• Published 16th Nov 2011
  • 16,632 Views, 311 Comments

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.

  • ...
11
 311
 16,632

Short Story 5: Shadows of the Past


Pinkie’s Pie-Tastic Viewpoint:

I have come to understand the REAL reason my parents were so grim and quiet during my childhood. They were exhausted from trying to keep us alive. Teleportation is *supposed* to be very hard. Rarity only just learned it and she’s way older than Pumpkin Cake. But every time I have to babysit her, she casually teleports around as much as I poing.

Which is how I ended up on top of the Town Hall, trying to talk her off a flagpole. I could easily walk out to her, but what if she fell from the pole shifting under my weight? I can’t take that chance.

My right saddlebag squirmed; I’d trapped Pound Cake inside it so he wouldn’t go lead a bear into town again like the last time I left him alone for *two seconds*.

It wasn’t so much left him alone as turned around to say hello to Applejack, either!

The Cakes are off at Applejack’s farm, trying to find the right apples for their apple pies. There’s a secret to it and I can’t quite get it to my frustration. I’m an Earth Pony but all my skill is with rocks and dirt and gems and metal and so on. It’s a little embarrassing sometimes.

I very gently touched the flagpole with a hoof, feeling out the metal—how flexible was it, how strong was it, could it handle my weight, how fast would I have to move in order to go out without a disaster.

Pumpkin Cake was making happy noises and trying to catch birds with her magic. She wasn’t having much luck but it at least kept her stable.

I hope I never did this to my Mother.

BLAM, FLASHBACK.

I normally love these, but no, not now!!!!!

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

“I want to fly!” I proclaimed as I rode on Grandma’s back. Grandma Pie is a Pegasus. She and Mom never got on very well, which I never understood until recently.

“Just hold on tight, dear,” she said to me.

So, of course, I jumped off her back, trying to fly on my own. I’d carefully made myself wings to strap to my forelegs.

This actually worked better than it should, but I was still spiraling down until she caught me. And made me destroy the wings, which was heartbreaking but I know now she didn’t want me to die.

But it drove me to eventually invent my gyrocopter.

Which I could be using right now!!!!

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

I came out of the flashback and quickly got out my gyrocopter and hopped into it, then flew over where I could grab Pumpkin Cake while there was still time; fortunately, her eyes were clouded over and she was probably flashing back to the last time she ate or something.

You really can’t have a *quality*, lesson-teaching flashback when you’re that young.

Thanks, flashback. You always have to be kind to them; they only want to help.

Even if this one didn’t have any music in it.

As I was flying down to Sugarcube Corner, I was surprised to see Moondancer pacing back and forth in front of the store; I had put up a ‘Baby emergency’ sign before I went.

I *can* be responsible.

Moondancer looked up curiously at me as I landed my craft and I smiled at her. “Gyrocopter! Wave of the future! You want to try it?”

“Princess Luna needs you,” Moondancer said, striding over to me and then wobbling back and forth on her hooves, not clumsily but urgently.

“I can’t leave until the Cakes get back,” I told her. “I have their children in my care.”

Moondancer frowned intensely, so I offered her a cupcake, which she ate silently with a scheming face. “Where are they?”

“At Applejack’s,” I told her.

BLAM, stars whirled around me and we landed in front of Applejack’s house. Apple Bloom was tumbling away from us. “Hey, don’t land on me when I’m doin’ chores!” she shouted.

In fact, we landed in a giant tub of apples which now crunched under our feet. Moondancer lithely leaped out and then PUSHED down with her magic, crushing all the apples into applejuice and bits and bits with one push.

Apple Bloom stared, eyes wide.

And I was now covered in apple juice and bits along with Pumpkin Cake.

Normally, I wouldn’t care, but I am babysitting. Pumpkin Cake began laughing happily and Pound Cake tried to escape again.

“Your chore is done,” Moondancer said curtly, then lifted me with her magic and galloped off towards one of the orchards, me bobbling in the air after her.

“Weeeeee!” Pumpkin Cake shouted happily as we flew.

“Why are you in such a hurry?” I asked her curiously. And how does she know where to find the Cakes? Or is she just planning to run all over the farm?

Well, flying is fun, so I decided to take this chance to tuck Pumpkin Cake in with her brother. Unfortunately, Pound Cake now tried to make a break for it and I barely grabbed him with my tail as I placed Pumpkin Cake into the saddlebag. I heard noises suspiciously like someone turning my cupcake supply into broccoli.

I laughed, then worried what I would do if I needed a cupcake. But you have to laugh at disasters, so they can’t break you. Grandma Pie taught me that.

I felt blood rushing to my head; I was dangling upside down as Pound Cake somehow generated enough lift to make me dangle from him by my own tail as Moondancer dragged me along. It would have been cool if I could handle this headrush.

Then frogs began to rain from the sky; suspiciously cupcake-shaped frogs.

Pumpkin Cake may well be the greatest Unicorn ever, I think. I tried licking one of the frogs as they went by. They TASTED like cupcakes. I bet Marcus would love these. And Ivan.

So I snagged a few with my tongue, leaving the others to scatter. I can only do so much.

Finally, I saw Applejack and the Cakes, who were collecting apples. Then Applejack saw us and stared in horror.

“Hi, Applejack!” I said. “Don’t worry, I have the kids *totally* under control.” Then I made a weird noise because my tail was starting to want to give up on child-grappling. “I think Pound Cake’s going to be able to lift an elephant when he grows up!”

And he suddenly clonked out; I caught him, sliding him smoothly into the saddlebag.

“My babies! You crazy mare, why are you yanking my babies around?” Mrs. Cake said angrily to Moondancer, getting in her face.

“Princess Luna needs to see Pinkie TWO HOURS AGO,” Moondancer said. “But she was out running around in a weird machine with your children!”

Mr. Cake sighed deeply. “New crib failed?” he asked.

“Yes,” I told him. “I’m not sure how Pound Cake ate one side of it, but he did, and there were traces of candy cane left behind, instead of wood.” The surprise smell of candy cane was the first sign of trouble when I was *trying* to make their lunch, thinking they were secure in the crib.

I now know they are never, ever secure if I cannot see them.

“It can’t be so urgent ya had to carry Pinkie upside down,” Applejack said. “But if Luna really needs her, we can take care of ‘em. I’m used to herding little fillies.”

There was a distant peal of thunder and the Cakes and I winced in unison, though Pound Cake tried to imitate the sound and then the thunder went off *again*.

Applejack frowned. “The sky is clear.”

Then a cold wind from the north hit us, blowing my mane in my face and totally flattening Mrs. Cake’s mane. “My perm!” she shouted in a panic.

I handed the foals over to Applejack and straightened myself out. “I’m ready, Moondancer! Someone has to catch the cupcake-frogs, though.”

“The what?” Moondancer asked in confusion. Surely she hadn’t missed the rain of frogs, though it was behind her, I guess. “Let’s go!” And then BLAMMO, stars grabbed me and took me away!

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

Shadows of the Past

A Pinkie Pie and Luna Team-Up Story by John Biles

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

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

Princess Luna’s Secrets:

I shouldn’t have been so urgent with Moondancer, but this whole affair has me rather agitated. Too many memories of the past.

So I was busy pacing a rut in my carpet when Moondancer appeared with a somewhat frazzled Pinkie Pie. Cadence was sprawled out on the floor with Spike, playing chess. And losing.

I hate losing. But Cadence was somehow enjoying losing, which I cannot understand at all.

I signaled Ivan; he’d gone off to the bathroom. Then I said to Moondancer, “Thank you, Moondancer. Thank you for coming, Pinkie.”

“I’d give you a cupcake, but the baby turned them all into frogs,” Pinkie said mournfully.

“Pinkie Pie!” Cadence said and then they both leaped on each other and tumbled around hugging and laughing. I had to envy them that a little; I haven’t felt that kind of joy very often in a very long time.

But it’s why I’ve called them both. I need wells of good spirit where we are going.

And I hesitate to take Spike but we may encounter another Shadow Dragon. His power will be invaluable.

I pray I am not making a mistake.

Ivan soon returned from the bathroom and I began my speech. “I have called you all together for a dangerous mission. We are going to the Adri Varna Plateau, to do some investigating. I have chosen you for your talents. Cadence to bind our powers together. Pinkie Pie because we will need your joy. Spike, because of your ability to repel other dragons. And Ivan for his skills and shadow mastery.”

“I’m not that great yet,” Ivan confessed. “But I’ll do my best.” But he smiled broadly at me. I have great confidence in him. I just hope he can avoid the mistakes I made in my youth.

“We are to avoid combat if possible,” I continued, pacing back and forth as Pinkie dug in her saddlebags. “It may be nothing, but something is stirring on the Adri Varna and we need to be ready.”

