarity is very graceful. And more physical than you’d think. I mean, better at such things.”

“Her father is military, I’m sure he wanted her to be able to defend herself,” Luna said. “Father did his best to teach us to be strong, but Celestia was better at it than I was. I was more interested in knowledge, like you.”

I could see the many books on the shelves on one wall of the parlor; I’ve ready about a quarter of them. Some of them are really old and crumbling. “I can’t even… imagine Celestia hitting someone, though I’m sure she must have.” Maybe imagine it a little but she’s so peaceful. Impish sometimes, but peaceful.

Luna carefully squeezed lemon into her tea. “Oh, I hit people more than she did, but she was better at it. I had a temper and she didn’t. And I could not *stand* to see ponies treated badly.” Her voice heated up. “Even when it wasn’t wise to leap in. When things aren’t urgent, I am a better thinker, but Celestia keeps her head better than I do.”

“I have never seen her actually angry,” I told Luna, then sipped my wonderful black tea. It’s from Prance, I believe.

“It’s a terrible thing. The wrath of any Immortal is a terrible thing to behold but the wrath of the peaceful mare is worst of all.”

Fluttershy, I thought.

We now sipped tea quietly for a minute, and then she said to me, “I am the last person to tell anyone to be patient, but don’t feel bad about tonight. You will have plenty of time to learn and it’s not necessary to be as fancy as Moondancer can be.”

“But I could tell it helped her work the energies so precisely,” I said, feeling embarrassed.

“Everyone must find their own way; her magic works through enhancing her body; it’s an unusual talent for a unicorn. You have more power than her for other magic but you could likely spend forever trying to catch up to her talent and never make it. It’s easy to drive yourself crazy that way,” Luna said. “Trying to beat someone at their own game can make you crazy.” Her eyes looked far away and sad and now I felt bad for making her feel bad.

“She isn’t happy with me but she won’t even say why,” I confessed to Luna, hoping she knew. “Surely it’s not because I skipped her birthday party.”

“She is not that petty or we would not trust her with our secrets,” Luna said. Now she sipped her tea thoughtfully. “Whatever it may be, she has not said anything about you in my presence that sticks in my mind. And didn’t seem bothered the last time you were in Canterlot. She may just be having a few bad days.”

“Maybe it’s because I was late and she had to wait for me at the station,” I said. “I am *so* sorry about that.”

“Well, you should talk to her about it,” Luna said. “I can only guess and Celestia is better at this sort of thing than I.” She shook her head, smiling ruefully. “Which I spent a lot of time envying. But I have come to learn to focus on my strengths and not worry that that others outdo me in other things.”

The fireplace roared up and suddenly spat out a letter. Luna grimaced at the fireplace.

“Ooh, Spike must have learned a new trick,” I said.

“It isn’t Spike, it’s Mother,” Luna said, drawing the letter over and eyeing it like a snake as it floated before her, suffused by dark blue energy.

I studied it carefully. “No sign of traps,” I told her. Not magical ones, anyway.

Luna sighed deeply. “I should probably just burn this.”

I can imagine having Loki as your mother isn’t easy.

“From my knowledge of your mother, I think burning it would cause her to do something like sneak in and paint the message on the wall of your throne room, adding a coda in which she asks you if you will ever give her grandchildren.” Or something more embarrassing.

Luna buried her face in her forehooves. “I know. I know.”

“Does she know?” I asked, then decided to take it private, casting a mind-talk spell. ‘About the observatory and the burrowers?’

‘Mother knows about the burrowers for sure, probably about the elevator and probably the observatory,’ Luna told me. Out loud, she said, “I will read now,” and began doing so while I drank tea.

‘What if she takes the Crusaders there?’ I asked Luna.

Luna dropped the letter and buried her face in her forehooves again. Then she shook her head and picked up the letter with her magic again. ‘Let us pray not.’ She turned the letter sideways, studying something on it. “How is that even possible?”

“What is it?” I asked.

“Nothing,” she said quickly, then ate the letter to my shock. “A little paper helps with digestion,” she said quickly, then guzzled tea.

I stared with no idea what to do.

“Moondancer often likes to dance at night,” Luna said, then paused. “As you probably already know. If you go to the gardens, you might be able to get to the bottom of this while I go dunk my head.”