And there is more. Cadence is a descendant of the last Queen of the Crystal Empire. She bears one of the artifacts of that empire as a Cutie Mark, though the Crystal Heart has been lost for centuries. To my knowledge… Valerias may know where it is, since she made it, but we do not get on well enough for me to ask.

Nor do I want her sticking her nose into our affairs any more than we can help. But it may be inescapable.

I have to know if Sombra has returned from… wherever he has gone.

“So we’re going to the ruins of the Crystal Empire?” Cadence asked softly.

“There are no ruins, the whole thing is missing,” I told her. “Though if we do find ruins, we’ll know something is wrong.” There may be ruins of their lesser towns, now that I think about it; it was their capital which vanished. Or so I am told, as I spent a thousand years in chains and haven’t been back.

I hope, maybe, we can find the Crystal Crown; it is an artifact older than most Immortals, made before the Immortal Storm. I do not think it made you a true Immortal while you wore it, but the bearer certainly did command vast power. Uncle Full Moon told me that he thinks it was made by a now dead immortal, the last remnant of her power.

“I will do my best!” Spike said, striking a heroic pose.

“I know you will,” Cadence said, smiling at him. “You can ride me, Spike.”

“Cool,” he said and clambered up onto her back.

I nodded to Ivan and he mounted me as well. Pinkie now pulled her pet alligator out of her saddlebags and put Gummy on her back.

He fell off, so she tried again and he fell again.

“Pinkie, it is probably best he stay home,” I told her.

She yanked out some rope. “Spike, can you tie him on?”

Gummy, as always, sat passively, not even caring when he fell down. I have never understood how an animal could be so mellow, but he seems otherwise a normal miniature alligator.

Spike now tied him on. “Probably better if he stays home, though.”

“It’ll be easier if we all have a rider,” Pinkie said. She may be right, though we won’t understand until later. Sometimes Pinkie is wise and insightful and sometimes she is just being silly. I couldn’t tell which and in the end, it is her risk to take.

“So how do we get there?” Pinkie asked. “It’s a long walk. And we need to bring lots of water; it’s still hot and dry at this time of year there. I have some food but I should probably make more.”

I was surprised by Pinkie thinking of all this… and not happy with myself for not thinking of it. I was too focused on my objective. And too used to teleporting places or having servants handy. “Let’s round up supplies.” We may be there a while and I could conjure food and drink but we do want a low profile.

We headed out to get supplies.

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

Pinkie’s Pie-Tastic Viewpoint:

I grew up in an area which is barren by Equestrian standards, though not on a level with the Adri Varna. You could live on the grass, but you didn’t want to. We can still eat grass and things humans can’t eat, but a lot of what we can eat but they can’t… isn’t very nutritious. You have to eat a *lot* of grass. One reason I love to eat cupcakes is that they save time, so I can spend it on making people happy.

So we spent some time in the kitchens and Spike and Cadence went to the well. He looks happier now, so I hope maybe he’ll finally get over Rarity. I just want Spike to be happy, you know.

We probably made too much food, but cooking is *so much fun*, especially with people. Even when accidents happen.

Princess Luna jumped back and went into a defensive crouch as the lid blew off one of her pots because she had left the fire on too strongly under it. I nearly got clonked in the head and it ended up bouncing around and crashing into some pots and pans, making a glorious mess.

“You don’t cook much, I guess,” I said hesitantly.

“No, I can conjure food or the servants do it,” she said. “And Celestia always cooked for us in the old days, if we cooked at all.” She sighed and seized the lid with her magic and we turned the fire down. “Why are we boiling Spike’s sausages before we grill them, anyway?”

“It reduces the greasiness,” I told her. “You want *some*, it’s half the fun of sausage, right, Ivan?” I don’t eat meat normally but I know about cooking it; I’m a bard and bards travel.

“Yeah,” Ivan said. He was busy making some kind of soup with garlic and potatoes and fish. “But not too much, especially if you put it in something else.”

“Well, I am happy to teach you,” I told her. I learned from Mom. I had a knack for cooking from the time I was very little. I mainly apply it to sweets these days but I can cook all sorts of treats. I’m learning more about human cooking now that I have more human friends.

“Ivan, tell us about what you’re making,” I told him.

“Soup,” he said. “You just heat it all in a pot, once you prepare it all. Nothing too fancy, though it’s nice having a good spice selection.”

This would take some effort, but I soon got him talking about it in detail; I know Luna remembers everything perfectly as an Immortal, so this will help her make her coltfriend a treat in the future.

“Hmm, I used to have a cookbook for cactus,” I said thoughtfully. “In case we lose our supplies and have to eat local things.”

“Probably very little on the plateau is going to be safe to eat,” Luna told me. “The taint of Entropy hangs strongly over the area. I wish I did not have to risk any of you.” She sighed. “But I must.”

“It’s okay, danger is my middle name, along with cauliflower,” I told her, then held some to my head. “Braaaaaains,” I said, then ate it. It’s better cooked but I can eat it raw easily. I can digest almost anything organic, but I can’t eat rocks like Spike.

I tried when I was little, found out the hard way.

Man, I need to make some *rock candy*, even if Mom will complain it isn’t really rock.

Princess Luna stared in confusion, but Ivan laughed. “Braaaaains,” he mumbled and ate some of our cooked cauliflower.

“But… OH,” Princess Luna said, then laughed softly, sadly. Her laughter is often so sad and I don’t know how to overcome that. But I want to.

There’s a goal. One hearty laugh from Luna by the end of this. Or a big smile. I’m good either way.

The celery horns trick doesn’t work on her, by the way. But working for something just makes it better when you succeed!

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

Princess Luna’s Secrets:

“Good luck, everyone,” Celestia said to us, then nuzzled me. She then turned to Pinkie. “Pinkie, I am counting on you to keep everyone’s spirits up.”

Pinkie nuzzled Celestia, then saluted her. “I will ensure everyone is covered in confetti and laughing to wake the dead by the time we return!”

Celestia laughed softly, while I said, “Confetti?”

“Confetti, like at a party or parade,” Pinkie told us, then began idly tapping out a tune with her hooves; we had all donned ebony and opal hoofguards of my own design; they will help everyone to resist the entropic taints on the Adri Varna; I had made boots for Spike and Ivan.

“Ahh.” It sounded vaguely dangerous. All these new words… I am still updating my vocabulary. When I first returned, I sounded rather archaic to everyone because Thyatian has changed so much over time.

But so has Equestria; I hardly recognized it at first, it was so different.

It has become what we dreamed of in the dark times when we were young and ponies were in chains and we dreamed of freedom. There is much less for Celestia and I to do. Which is for the best, as we cannot stay here forever and in the end, Equestria will have to stand on its own four hooves.

“I’m raring to go,” Spike said excitedly, and I smiled. I am pleased to see him happy and not moping over Rarity, whose name will not be mentioned on this trip if I can help it.

I just hope Mother doesn’t decide to meddle with us. I looked around, but thinking of her didn’t summon her, so I let out a relieved sigh, then we all got into one of my larger chariots and took to the air with my faithful bat-ponies pulling us. They have faithfully served Celestia and I for many years, and I am grateful for it.

Pinkie then started up a song as we rose towards the top of the plateau, then headed northwest across it towards the Adri Varna Plateau, while I traded gossip with my other avatar, which is on the Moon. Due to my past… errors… my other self is stuck working in the library in the City of the Immortals. I could make a third but I do not want to burn that much power, not when I’m still recovering from my past errors.

However, she learns many interesting things from the library and I have always liked to study, anyway.

I have her busy studying any records of what’s been going on at the Adri Varna but someone has, as usual, tampered with the records. But even a small clue would be good.

Some power of Entropy is at work there; I just hope we can avoid notice, which is why we’re flying in; it won’t produce large power signatures and it’s too big to monitor the whole plateau.

I hope.

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

Pinkie’s Pie-Tastic Viewpoint:

I was starting to feel a little stir crazy by the time we finally made it to the Adri Varna; I like everyone on this trip, but we were all crammed into a large chariot and these things are not so great for multi-day trips.

This was the trip where I really learned that even I need privacy sometimes. I had reached the point of lying on my back and waving my legs in the air just to do something *different* when Ivan said, “Look, I think that’s our destination.”

It was; the Adri Varna rises up from grasslands and rocky desert into the air, so it can be drier, uglier, and more depressing than the lowlands around it. It’s not a natural upthrust; something went wrong when Blackmoor blew up and various parts of the world suddenly sank into the ground, cracked open, rose into the air, or otherwise wrecked themselves.

Cadence began a series of songs and we sang with her, her power keeping the malevolence of the plateau off us; this place is evil and creepy and kind of seeps into you. I played my one-pony-band to accompany her. Bard to the rescue!

We flew over endless rocks and past a ruins which had once been a pony town; it saddened me to see the crumbling buildings and the strange creatures living among the ruins where once there had been life and love and happiness.