I started to speak, stopped myself, then said, “If you see Spike, can you tell him to make sure not to stay up too late?” I’m not even sure where he is. “As we’ll need to be up for the sunrise.”

“Of course,” Luna said.

I headed out to find Moondancer, while wondering why Luna has to go dunk her head.

And why did she turn the letter sideways?

***************

I was musing on seventh century Ochelean cyphers, which could involve rotating the page; the hango form of the script has some characters which change meaning when turned a quarter or ninety degrees because they resemble other characters when you do that.

Among many problems with their writing system, though admittedly, with hango, it’s much harder to put down the wrong word, except through oddities like that.

I tried inventing my own writing system once but I could never get it to meet all my goals.

Anyway, I was musing on this so hard, I nearly walked into Moondancer, who leaped over me and spun in the air to land facing me. “Watch where you’re going!” she said, then sighed. “Hello, Twilight.”

“Hello, Moondancer. I know a great place to get a donut. Want to go?”

She stared at me in surprise, then said softly, “Sure.”

We headed out to Donut Joe’s.

**************

“I don’t know, my parents just named me that,” Donut Joe said to Moondancer. I couldn’t believe she’d never been here; Spike and I came here whenever we wanted baked goods in the old days.

“Okay,” Moondancer said, then got three pink glazed donuts and a cup of coffee. I got three plain cake with cinnamon and one glazed with sprinkles. And a cup of black tea.

I know, it’s not ‘plain’ if it has cinnamon on it. I didn’t invent donut terminology.

“Look, I can tell you’re not happy with me and I don’t know what I did, and I’d like to make it up to you,” I told Moondancer.

“I’m not angry with you,” Moondancer insisted, then munched on one of her pink glazed donuts. “Wow, these are better than my usual place.”

“Spike and I used to come here all the time.” I told her. “You don’t seem happy with me. I didn’t mean to offend you, whatever I did.”

She studied me over another donut, then drank coffee while I sipped my tea through a straw.

“You really are different,” she said softly.

“From what?” I asked, confused, then had more of my glazed donut. Then I tried to get the sugar off my lips.

“I’ve never actually seen you try to apologize before, even if you’re a little clumsy at it,” she said, then drank more coffee. Is she just not going to sleep tonight?

“I apologize whenever I am wrong,” I told her, offended.

“Yes, but you could never admit it before,” she said. “You were rather rude to everyone all the time. Which made everyone uncomfortable.”

I sighed and hung my head. “I’m sorry. I didn’t understand the value of friendship then.”

“And…” She frowned, then drank more coffee. “Even just looking at those burrowers makes me crankier than usual.”

Was I crankier? I don’t know. I didn’t feel cranky, I think. “They just intrigued me, while making me worry but I think we shouldn’t talk about them, right?”

Her eyes widened and she looked around; no one was paying any attention to us. “And I hate waiting for people.”

“That was all my fault,” I told her.

Then we chatted about people we knew at school and what they were doing… which she knew all about and I didn’t. I’d completely blown a chance to make a lot of friends then. And she didn’t.

But now I have lots of friends too. Though I wasn’t sure how close Moondancer was to any of them. But surely she had some friends as close as I do, if she had so many friends at school.

I also got her to show me some simpler moves for the morning, then headed back to the castle with her; I needed sleep even if she apparently planned to never sleep again with how much coffee she drank.

All’s well that ends well, right?

****************

Except it wasn’t over. Spike was home, asleep but he smelled of sugar and milk and hadn’t even washed his mouth and two more young dragons were crashed out on the floor by his bed. I don’t even know them.

The good thing was a letter from West Wind on my bed with sticky dragon fingerprints on it. I don’t know how he found Spike to give it to deliver, but I quickly found it was a request to dine with him for breakfast. I hope Celestia won’t mind if I either go eat with him or invite him.

The other was that when I was busy washing my face so I wouldn’t go to bed with sugar on it, *unlike Spike*, I could see a red coated, firey maned mare the same size as Celestia in the mirror behind me.

I spun and found Cunning Thought had invaded my bathroom. I bowed; it is unwise to be disrespectful to any Immortal, entropy or not. “Good evening, your highness,” I said to her.

“Hello, my rather large pony,” she said with an exact mimicry of Celestia’s tone. “So you’ve been down to see the poor lads on ice.”