I decided to double-check my supplies. Gummy, check. Food, check. Stuff to *make* food, check. Four books I have started read… hey, I could READ THEM. I put them aside to actually read.

Allegedly silly string, check. I am starting to think this was some sort of con job; it just sits there, not being silly at all. Then Pumpkin Cake tries to eat it, and that wasn’t funny either, as it made her throw up on me.

I meant to throw it away or maybe just tie something up with it.

Bottle of invisible ink, check. Glasses of Disguise, check. Glasses of Groucho, check. I don’t understand why those have that name; they’re basically a fake moustache and nose attached to glasses. The Glasses of Disguise somehow prevent people recognizing you but it seems to me like everyone sees something different. Except me, so I don’t know who they think I am. Sometimes a fun game and sometimes it aggravates me and I screw up my disguise.

Snow globe which used to let me time travel but maybe I imagined it, check. Rubber duck, check. Second rubber duck, check. Rubber goose, check. Ru… I forgot my rubber chicken! Too late to go back for it, dangit.

Food for Gummy, check. Recipe book for Alligator treats, check. Small box of Efreet summoning, check. Unfortunately, he doesn’t give you wishes, he just kicks you in the flank and lectures you in some language I don’t actually know. It’s usually good for a laugh.

Can which I have never been able to open; I think I could hack it open but it would ruin it. There has to be some way to open it but…

I spent about two hours fiddling with it, trying to find some way into it. Eventually, Princess Luna noticed what I was doing; she’d been staring at the landscape continually the whole time; Cadence and Spike were sleeping again and Ivan… I couldn’t see Ivan anywhere, which is weird, given there’s not much room to hide here.

“Interesting, a Blackmoorian Can of Preservation,” she said. “There could be anything from magical items to books to food in there.”

Oooooh. “I found it in a knickknack shop in Canterlot,” I told the Princess. “How do you open it?”

“Well, once you break the seal, the magic ends,” she said. “They had special machines which cleanly opened one end of the can, but a knife would do the trick. The inside is an extradimensional space which disgorges everything in it when you open it.”

I decided to open it once I got home, just in case something too big for the chariot pops out. I saw a wizard pull an elephant out of his hat once.

Over the next several days, we passed multiple old pony towns and ate our food we brought with us; hardly anything grew here, except around the algae-choked lakes and that didn’t look safe to eat.

I wonder how Shadow Ponies eat.

For that matter, I wonder where they are hiding, as we didn’t see any this time.

Luna frowned. “This is too easy; last time, they found us quickly. I’ve tried to shroud our journey but…” She sighed and stared off across the countryside, idly tapping a hoof against the side of the chariot.

“Clearly, they are terrified of Gummy,” I said. I didn’t believe that but I hoped they would laugh.

Spike laughed, anyway. “Well, he wasn’t there last time, anyway.”

Princess Luna got her far-away look, which I think means she’s contacting Celestia or maybe her mother or some other Immortal or maybe just one of her agents. So I left her to that and challenge Spike to chess.

As usual, I got whipped, but he smiled and *that* was the real goal.

I want to get there so bad, I am going crazy cooped up in this chariot!

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

Princess Luna’s Secrets:

My avatar on the moon reported that there is no trace of Gummy in the Immortal records… it’s a sign of how jumpy I am that I even asked. However, there is a crocodile-shaped artifact the same size as Gummy, the Idol of Sebek. But it doesn’t look like Gummy either.

Sebek is one of Ka’s… proteges, I guess is the right word. He is the immortal patron of the Gator-Men of western Brun. Who are relatives of lizard men, I believe.

My moon-self was reading about Sebek, who I have never met face to face, during one of her work breaks, when Mother walked in. In human form; my moon-self is also in human form because it’s easier to do the library work that way. But this was her female human form; usually she’s a man when in human flesh. She was tall and tanned with long red hair; Mother always has red hair unless she deliberately trying to fully hide who she is.

“I hear that you’re investigating Pinkie’s cute little pet, the living artifact,” Mother said, sitting down next to me at the table and studying the book. “If you want to meet Sebek, I can set it up.”

“This me cannot leave the library until my penance is fully done,” I told her. “As you know.”

“I could arrange for your *other* avatar to meet Sebek,” Mother said, laughing softly, which irritated me. “Or Sebek could be really radical and *come here*.”

“I was just following up a line of investigation, just to be sure,” I told her.

“I doubt Gummy is keeping away the Shadow Ponies; he isn’t *that* kind of artifact,” Mother said, waving a hand. “He’d be more likely to cause everything in the Adri Varna to swarm over you, trying to get him. He’s rather dangerous to keep around, though I suppose the Ponies are the safest people to handle him.”

“Mother, you’ve tried to claim he caused the previous generation of Immortals to kill each other in the Immortal Storm and I still don’t believe it,” I told her. Mother sometimes lies outrageously, then sticks to it for centuries just to try to get you to believe it so she can laugh at you.

I’m not that foolish *now*.

“Not just the Immortals; endless species have died fighting over the Gummy,” Mother said urgently and I sighed. Hopefully, she won’t appear to her followers in Hule and tell them they must acquire the Gummy at all costs, in order to make her lies true.

“Since you are spying on me again, can you tell me what Immortals the Shadow Ponies of the Adri Varna serve?” I asked her.

“Thanatos and Orcus are the two most common, but some of them serve Kalifa because they are greedy. If he had not failed in his quest for immortality, Sombra would probably rule them all. But he failed in his quest and vanished with the Crystal Empire.” Mother frowned deeply at that. “And even we Immortals do not know where it went… or at least, if any do, they are not telling.” Mother only likes secrets if she knows them and others do not.

I loved him once and he betrayed me. He will taste my wrath if I see him again, but I expect he has long ago re-incarnated, perhaps many times. Probably no one knows where the Crystal Empire’s capital went because it was just annihilated.

But we have to see for sure. After the incident in the dungeon the Immortality Mark Crusaders made, I have to be sure.

“Mama,” a voice said from Mother’s pocket and now a little firey head poked out.

“You’d better get back in before the librarians see you and try to douse you,” Mother said gently, pushing his head back into her pocket. “He and about a dozen of his siblings escaped from Rathanos’ little crèche and are wandering around, setting Immortals’ homes on fire. Being their loving mother, I agreed to round them up in return for a few favors.”

That’s Mother.

My break was up, so I returned to work and helped Mother find some records on events in Skothar during the fall of the Thonian empire. I don’t know if she was sincere, giving me a hint, trying to trick me or what. Maybe she really does have some interest in it. Thankfully, her ‘child’ didn’t escape and burn the library, though I distantly heard a siren going off to the east as she left.

The Thonians were quite unlucky; one of the first human civilizations, they got eventually overthrown and assimilated by their own colony, Blackmoor, and then the survivors all became psychic after the Rain of Fire. I’ve never been there, only heard stories.

Really, as Immortals go, I’ve hardly gotten to do anything because first I focused on Equestria and then I was in lockdown for a thousand years due to being an idiot. And I’m still on probation, which is why one of me is stuck in this library.

But at least I like libraries, so it’s a step forwards.

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

Pinkie’s Pie-Tastic Viewpoint:

There is black and then there is Black and then there is BLACK. Utter, inescapable darkness. Most of the Adri Varna is not black, despite constantly radiating evil; it’s mostly shadows of brown and orange and red, patches of gravel and boulders and sand and sometimes outcroppings and some algae-filled lakes which none-the-less have some of the only *green* anywhere. The lakes are typically surrounded by a five to ten mile belt of green and orange plants, and even *grass*.

Evil grass, because apparently everything here is made of the many colors of evil.

But as we approached where our map said the Crystal Empire’s capital had once been, there were no ruins, just more rocks, gravel, cacti, evil cacti, really evil cacti, and so on, *except* for a shimmering pool of *utter* BLACKNESS.

It was about a hundred feet wide and was utterly creepy, so of course we landed near it, but not on it, atop a dirty rock outcropping the size of Ponyville. There was another such outcropping maybe a half mile northwest of the outcropping, which was east of the POOL OF BLACKNESS.

Cadence watched it warily. “It’s so horrible,” she said softly, before getting out of the chariot.

I make that point because the second she stepped out of it, light spread around her hooves and then shot down the side of the upcropping and spread, forming this huge web of light on the surface of the ground and everyone stared and Princess Luna’s breath caught. Cadence’s cutiemark began to glow brightly and now it was like this huge web of glowing streets, circling the black pool and spreading out and…

When it ran up the other outcropping, the light rose upwards and now you could see a shimmering translucent beautiful palace of crystal, rising upwards with its five towers at its five corners.

“The Crystal Palace,” Cadence said, eyes wide.

“Is that… good? Or bad? Or both?” Spike asked.

“We shall see,” Princess Luna said. “This pool of entropy sits in the middle of what was once the Plaza of Friendship, the heart of the city. The Crystal Heart was brought here once a year to be recharged and many ceremonies were held here.”