It took me a few seconds to figure out what on Mystara she meant, given the lack of ice down there. “I can neither confirm nor deny that,” I told her carefully. “Would you like some tea that won’t stop you from sleeping?”

For a moment, she cocked her head, studied me, then said, “Yes.”

So I made more black tea. I love the taste anyway. She breathed in the steam, then sipped her tea. “No snacks?”

“I’m not stocked up here,” I told her and she looked so sad that I felt guilty.

I never expected Cunning Thought to be able to look so sad.

“More MILK,” Spike shouted, then suddenly rolled over in his bed, still asleep.

“I could ask the chefs to make something.” If they’re even awake.

Cunning Thought concentrated and a plate of lettuce wraps appeared. “It’s okay, I will do my part for this little party.”

Taking food from Cunning Thought is not wise but I couldn’t be rude, so I hesitated.

“They’re good,” she said and took one, munching on it. Just to be polite.

“RUBIES,” Spike now shouted.

He is going to be such a mess in the morning; I shouldn’t have just let him run loose but I was distracted.

“Poor little dear, he’s going to be incoherent all of tomorrow,” Cunning Thought said sadly.

“So what brings you here?” I asked her.

“Well, since you will be part of our family soon, I wanted to get to know my new granddaughter,” she said cheerfully.

“I’m not being literally adopted,” I said weakly.

“We Pony Immortals must stick together,” she said cheerfully. How can someone of the Sphere of Entropy be so relentlessly cheery?

“I already have a mother,” I said weakly.

“Who will die soon and you will go on without her forever,” Cunning Thought said. “Those friends you rely on, even Spike. You will outlive them all.”

She must not know about the plan for all of us. So I won’t say anything. “If I did not become immortal, I would lose them anyway,” I told her. “But this way, I will never forget them, whereas if I died, I would forget them.”

“And West Wind?” she said lightly.

How does she even know?

“We both know the score,” I told her. “I can’t just never look at a stallion again.” Though it does worry me. It’s likely why Celestia and Luna have never married. And it worries me about Big Macintosh and Celestia.

Even if it goes perfectly, eventually he will die.

But I guess she’s had that happen before.

I finished my lettuce wrap and drank more tea.

Spike belched loudly.

He won’t be the only one sleeping badly if this keeps up.

“Have you ever been with a stallion or just looked?” she said curiously.

I stared, mouth open wide. How could she ask that???

“Ahh, no, I thought not but it wasn’t impossible you and Celestia’s boytoy had done something in times past,” she said as if this was something to talk about so cheerfully.

“It wouldn’t be any of your business if we did,” I said firmly. “I really should be getting to bed; I have to help raise the sun in the morning.”

“Help draw power for Celestia’s secret project, yes,” Cunning Thought said. “You know why she picked you to be her apprentice, right?”

Here comes some lie meant to drive a wedge between us, no doubt. “I make the best sandwiches,” I told her.

“Be…” She paused. “What?”

“There was a cooking contest, and I won,” I told her. “It wasn’t easy, either.” I now launched into a long, rambling lie about the contest. Spike continued to babble in his sleep.

“You really are tired,” she said. “You reminded her of Luna. She needed a sister-substitute. Of course, now she has the real thing.” She made a hoof gesture. “I was rather disappointed to lose her from our team but she did rather get herself in trouble with her first plot.” Cunning Thought sighed. “I had to pull a few strings to keep her out of even more trouble. And of course, when her punishment is finally up… she goes and does the same thing, then switches sides. It’s not easy being a mother.”

I thought about my mother and felt guilty. “No, I suppose it isn’t. But I don’t know if I will ever know.”

“You should talk to Luna; she had children; they’re all long dead, though they have descendants. She and the first Blueblood were a cute couple, until he died,” Cunning Thought said, then stretched.

“So Blueblood really was Celestia’s nephew,” I said softly. I’d never really tracked his full ancestry. Too many projects, not enough time.

“Yes,” Cunning Thought said. “I warned her but she wouldn’t listen. Children never listen until it’s too late.” She shook her head. “Be careful who you love; you will lose them even if their love never falters.”

“Did you love Celestia’s father?” I asked softly, both curious and trying to get a dig back at her. Petty, I know. And dangerous with an immortal.