“The heart is inside the Palace,” Cadence said softly. “I can feel it.”

I touched Cadence’s cutie mark. “So what exactly is this Crystal Heart?”

“It was an ancient artifact made by Valerias,” Princess Luna said, conjuring a shimmering image of it; it was just like Cadence’s mark except larger. “It protected the Crystal Empire, but it had to be recharged once a year in order to maintain its strength, in a grand ceremony of the people, led by their queen. That ceremony was interrupted by Sombra’s attempted coup. If we can recover it, it would be a great thing. Though now there are few Crystal Ponies left; most vanished when the Kingdom fell, as far as anyone knows.”

“I guess we should check out the Palace, then,” I said, studying it; it looked beautiful but also kind of ghostly. “Also, I assume this all is going to be a big ‘HELLO, SAILOR’ to the Shadow Ponies.” I studied the horizon but saw no one.

“I fear so,” Princess Luna said. “Ivan, let us study the pool.”

He nodded and we advanced on it; Cadence hung back, looking sick and Spike stood between her and the pool, standing guard. I followed Princess Luna and Ivan because I was curious; as we approached, the surface began to ripple despite there being no wind and no rocks thrown in it, though… “Should I try throwing a rock?”

“No,” Princess Luna said, frowning at it. “What do you feel, Ivan?”

“Not much.” He touched his necklace. “Except that it has immortal power sealing it.”

Princess Luna lifted her right forehoof and drew runes in the air of red flame, studied them, and sighed. Unfortunately, they went away before I could try roasting a hot dog for Ivan over them! A joke wasted, but I could still try it later.

I didn’t plan any good jokes for black pools of evil. Maybe something with a pie…

I was still thinking when Princess Luna said, “Best we not risk freeing something horrible. Let us go to the Palace.”

The pool rippled again and I waggled my tail at it. “You can try to scare us with ripples later, okay?” I assume it’s probably disappointed we didn’t even scream.

Cadence slowly relaxed… well, got less totally tense… as we moved away from it.

The palace was beautiful, with huge marble and crystal steps leading up to it. Best of all, it began to chime musically and I soon realized I could *play music* and began scampering up and down it.

“Pinkie, you’re telling everyone for miles we’re here,” Princess Luna said, but now Spike joined me and soon Cadence was doing it.

“It’s too late, what Cadence did definitely told everyone,” Ivan said, sighing… and then joined the music-fest! Thanks, Ivan!

Princess Luna just watched us for a little while, then hesitantly did some stepping and soon led us in a rousing tune and as we played the steps, the music got louder and stronger and the palace grew more and more solid and I smiled brightly.

“Look!” Spike said. He pointed and now we could see a whole shimmering translucent city and I stared and then smiled.

“It cannot be so easy,” Princess Luna said softly but now she looked around and looked at Cadence. “We can experiment more, later. I want to check the palace while we can.”

Cadence nodded and led us to the top. There were great gates and…no way to pull them open.

Princess Luna’s horn glowed, but then she frowned. “The palace is sealed, I think by the crown’s power. I can open the ward, but the palace will then be defenseless.”

“Well, I think my power somehow called it back from where it was hiding,” Cadence said hesitantly. “Maybe it will hide again.”

“Well, either we break the wards or else we go play with the steps or maybe pretend to be scared so the pool doesn’t feel it’s a failure,” I mused.

“I think we don’t need to accommodate any feelings the pool might have,” Princess Luna said, shaking her head. “Cadence, can you sense any other creatures here? Ivan?”

Ivan can sense creatures? He fiddled with his necklace, then said, “Nothing this can detect is around or it’s hidden very well.”

“There is no love here but ours,” Cadence said after looking everywhere. “Save a little in all that glows now. But that came from me.”

“Do you sense anything, Gummy?” I asked him; he was peeking out of my saddlebags.

Gummy made a gurgling noise, so I fed him some dried fish. Then he sank back into the saddlebag out of sight.

I wish I had studied more about the Crystal Empire; I feel a little… I’m really not so sure why I am here. Trying to boost morale, but…

If I think about it, this is all kind of creepy.

So I had better not think.

Spike was waving his arms around and his eyes were shut and I watched him curiously and imitated him but it didn’t do anything. I think.

“No sign of Dragon magic,” Spike reported.

“You can sense that now?” I asked him.

“Prince Jagger set up a correspondence course for me to learn some dragon secret magic stuff,” Spike said excitedly. “After I helped him in Glantri. I’m not very far into it; it’s really hard, but I have learned a few tricks.” He sounded very proud of himself. “Cadence has been helping me practice.”

It was then that I distantly heard something whisper ‘Crystals…’

“Did you hear that?” I asked, looking around.

“Hear what?” Ivan asked.

“Someone whispering about crystals,” I told them. “It could be my imagination, though.”

Ivan grimaced, touched the hilt of his hammer, then drew it and concentrated. “No orcs or goblins, but there’s a lot of gems inside the palace, which we kind of could have guessed.” He sighed, waving Whelm around. “Something was in that dungeon the kids made a while back. Which also had an interest in ‘crystals’.”

“Well, he came to the right place,” I said. “Hello, mysterious voice, how about if you come out and say hi? I’m Pinkie Pie, nice to meet you!”

My kind greeting was unfortunately ignored.

We stared out across the landscape, studying everything. Shimmering buildings, but no people, glowing roads, the evil pool… “Could the pool have somet… but no, how would it… how would it even *know* to mess with the kids’ dungeon?”

“My fear is that it is Sombra and the kids’ use of shadow magic, in which he was versed, somehow let him reach there, though why *their* use, I don’t know,” President Luna said, shuffling on her hooves. “Unless maybe he knew it would draw me here.”

“Well, if it’s a trap, we might as well jump in and enjoy it,” I said. “It’s that, the pool, or we go back and wait, see what happens, basically, right?”

“You sum it up well, Pinkie,” Princess Luna said, then looked at Cadence.

“I must see,” Cadence said softly. “And surely Sombra is no match for you now.”

“If I unleash my immortal power,” Princess Luna said. “But without permission of the Council of Intrusion, that would mean being punished again, if not so long for a lesser offense. Here, I am strong but there are mortals who could outmatch me or at least equal me. But Pinkie is right. We must either seize this chance or else leave and come back with more or not at all. And if the Crown and the Heart can be recovered, it will be worth it.” She paused, thoughtfully. “Actually, let me try something first. Pinkie, you must tell the funniest joke you can think of.”

“Ooooooh,” I said, then realized… the funniest… “That depends on the audience. I mean… o/~ how much wood can a dragon hoard? o/~,” I began singing.

Spike sang, o/~ From the very first plank, he grows more board o/~

We both began to laugh as we went through all ten verses while the others stared, though Cadence tittered a little.

“Dragons make songs about puns?” Ivan said in surprise.

“See, Spike loved it but the rest of you, not so much,” I said. “Whereas…” I studied Princess Luna and tried to remember jokes about Immortals… which you could repeat to one… And to mixed company… and… this is going to be hard.

Okay, here’s one I don’t get at all. “How does Halav cook the meat he collects on his hunts?”

Ivan blinked. “I… well, when he was mortal, Petra would have cooked it…” Now he had that Twilight look. The one where she has a puzzle and she *must* defeat it.

“I can cook some stuff with my fire,” Spike said proudly. “Or light a fire to cook. But I guess Halav doesn’t hang with me much.”

“Much,” Cadence said softly, smiling.

Spike grumbled.

Princess Luna also had the scrunchy look, then sighed. “There are many answers, none funny.”

“He tells Rathanos that this meat is superior to energy beings and then after Rathanos sets everything on fire for twenty-five minutes, it’s all roasted to perfection!” I finished. I don’t quite get it, but I think they will.

Ivan and Princess Luna began laughing loudly. Cadence said hesitantly, “Isn’t that too dangerous a way to cook?”

“He could have just come to me and I’d make *way* less of a mess,” Spike said, shaking his head.

“I don’t get it either,” I whispered to Cadence, who now laughed softly and gently tapped my side with a hoof. I grinned at the acknowledgement.

“Hey, Sombra! There’s only one letter between dark magic and DORK magic and I think you misspelled that *long ago*!” I shouted, then worried that was too mean. But I need to provoke him into reacting.

That got everyone in my group to laugh and I heard a distant, angry rumble.

“I bet he’s hiding in the pit,” I said very softly. “Maybe locked into it, even.”

Princess Luna nodded, licked her lips precisely once in a single swipe, then sighed and her horn glowed. And then the doors swung open and we stepped inside.

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

Princess Luna’s Secrets:

The Palace is as beautiful as the last time I saw it, before Queen Counterpoint was betrayed by Sombra. Before it vanished. Before I destroyed my old self in my stupidity.