“We had a difficult relationship but I still admire him. Sometimes I hated him and sometimes I loved him,” Cunning Thought said, her eyes far away, like Luna’s had been earlier. “He got what he wanted and I got what I wanted. His people are free.” She sounded satisfied with that. “And they didn’t end up in that hellpit, the Hollow World.”

“It’s not a hellpit,” I said chidingly. “It’s a place to save and preserve cultures so they won’t be destroyed.”

“It’s a museum but the exhibits are *alive*, forced to spend eternity playing out the same mistakes, never changing, never growing, never *learning*,” Cunning Thought said, sounding as bitter as if someone had dropped the Hollow World on her house.

“I know there are scholars there; I’ve read a few texts by them,” I said defensively. “And dropping giant monster worms and other things which cause people to go crazy and murder each other and unleash demons was *not* the best way to change things,” I told her hotly. “Do you know how many have suffered because of those things?”

“Do you know how many people have had their hearts torn out by the Azcans when the sun *doesn’t need* their hearts? How many slaves will never see freedom because slavery *can never be abolished*? How many Brute-Men will freeze to death this winter because they can’t invent fire?” She sounded outraged. “The Hollow World is an abomination against all freedom and ability of any people to govern itself. It makes a mockery of why mortals exist. Tyranny won’t unmake itself. Mind you, I’d have chosen something a little more subtle myself but back then, Thanatos wasn’t much good at being subtle.”

He still isn’t, from what I know. Though he is more so than, say, Orcus.

“I think there’s a lot of space in between ‘this is bad’ and ‘therefore, let’s unleash soul-destroying, mind-twisting monsters’,” I said firmly to her. Then I yawned. “Anyway, I am sorry but I really must sleep.”

“You can’t break an adamantine wall with a pecan cracker,” Cunning Thought said. “Goodnight, dear daughter.” Then she nuzzled me, looking cheerful as if we both hadn’t gotten passionate at each other.

How can she do that?

I nuzzled her back instinctively, then felt embarrassed and she was gone.

“Fire the main cannon!” Spike howled.

I am going to be such a corpse in the morning.

****************

“You’re not a human in disguise, right?” Mother asked West Wind at breakfast. I wanted to die, and he stared at her, mouth open wide.

“Umm… why would you even think that?” he asked weakly.

The sun-raising had gone well even if I was exhausted after dealing with Spike, who right now is still in bed, moaning, as far as I know. He wasn’t fit to bring with me. Celestia was very understanding that I had to see Mother, though.

“Her last boyfriend was a human,” Father said.

“He wasn’t my boyfriend!” I told them firmly. I had wanted him to be but it didn’t work out. And now he’s dating Rarity but that’s another story.

“You can’t rewrite history, dear,” Mother said, shaking her head.

This is probably revenge for when I turned her into a potted plant, which was totally an accident.

“I’ve rewritten inaccurate texts lots of times,” I said stubbornly.

West Wind worked on his breakfast, laughing nervously.

Then we had a twenty minute argument over the history of astronomy. Father looked amused and West Wind ate quietly, and I felt bad for him.

“I’m sorry, you must be bored,” I said to him apologetically.

“It’s nice to see you so passionate about something you care about,” he said warmly and I turned a little red.

“You’re not wanted for crimes in six countries like her last boyfriend, right?” Mother asked West Wind skeptically.

“MOTHER!” I shouted, then buried my face in my hooves.

“Your brother never dates international criminals,” Mother said chidingly to me.

“We weren’t dating and he is not a criminal,” I said angrily. Well, I guess by some country’s stupid laws he is, but the Thyatians think things like slavery is fine, so I don’t care what they think. “He’s one of Celestia’s agents now and she would not hire someone terrible.”

“I’m only wanted in four countries,” West Wind said, then laughed, as did Father. Mother eyed him suspiciously.

“That was a joke,” I said to her. Why does she have to be so stubborn?

“She’s just worried about her only daughter,” Father said to West Wind. “I already ran a check on you, so we know you’re clean.”

He laughed nervously and I prayed this wouldn’t mean I would never see him again.

**************

“Your parents are kind of paranoid,” he said to me as we were walking after that. He had a meeting but I was going to walk to it with him, then go see Celestia.

I laughed nervously. “I’m sorry. There was a guy and it was messy and now they worry about me. But he’s not a bad guy.”

“The one who is dating your friend Rarity,” he said.

“Yes,” I mumbled.

“Well, that’s the past and I don’t care about the past,” he said. “Just the future.”

Pegasi are like that, I’ve noticed. Though Rainbow Dash has been trying to study history more lately. I gave a sigh of relief and he laughed and I frowned at him. “Don’t laugh at me,” I said.

“Sorry, Twilight. I guess maybe that joke didn’t go down well with your parents, though.” He sighed. “One of the things you learn in this business is how to diffuse tension with humor but it doesn’t always go over well. But then, I’m a courier, not a diplomat. Though I hope to move up to that eventually.”

“Good luck,” I told him. “Study hard and I’m sure you’ll do well.”

We’d reached Franich House’s base in Canterlot, so he kissed me quickly, then said, “I’ll drop you a note next time I’m around! Have fun with the Princess!”

I smiled at him. “I will. Be careful!”

“Not much danger of that,” he said cheerfully, then flew to an upper story balcony and went inside.

We may not see each other again for a few weeks, most likely. I couldn’t help but think of what Cunning Though had said.

But I don’t care. I don’t know if this will go anywhere, but it’s… I guess it’s kind of nice to date someone who understands what it means to be busy. I don’t know if this will go anywhere more serious, but we’ll see.

It’s not like I don’t have three million other things to do also.

Like getting to the castle before I am late *again*.

****************

I was intercepted by servants, who dressed me up in fancy clothing; Spike was already in his tux and helped. Then I spent the rest of the morning basically lurking next to Celestia, being introduced to people and trying to remember a million names. While people stared at me in surprise. I had Spike take notes but without pictures it’s going to be hard to remember them all; Spike tried sketching them but they ended up stick-ponies.

Celestia and I had a private lunch, by which time I was very tired and somewhat overwhelmed. “Sorry, dear,” she said. “But there are lots of people who need to get used to knowing you and who you will need to know, down the road.”

“Your mother dropped in on me last night,” I told her, then had more of my linguini.

Celestia got wine up her nose, then looked embarrassed. I tried not to laugh too hard. “I didn’t even notice,” she said, frowning.

“I’m sorry, she didn’t do anything bad, just badmouthed people,” I said frantically.

“It’s okay, dear,” she said. “What did she say?”

I told her everything I could remember.

“Man, I slept through the whole thing,” Spike said, then yawned loudly.

“You did well, Twilight,” Celestia said and I smiled brightly. “I suspect Mother knows more than she’s saying.” She sighed. “Mother is very good at looking foolish, then coming out the winner anyway. And you will need to keep an eye on Sweetie and her friends.”

“Mr. Davenport locked them in a supply closet the other day when they tried taking apart one of his couches because they thought some sort of alien monster was in it,” I said, rubbing my forehead. “They’re convinced Oards have infiltrated Ponyville.”

“It’s not impossible,” Celestia said. “I doubt we can stop them looking, so you will need to guide them enough so they stay out of trouble without them realizing you’re nudging them.”

I laughed nervously. “I don’t even know how.”

“I trust you to figure out some way to channel their energies productively,” Celestia said. “I’ve asked Marcus to do that as well, since he’ll be helping to teach the children in Ponyville.”

“Did you know I’d fall in love with him?” I asked Celestia softly, afraid of the answer.

“No, I just hoped you would become friends and he’d draw you out of your shell. I was quite happy when you did and sad when he panicked and fled instead of staying,” Celestia said to me. “I didn’t think either of us would ever see him again. But even Immortals can be surprised. It’s important you understand that. We all tend to put up a front of knowing everything and that everything around us is a complicated plan in which everything is under our control. But while I do have a lot of complex plans in play, I am often caught by surprise when people do what I don’t expect. And Mother is notorious for her plans blowing up when someone isn’t as venial, petty, or nasty as she expected them to be.”

“Like when I told her that I became your apprentice by making the best sandwich,” I said, feeling a little proud of myself for flummoxing Cunning Thought.

“Spike makes the best sandwiches,” Celestia said kindly.

Spike had fallen asleep and did not reply.

“Do I really remind you of Luna?” I blurted out.