The grand entrance hall could easily hold a hundred ponies or more. Huge steps led up to the second floor and tapestries hung on the walls, showing the many glorious deeds of past Queens and Kings of the Empire. I lingered for a moment, studying Lightning Flash, who saved the Crystal Empire from a hideous magical storm and served as its fourth Emperor. He sent aid to us when we revolted against the Orcs. From that point on, our lands were friends.

Until whatever happened, happened. There are no ponies here. Just a shadow of the palace. This is like shadow magic, but with *light*. I had not thought such a thing possible.

I will admit I am intrigued; it was not something the Crystal Ponies were known for in the past. It is some strange form of the Sphere of Matter’s power; the Crystal Heart was originally made by Valerias for another civilization now fallen; she did not intervene to stop them when the Crystal Ponies were guided to it. Given her interest in love, I would assume she approved of the uses to which it was put.

But it is the Crown, whose origins are unknown, at least to me, which intrigues me most. We only know it pre-dated the Immortal Storm.

Did I hear a voice mumble ‘crystals’, or did I imagine it?

Grand galleries spread out east, west and northwards; I think northwards is things like kitchens and staff housing. Just a little east is the grand dining room; a little west is the grand audience room; various guest rooms, libraries, and so on spread out along the east and west wings.

Spike paused, concentrated, then said proudly, “No sign of dragons except me.”

Cadence began a soft song, her horn glowing. Pinkie hummed counterpoint and began studying the tapestries herself. “Wait, Flash Fry was a Crystal Pony?” she said in shock.

I came over curiously; you could see a Crystal Pony shoveling fuel into a furnace where crystals were glowing redhot. There was no name on it, and I studied it curiously. “I don’t know this one,” I confessed.

“I think I remember studying about various famous Pony crafters and this is Flash Fry, who developed methods for working with crystal, but somehow no one mentioned he was a Crystal Pony. Maybe I just didn’t pay enough attention,” Pinkie said, sighing. Then she whispered to me, “I was trying to write a poem about cheese for composition class that day.”

I smiled a little at that. “Uncle Full Moon was giving us a talk one day and Celestia was very hungry and kept thinking about food, so when he asked why the Nithians made trolls, her reply was ‘a tasty lettuce and mayonnaise sandwich’.” I laughed loudly and so did Pinkie.

“That’s GREAT… can I actually tell that one?” Pinkie asked.

“Of course,” I said. Celestia will just laugh I’m sure.

Pinkie danced happily as Spike stood by Cadence, looking around and Ivan studied all the tapestries. I gestured to Ivan, who came back to me. “No sign of traps or anything.”

I didn’t expect any. “Let’s visit the audience hall,” I said, knowing it wouldn’t be that easy to find everything there.

“Hold on, let me finish searching,” Cadence said, waving a hoof, so I waited, impatient for action and trying to feel for if anything of Entropy… or any other Sphere… was coming in.

They were too subtle for me if they were.

Cadence said, “Up the stairs.”

So up the stairs we went; like the steps outside, they played music as you trod them and Pinkie went up and down, composing a tune on the fly; she has incredible talent. I can sing but I am no great composer or performer.

And it is far too late to hide our presence.

The stairs supported our weight; I had been worried but everything seems solid enough, even if it doesn’t look quite *real*.

We passed through grand hallways and still no people, no monsters, no sign of what happened. Was this the Palace or was it just an illusion of it? A very good one if so.

Hoofbeats and foot… footbeats? Footsteps… Anyway, you could hear us walking, for all was silent. So silent it disturbed me greatly; the Adri Varna in general is eerily silent unless something is trying to kill you. But silence is normally rare in nature.

I thought back to the tapestry… I sent my other avatar to look up Flash Fry, though probably there is nothing about him in the Library of Pandius. Only Celestia and I have put much pony-related there and I have not made a deposit… well, in a thousand years.

I slept through a lot of it; they have to keep your power drained so you can’t break free and wreak havoc. But this tends to knock you out a lot of the time. Imprisonment is actually rare, though; usually you’re bound to some kind of service, from being a faux artifact to having to run herd on some immortal’s followers to just being a maidservant/butler. Before he went off on the trip he still hasn’t returned from, Sinbad was forced to herd pigs for a hundred years for Halav, I know. There’s a lot of argument over whether Sinbad is dead, trapped in another Dimension, or just on a *really* long trip. Mother thinks he may have found the way to become one of the Old Ones.

He took me to see the Empyrean Reaches, before I became an idiot. They were beautiful and strange, with worlds made of glittering diamonds and one world which was a giant braided rope with plant-people living on it and those nebulas and…

But we don’t have time for that story. I hope that wherever he is, he’s finding new wonders. Duty meant I couldn’t go with him on further trips.

I probably should have; maybe I wouldn’t have…

Ivan touched my right shoulder and I forced myself back to here and now. “Thank you,” I said softly to him.

He nodded and now I saw we’d reached a closed door; it was labelled ‘Library’. Ooooh.

“I can scout ahead,” Ivan said.

“A good idea,” Cadence said. “We are very close to the Crown.”

In the Library? Well, we’ll see. “Do it,” I told Ivan and he vanished into my shadow. I smiled a little at that.

Uncle Full Moon taught me that trick long ago and now I have passed it on to his protégé. I felt a tingle of pride at it. Let us just hope it doesn’t get him in trouble.

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

Ivan’s Scouting Report:

I emerged between two book cases; they were translucent but I could make out a great source of ever-shifting light elsewhere. I dropped low and crawled, then stuck my head out a little into the aisle. There were tables and someone who at least looked like an alicorn stood by it. She was blue and translucent and wore a great crown on her head. She was frozen in a pose of panic as a huge black unicorn loomed over her, wearing a silver headpiece etched with black runes and armor studded with opals. He was translucent, but… the art of the Crystal Ponies did make them look translucent naturally, due to appearing to be made of crystal. But he looked different, like he was made of solid blackness but had been made translucent by whatever this thing is going on here.

She had books on the table, and parchment she’d been writing on when he made his attack; you could see a dozen other Crystal Ponies, apparently his allies, but looking like fairly normal ones. All frozen in place.

And the crown… did it have a crack in it? A tiny sliver of blue light was leaking out of the crack, but frozen in the air…

The Crown was connected to the Sphere of Time and…

Had it somehow frozen this moment of time? But how would the Crystal Empire vanish from that?

And how can we move around inside it?

I paused and touched Whelm and activated its powers; the Empress… I assume that’s the Empress, triggered the gem detection powers of Whelm, which made me smile.

If I had more range, I might have found her from the gateway itself, but I think it can only get up to about 200 feet and this place is *huge*.

Wait, if the moment is frozen in time, then why haven’t we seen anyone else?

I’ll leave the metaphysics to Luna and go back and report.

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

Pinkie’s Pie-Tastic Viewpoint:

Ivan finished his report. I tapped my cheek with a hoof thoughtfully. “So, Cadence summoned this place into existing by touching the ground. She’s got an artifact of the Crystal Empire as her *cutie mark*. Is she the secret heir or something?” I asked.

“Maybe,” Cadence said. “I had refugee ancestors, but I am not a Crystal Pony. Maybe my fate is to bring the Heart to Equestria or something.” She shuffled on her hooves.

I donned my Consulting Detective disguise: hunting cap, shoulder capelet that serves no apparent purpose, meerschaum pipe and magnifying glass. I began to intently study the door. Spike said, “Pinkie, what are you doing?”

“Looking for clues. We have a mystery and we need clues. Because I think once we enter that room, it’s going to set off time travel or we’ll all youthen into babies or something,” I told Spike.

Spike concentrated. “Oooh, there’s something with draconic power in there!” Now he really scrunched up his face and clenched his fists and kind of hunched over as if trying to will himself through the door.

I know, I got that face when Father would make me sit in the corner when he didn’t like what I’d done and I’d tried to will myself to teleport and it never worked.

Normally, I would have imitated him, but *Detective Pinkie* is on the job.

Detective Pinkie doesn’t get to be ludicrous.

Wait, I could feel something tickling my memory…

Something from *Bard School*.

Flashback, TAKE ME AWAY!

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

Flashback to Bard School:

Hairy Hardcase was, well, definitely hard to amuse. I studied him carefully as our teacher blathered on about something neither funny nor cool, so I studied his dun coat and his lump of granite cutie mark; a terrible cutie mark for a bard and really not much good for anyone but a rock farmer.

“The Crystal Ponies built huge crystal spires which drew down the power of the Five Spheres for their own use,” Bard Laurel or whatever his title is… Let’s just call him BL Far Traveller… Anyway, the teacher rambled on about the Crystal Ponies.

There had to be *some* way to make Hardcase laugh.

Hardcase scribbled notes with a pencil in his mouth. I just let my perfect, flawless memory soak up the lecture subconsciously so I could focus on important things like how to make this grumpy pony *laugh*. What kind of bard doesn’t like humor?