“In some ways yes, in other ways no. You don’t have her temper or impulsiveness. But both of you are very knowledge-oriented. Luna wanted to learn about everything, to see everything, when she was your age. And she’s still better at handling information than I am. I have picked up a lot but I am not a scholar on the level you two are,” Celestia said very seriously to me. “When you are my age, you will likely know far more than I know right now.”

That’s a strange feeling, knowing that. I hope I am as wise as Celestia one day. “I hope I did okay this morning.”

“You were fine,” Celestia told me. “Other than when you bumped into me.”

I buried my face in my hooves.

“It’s okay. Start with the basics; no one can jump straight to expertise. It’s just like when you learned magic; you had huge power but you still had to start with basic spells. Think of it like that and you’ll be fine. It’s not likely you’ll have to do it on your own any time in the next few years. But it’s time for us to start planning for the future. Luna and I won’t be here forever. And one day, you’ll have to train up successors to watch over Equestria and its secrets too.”

Intellectually, I knew eventually the other Immortals would want them to move on from here. Emotionally is another question. “I don’t want you to leave,” I confessed.

“Sooner or later, Immortals must move on to higher things,” Celestia said. “I love Equestria but I can’t stay here forever.” She sighed. “All things end in time. But we must enjoy them while they last without clinging to them so hard we can’t let go.” She looked thoughtful and then munched on her pasta.

We ate quietly for a while, then Spike groggily woke up and resumed eating. “Am I underwater?” he mumbled.

Celestia playfully splashed him with a little of her water and he began to flail. “I’m drowning!”

“Spike, you’re just a mess from eating too much sugar again,” I told him. I don’t know why dragons get affected like this. It’s *not* in the books. You’d think someone would have noticed before now! “No sugar for you at all today.”

“Oh man,” he grumbled, then dug into his food.

“Anyway, you should go back to Ponyville, as I’m sure you have work there,” Celestia said. “I will likely summon you again in a few weeks for another ceremony. You might ask Rarity to help you practice the moves; she is a very graceful pony.”

Scootaloo is a good dancer and she’s helped in the ceremony…

The realization I am thinking of asking Scootaloo for help on something important is somewhat stunning.

But she needs a distraction, right? She’ll *love* this.

Though I know she’s training with Ivan when she’s not working for her aunt; her family sends her to help Carrot Top a lot, I know.

I know because she won’t stop complaining about it.

“I will. And Scootaloo, since she’s done it too.” I paused. “I’m worried for them, with your mother having taken an interest in them.”

“So am I,” Celestia said. “But I must put this problem in your hooves. There is too much to do here.” She sounded apologetic.

“It’s okay,” I told her. “You can trust in me.”

“I always do,” she said.

I smiled brightly. “One last thing…” I touched her mind. ‘I know the Burrowers are a secret but is there some kind of code name for them we can use in public?’

‘The Bringers of War,’ Celestia said. ‘If they awaken, it will be because of strife and they will bring war and chaos in their wake. Let us pray they remain asleep.’

I don’t want war to come to Equestria either.

But I’ll be ready if it does.

The last thing we need is another age of the like of Tirek and Grogar and their ilk.

One day Celestia will leave…

But I’ll worry about that some other time; it’s likely to be far in the future. But it’s probably going to eat at me all day.

*****************

I forgot about it sooner than I thought, mainly because by dinner time I was back in Ponyville, covered in wet, sticky hay, and rolling down a hill screaming as the Crusaders and Big Mac chased me, apologizing and trying to save me, while I tried and failed to be able to concentrate enough to teleport out.

I begin to see why Applejack is wary of my efforts to help her improve her farm.

But I *test* extensively, then go large-scale, whereas I see Applebloom goes straight to the big model.

I will lecture her later, when I’m not likely to end up at Doctor Belle’s clinic.

Fortunately, landing in the East River caused the hay bale to come apart and I just swam to shore, then shook myself off on the Crusaders. It’s lecture time.

But I enjoy lectures, so maybe this wasn’t so bad. All’s well that ends well, right?

I have a feeling it’s going to be an exciting fall soon. But first, we have to go to the North Pole before it gets too cold for it. But that’s an adventure for another day. My next adventure… a nice warm bath. I am sticky all over despite falling in the river.

Now I’m curious why it didn’t wash off.

I really don’t need another project.

I wrote Celestia a letter about it when I got home, then went off to go take a bath and relax. I think I’ve earned it.

THE END

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