He’s more stereotypical rock farmer than my parents!

“These pillars fried the brains of people who did not do the assigned reading,” BL Far Traveller said, doodling on the board as I carefully began designing the FUN MACHINE which would enable *anyone* to laugh.

I glanced over and saw Pink Flamingo (who hates me for no reason at all!) and Melody Dancer (who likes me) busy covertly reading some scroll together while pretending to take notes.

Definitely a better use of your time than this boring class.

“Their giant warmachines rolled out across Brun, conquering everything and bringing them back as slaves to serve the Crystal Empire FOREVER,” BL Far Traveller said, doodling on the board more.

I could see half the class taking notes silently; the other half were all goofing off, unlike me. My project is *serious*, though I now realized that ‘funstone’ is not real and thus my entire project collapsed.

This would be easier if BL Far Traveller didn’t talk so much. He’s ruining my concentration!

“By 800 BC, half of Brun bowed to the Crystal Empire; they even forced Celestia into a giant hamster wheel to further power their Primal Engines,” BL Far Traveller said; his doodle of Celestia in a giant crystal hamster wheel forgot the framework! That is a giant crystal hamster *ball*, which can’t actually turn a crank and thus generate work.

I had to turn my poor hamsters free after my uncle tried to convince Father to make them grind grain. Best to take no chances.

“Sir!” Cloud Walker said urgently. He’s a Pegasus. I think his family help make clouds or rainbows or rain or something in Cloudsdale. He has this long purple stripe down the middle of his mane but also on his yellow coat all the way to *just* before his tail from some manufacturing accident which convinced him to become a bard.

BL Far Traveller had been slouching and whining as he was prone to do. But now he straightened out. “Go on, Cloud Walker.”

“You drew a hamster ball; if you don’t connect it with an axle, then it’s not a hamster wheel and it can’t generate useful work,” Cloud Walker said. “So there needs to be an axle added to the sketch, otherwise, Celestia could roll the ball off across the countryside and escape, unless you’re about to tell us she did that.”

I have never before or since seen the expression on BL Far Traveller’s face. It was as if he was trying to be happy *and* despairing simultaneously, which you can’t do.

“Any other comments?” BL Far Traveller said hopefully as he corrected the sketch.

“No, sir, I only caught that because my uncle was running a shift in a device much like this one in Cloudsdale and the axle broke and he rolled through a doorway and nearly fell off Cloudsdale before they managed to save him.” Cloud Walker shuddered. “Anyway, I’m sorry to interrupt but axles have been big in my family since then.”

BL Far Traveller nodded, sighed, then asked, “Anyone else have any questions or comments?”

Abject silence ensued, which let me suddenly make a break through. I could build a wheel and run on it to fling pies at super-high speed, far faster than with my mouth or tail! Surely if I hit Hairy with enough pies, he would laugh.

Or at least, I would.

The lecture went on; something about how the Crystal Ponies pulled down Ixion and made him shine their shoes and forced Asterius to do their accounting and made Odin their butler.

Surely you would want to make Ixion light rooms for you or something. The Immortal of the Sun would be wasted as a bootblack. You’d want someone like… I don’t know. Orcus’ black blood of hate would probably make shoes VERY black.

Then, just as I had finished my pie-flinging design, BL Far Traveller shouted, “LIES! LIES! IT’S ALL LIES! None of you did the reading, you’re all zombies who just sit there and believe whatever LUDICROUS CRAP you are told! This generation of Bards is going to be more like LARDS!” Then he galloped out of the room shouting about his schedule and how introductory classes suck.

I would have been surprised, but all of his lectures ended like that and then they made him take a vacation.


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

The Dark Pinkie Returns… The *Detective* Pinkie returns:

Princess Luna was looking at with a look I know well. It’s Father’s ‘you are made of failure’ look. Mother would actually chew me out when she didn’t like what I did. Father would just look at me and it was far worse.

But then she sighed. “But thank you for trying. I didn’t know you could project illusions, Pinkie.”

I…

What?

“I… you all saw that?” I said in shock.

Ivan stared off down the hallway with a weird look on his face. Cadence nodded. “It was a projection of light next to you, about five by five feet across, so smaller than actual events, but we could hear you narrate the whole thing. What a terrible teacher. None of mine ever did such a thing.”

“I dunno, it looked to me like the students couldn’t be bothered to actually think about anything he said and just either ignored him or were note-taking zombies,” Spike said. “I mean, Twilight would totally do that, but then she’d probably accidentally turn them into cacti or something.” He shook his head. “Well, not now. She’s got good control now, but man, I remember the time she tried to cook dinner faster and somehow she cooked it backwards and everything turned back into milk and celery plants and cabbages and so on.”

As he said this, you could see the incident happening next to him and everyone watched.

Cadence cocked her head, concentrated and we could now see a little kiddy Twilight playing in a ball pit… then panicking and starting to drown along with baby Spike, until Cadence stepped in.

Ivan laughed… we all laughed and it felt good. Then Ivan concentrated and you could see Marcus covered in melted cheese, running away from a flaming salamander, howling about something and we all laughed even more at that.

Any of us could make the past play out, which made me feel less special but made more sense than me just spontaneously developing illusion powers.

Though I would *totally* go for illusion powers.

I know some bard songs to make simple illusions but half the time I forget I have them after being lectured so many times by mother that Earth Pony Magic was different from Unicorn Magic and no, you can’t learn it, you have to be born with it.

But being a Bard lets me cheat.

When old habits don’t lick… kick in.

Hehe.

By the way, a ‘guitar lick’ is *not* what it sounds like. Guitars taste *awful*.

“This must be some big spell,” Ivan said. “There’s a frozen version of that trick inside the library. Maybe it’s a warning?”

I tried making a memory appear, then freeze in place. “Yeah, you can make these freeze,” I said. “Oooh and the building is all here because the Empress knew the layout but not who was there, so there’s no actual ponies to be seen outside the room!” I tapped my pipe. I felt as smart as Twilight.

Princess Luna nodded approvingly. “Cadence, do you feel anything special here?”

“She had so much love for her people,” Cadence said softly, staring at the door and then slumping a little. Even her hair drooped. “I think she has a message for us.”

“Then we should go and listen,” I said, taking off my detective outfit. “This case is solved, but now we must listen to the will.”

You have to solve the murder before the will can be read, in case the killer did it to get their inheritance early, right? Or they might abscond with the wealth!

Just as I was about to push the door open, Spike suddenly coughed up a scroll in a burst of flame. It was from Twilight; he held a hand up, read it quickly, then sighed. “I’ll write her back after this. She was worried I wasn’t brushing my teeth enough, but look,” he said, then showed off his pearly whites. They were shiny enough I could nearly see my reflection. “Yesterday, she was worried I was using the wrong kind of scale polish.”

“She frets because she loves you,” Cadence said, then nuzzled Spike, who turned a little red. “And misses you.”

“Yeah,” he said and sighed. “I’m not ready yet, but… well, having cool stuff to do helps a lot. Especially now that I’m *finally* getting some dragon abilities.”

“Your ability to ward against dragons last time was critical to our success,” Princess Luna said. “It will take many years for you to come into your full power, as it did for Celestia and I. But with time, you will be mighty.”

“I just wish… I ought to have wings by now,” Spike grumbled.

“I wanted wings like Grandma Pie when I was a kid,” I told him, patting his shoulder. “I tried to make my own but it didn’t go so well and Grandma Pie had to save me.”

“And then you invented your gyrocopter,” Princess Luna said approvingly. “If you had not decided to be a Bard, you might have made a good Artificer.”

“Thanks,” I told her, smiling. “But I don’t think I could come up with enough inventions if I had to create them all the time. Anyway… are we going in?”

“Nothing horrible happened when I went in,” Ivan said.

“We will take the chance; best to deal with any crisis while we are still fresh,” Princess Luna said, then pushed the door open.

I bounced in first, studying the books casually; Twilight will want to know what all of them are and I can at least remember a few for her. Though I’m surprised Princess Luna didn’t ask her to join this team.

But I’m glad I came – easily visible flashbacks! Now I have to find some way to do it outside this magical palace illusion thing.

It didn’t smell like a library, I realized; this whole place is nothing but light solidified. A frozen moment in time.

I wish I’d paid more attention in Bard School; I get distracted too easily. I could see everything now, the frozen moment of the attack. But I wouldn’t have recognized it at all without everything Luna’s told me on this trip.

Dash might actually know all this stuff now with all the reading she’s doing.

But staring at this, I could feel BL Far Traveller freaking out at me again.

I suddenly wondered if Pinkamena knows this kind of thing, the lore you’re supposed to learn in Bard School but which I mostly blew off because I was more interested in music and making people happy. Which I *excel* at, and you can’t be good at everything, but…

I guess this is why I am lucky to have friends. Princess Luna is like Twilight, but grumpier. Suddenly, I am wondering if Luna sneaks off to that ‘Vampire Convention’ Twilight went to where everyone pretends to be vampires like in those romance novels she pretends not to read.

Twilight pretending she hasn’t read something is *hilarious*. I read two of them myself just so I could say wrong things about them and get her to correct me.

Rarity would probably make a great vampire.

Focus, Pinkie! This could be dangerous, funny, or both and in all three cases, I need to be here and now.

In the here and now, Ivan stood by Luna, a hand on her back, while Cadence lurked at the edge of the bookshelves with Spike between her and the illusion.

Then suddenly, it flickered and advanced maybe three seconds in time. We all jumped and then it played out before us, a cloud of darkness coming from Sombra’s mouth as he said, “Give me the Crown, or you will fall into the Pit of Banishment! I have summoned it and only I can banish it!”

I’m guessing that’s the pit of evil outside.

“Where the Carnifex are imprisoned?” Spike said in shock.

Sombra now made a statuette float in front of himself, an obsidian statuette that looked kind of like an adult version of Spike. Assuming Spike stayed with his current humanish looking dragon form but got older. “I possess the Key of the Pit of Banishment, created before the Immortal Storm!”

So, big mojo. It looked so real now, but everyone was ignoring us and one of Sombra’s ponies moved *through* Luna without noticing her.

But the Crown was leaking blue light, which could *not* be good.

I tapped Luna and pointed, *just* in case she hadn’t noticed.

She’d noticed and I now remember Ivan had reported that. Ivan was breathing hard, watching this.

Then rays of blue, red, white, brown, and black light fired out of the crown and wrapped around the key and they had a Unicorn horn fight! The crown was stronger than Sombra… but now the other Ponies attacked the queen, though two galloped to guard the door. Queen Counterpoint howled Luna’s name and Sombra shouted something incoherent through the storm of magic and then the leaking blue light *exploded*, rushing over everything, smashing the assaulting ponies back through the walls and you could see them all topple into the black pit of darkness, but the statuette flew off into the air and vanished and now suddenly, EVERYTHING except the pit was gone and we all fell a story, which wasn’t fun at all.

“Did the crown explode?” Spike asked, rubbing his butt.

Cadence’s breath caught; something rose into the air near her… the Key to the Pit of Banishment, solid and real.

“She called my name,” Luna said, quietly, staring at the key. “She didn’t know I had fallen. She still trusted in me.”

Cadence passed the Key to Luna. “Do you know what this is?”

“The Pit of Banishment was created by the Immortals who lived before the Immortal Storm, but sat empty by the end of it. The Immortals used it to imprison the Carnifex, a race originally created by the Dragon Immortals to serve the Dragons; the Carnifex rebelled and took over the Draconic states and enslaved the Dragons and sought to enslave the Immortals as well, so they were banished into the Pit and it was sealed. I did not know there was a literal key to it until now, though,” Princess Luna said. “We must leave at once and take it to Canterlot.”

“I have an idea,” I said to Princess Luna. “I can make the key invisible to help hide it.”

She looked at me curiously and I produced my invisible ink and the pen that comes with it. “We just coat it in this!”

Princess Luna studied it, horn glowing, then smiled. “Let’s test if that will work.”

In fact, dunking it in the ink with Luna’s telekinesis caused the ink to churn and… it was still visible when it came out. I sighed. “I guess you have to use the pen.”

But you couldn’t actually write on it, I now found. “Oh man.”

“Princess, look out!” Cadence shouted and fired a beam of light from her horn into the air; you could see something that looked like Sombra, if he was the size of an Alicorn, diving down, crackling with green lightning. But dodging her shot meant he missed all of us but now he lashed out and snagged the key with his magic, pulling it to himself; to my shock, he overcame Princess Luna’s power!

We’re in serious trouble.

Especially as we could now see hundreds of Shadow Ponies closing in.

I put the invisible ink container in my saddlebag; it made weird clinky noises as I did so but I didn’t have time to investigate. “Gummy, whatever you do, *don’t drink this*,” I told him. I’d stoppered it but that didn’t stop him drinking an entire bottle of blueberry syrup one time.

“Spike, ride Cadence, Ivan, ride me,” Princess Luna commanded; they did so and we took off running as the Shadow Ponies charged and Sombra cackled in the air.

“I am FREE! And now I will open the way for the destruction of all those who betrayed me! We will capture the Crystal Empire and I will remake it as it always should have been, without the weaknesses which crippled me!” Sombra cackled as he fired green lightning at us, which Princess Luna parried with her powers.

Ivan threw his hammer at Sombra and it… imagine if a person was made out of water and you hit them with something. He rippled and distorted and the hammer went through him, then looped back around to Ivan’s hands. “Without its mates, Whelm alone has little power!” Sombra cackled. “Remember, she will abandon you as she abandoned me, little human!”

“I carried out our stupid plan and got imprisoned for a thousand years!” Princess Luna shouted angrily as she galloped and Shadow Ponies drew closer and I could hear the chariot pulling ponies fighting Shadow Ponies trying to seize our chariot.

The Shadow Ponies were going to cut us off, unless…

What is the opposite of Entropy? Hope and Laughter. Entropy says all things are doomed, but Hope says that the sun will always rise again and Laughter finds joy in anything, even losing. Even defeat. So I began to laugh and tell jokes and try to do pratfalls… that wouldn’t leave me behind to get eaten.

I could hear the Shadow Ponies make unhappy noises while Princess Luna and Sombra argued over who betrayed who and whose new coltfriend is going to betray who or be betrayed and… Too much angst.

That’s all I can say.

Ivan was ranting about Halav AGAIN for some reason, so I took out a pie and shouted to Cadence, “Power this pie up!”

She blinked, but now she linked to it and magic flowed into the pie. Oh yeah. I threw the silly string onto the pie in the desperate hope that maybe this time, just once the string would be silly.

I should have asked to bring my Element but it usually sits in the vault… and I’d probably just lose it if I kept it. But it would be *helpful* here.

“The Carnifex will not serve you, Sombra!” Princess Luna shouted. “If you release them, they will destroy you and everyone else! They believe they are the rightful masters of the world!”

“With the Crown, I could have made them obey,” Sombra said, then launched into some boring rant about power and lore and ancient stuff.

So I hit him with the hurled pie and he stopped short and began flailing at his face, trying to get it off, pie covering his *evil eyes*, though now the evil began burning the pie off. He also screamed like someone falling off a mountain. The bad kind of falling off a mountain.

I laughed and laughed and laughed and…

Then I saw the chariot fly into the air. In pieces.

Uh oh.

The two chariot pullers flew over and landed by us. Anchor Star and Loose Grip are Bat-ponies, Pegasi who wear special armor that makes them look bat-like. Luna likes bats, I guess. “I am very sorry,” Loose Grip said, bowing to Luna. “I can carry Mistress Pie if we want to attempt a flying escape.”

“We should fight our way out!” Anchor Star said, glaring at the Shadow Ponies. “Running away does not befit the dignity of a Princess!”

I had an idea. “Can you speak to Efreeti, Princess Luna?”

She blinked. “Yes.”

I whipped out the box and pushed the button, ready for my flank-kicking but maybe Princess Luna can cut a deal with him.

Here goes nothing!

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

Princess Luna’s Secrets:

Pinkie fell down as an Efreet appeared, a tall red-skinned humanoid with white horns and fangs; he’s about fifteen feet tall and was elegantly dressed in shades of bronze and black with a few yellow slashes. “STOP PUSHING THE BUTTON!” he shouted in Efreet.

“She doesn’t know Efreet,” I said to him. “My pardon, the forces of Entropy are closing in on us and our situation is dire.”

The Efreet looked around at the onrushing hordes, then dodged a blast of lightning from Sombra. “Sorry, I’m only a Knight of Bronze, this is too much for me. Just tell this idiot to stop summoning me to be laughed at!”

I winced at that. “So you do not have the power of Wishes.”

The Shadowponies formed a huge circle around us, about fifty feet away, forming an endless wall of bodies. But they did not advance.

“I’m afraid not. So I must depart; this is not my fight and I think I will be slain if I stay,” he said. Then he hurled fire at Sombra, who dodged the attack. “Good luck!”

“If we die, the Shadowponies will get the box,” I told him; I am feeling desperate; I could get us out of this with Immortal power but then I will be in trouble again. I may be able to teleport us but I fear that it might go awry with so much Entropy all around us.

Pinkie and Cadence were dancing around now, forming a sphere of…. Some kind of energy… which appeared to be holding the Shadowponies back for now. I should have brought Pinkie’s Element but I worried something would go wrong and it would be lost.

I should have trusted my intuition.

The efreet was JUST about to go, then he sighed. “Dammit, they’d make things even worse.” He began hurling fire at Sombra. “I can keep him busy for a little while.”

“We could try shadow-walking but they would probably stop us,” Ivan grumbled in Common. “So he’s going to help?”

“Or the Shadow Ponies will get his box,” I told Ivan, wondering what exactly the conditions on the box were.

“What are we going to do about him having the Key?” Spike asked.

“I expect he is bluffing. If he could really open the Pit of Banishment, then he would be doing that, not wasting time on us,” I said loudly.

“The key is REAL!” he shouted angrily.

“Prove it,” I said, forcing myself to sound serious.

“I WILL SHOW YOU ALL!” he shouted and I laughed at him. Come on, before it’s too late, I thought.

He took it and flew over to the pit of blackness; I couldn’t see him go in but I felt it. I expect this actually goes to what he thinks is the Pit of Banishment, rather than itself being the Pit, as I can’t believe the Crystal Empire sat on top of the Pit of Banishment for centuries.

Then there was an explosion and the pit of darkness blew apart and Sombra was flung skyward out of it, screaming, as the Shadow Ponies cried out in shock, nearly deafening me; there were a lot of them.

I played a little prank on him. Hehe.

“I’m going to have to try a mass teleport,” I told everyone. “But we may get scattered but without reinforcements, or me breaking the rules, I can’t see another way out.”

“I trust you,” Ivan said to me firmly, and I smiled more. He…

I can think of such things later.

“I trust you too,” Pinkie said.

“Do it,” Spike said.

Cadence, still holding the things back, made gurgly noises as her circle shrank.

“GET ME OUT OF HERE!” the Efreet wailed.

“You tricked me!” Sombra shouted.

“I guess we’re even!” I said. Then I wove the twelve odyllic threads necessary for a mass teleport and prayed it would work.

It would have worked.

Except the Shadow Ponies somehow thrust several more Entropy-tainted odyllic threads into it and the world turned funny colors and then, suddenly… cake.

No, really, Ivan and I were now embedded inside a giant cake; I spread my wings and we exploded out of it, covering dozens of ponies in bits of cake; we were somewhere in Equestria, though it might have been the Princesspality of Dream Valley. Many well-dressed ponies stared at Ivan and I and, embarrassed, I said, “I have come to bless this union!” I made glittering dust settle down on everyone. “May your marriage last forever!”

Then I teleported back to Canterlot with Ivan so I could try and scry and find where I lost everyone.

Hopefully nice places.

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

Pinkie’s Pie-Tastic Viewpoint:

The efreet and I landed in a tunnel, ten feet across; the floor was tiled in five foot squares and so were the walls; it ran a hundred feet from one door to another. Every fifty feet, there was a glowing globe in the ceiling; the ceiling was only ten feet high, so the efreet had to bend over. The efreet slapped his forehead, then began lecturing me loudly in whatever his language is.

I whipped out a plate of cupcakes.

Grumpily, he crammed them ALL in his mouth at the same time and nearly choked, so I gave him some strawberry juice; he drank it all, then sighed.

I held out his box to him; I guess he wants to go back in.

He snatched it, then held out a box, made of black metal with a golden latch. I took it and then he vanished; I guess I released him from his contract or something by giving him the box.

I opened the box… it was full of ashes. Did I just get ripped off?

Well, I can probably make a cool gag for ashes.

I sat down to have a snack before I explore; I assume Luna will find me but I am curious about where I am.

Wait, this is some kind of *organic* ashes. Which must be super-rare where Efreeti live and it’s all fire everywhere all the time, I think. So everything burned up and blew away long ago; he probably thinks this is like gold and stuff.

I was feeding Gummy a treat when the door at the far end of the tunnel opened and a big hungry troll entered, saw me and rushed at me. So I ran, flipping Gummy back into the saddlebag and abandoning the food.

Fortunately, the troll stopped to EAT THE TREATS! This let me go right through the door and into the pit trap on the other side; I am nimble, so I dodged the spikes, but now the trap began to flood and my hooves skidded on the metal walls.

The good news was that I floated on top of the water and rose upwards. The bad news was now the Troll was waiting for me to reach the top. I began a lullaby but he didn’t fall asleep.

It only works on the kids if…

I began tossing all my food into his maw; eventually, I ran out but THIS TIME the lullaby worked.

Only after I reached the top of the pit did I wonder why you would want the pit to flood if people could just float up on it. Did I miss something?

I was still thinking about this when I wandered into a barrage of darts in my new hallway; I bounced around but a half-dozen of them hit me anyway; it HURT and now I rolled around yelping and wishing Fluttershy was here.

I hit a wall panel and now a giant metal ball was released to roll down the hallway at me. What is this crazy place?

I ran with it chasing me right into another dart barrage. This hallway had beautiful mosaics of flowers and pretty trees, so why was it trying to turn me into a pincushion?

Then I fell into *another* pit. Oh COME ON!

I was still clinging to a spike over hungry alligators while Gummy sang a song to them when a troll, this one in a leather work outfit, came and stared down at me. “What are you doing here?” he said, frowning. “I didn’t see any Ponies come in.”

I put on my disguise glasses. “Pinkamena D. Scholar, Dungeon Inspector,” I said, praying it would work. “This spike should have broken under my weight, sending me to fall into to my death at the hands of the alligators. And the last pit failed to drown me and instead the water helped me escape. The poison on the darts has gone DRY so I merely itch. And where is the treasure? I haven’t found a single copper coin!”

Now the troll cringed. “I’m just a maintenance man, you will have to talk to the boss!”

“Pull me out,” I said sternly and he did, then opened a secret door and began leading me down *safe* tunnels as I tried to figure out how I was going to bluff my way out of this.

These hallways were a lot rougher; in fact, they looked like something literally chewed its way through the rock. Xorns? Purple worm? I bet Fluttershy would know.

His claws and my hooves clicked on the floor and I tried to hit the same beat as him, but off-set, to create a complex rhythm, which worked fine until he paused and looked around in confusion. I nearly crashed into him.

“What’s wrong?” I asked him.

“I keep hearing castanets,” he said.

“It’s just our keratin hitting the concrete,” as one of my bardic instructors used to say.

“This is granite, actually,” he said to me, frowning.

“It’s an expression,” I told him and he relaxed. “I’m an Earth Pony; I know all about rocks.”

I settled for boring walking after that.

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

After what seemed a boring infinity of walking through tunnels chewed through rock, we reached a worked segment of the tunnel; by worked, I mean it had been smoothed out and shaped with tools. This had been done to create a doorway, which had… I touched it. The door had a thin layer of adamantite over granite, but that must have cost a lot to coat it. I could feel magic in it but not what the magic did.

He… wait, I never asked his name! What’s wrong with me today? “Excuse me, sir, what is your name?” I asked, trying to be Rarity-level polite.

“Grakashtarishranrakharsegrakturismphoshkabor,” he said. “In Common, it means ‘Valiant slayer of all wielders of fire and devourer of pathetic Elves’.”

Then he knocked on the door and babbled at it; I wasn’t able to keep up but the door glowed and opened. He gave a sigh of relief. “Finally. Memorizing a fifty character long password is the hardest part of this job.”

You know, he’s rather intelligent for a troll.

I wonder where in Mystara I am. Though if he speaks Common, I can’t have gone too far, I think.

Maybe he’s one of those people on the Savage Coast who get super-powers by snorting cinnamon. I don’t know how, though, as the only super-power I got was drying my nose out and having to go to the doctor.

Beyond the door, we went down a short hallway to a long hallway full of doors it intersected; we walked down it to the end, to another door; he knocked, someone yelled incoherently on the other side and we entered.

A bigger troll with huge ears and dark beady eyes, wearing a giant work apron and boots and gloves sat behind a desk, busy reading paperwork and sighing. I could see a map of… a dungeon level? Probably this dungeon.

“Good morning,” I said cheerfully to him. “I am Dungeon Inspector Pinkamena D. Scholar,” I said, tapping my glasses. “I have come to inspect your dungeon for irregularities.”

“I’m not the sort of shallowminded fool who can fall for those,” the troll said angrily. “I am Grimtooth and I do not take trying to steal the secrets of my dungeon well. Who sent you?”

I decided to be honest. “Magical accident during a teleport.”

“A likely story,” Grimtooth said. “But you got here just in time for us to test a new design!”

“Oooh, I like new designs!” I said excitedly.

Then I wondered why his name was so short and was in Common.

“Grak, take her to room 86 on level 22, then make her try and sit in the fishing chair.” Grimtooth said.

Oooh, fishing, that should be fun!

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

Cadence and Spike’s Excellent Adventure/Disaster (Cadence):

The good news was that nice soft grass was under us. The bad news was that there was nothing but grass in all directions to the horizon and the hot sun beat down on us without shade or surcease. The grass, in fact, was so tall and untended that it would have gone over Spike’s eyes if he hadn’t been riding me.

“Can you send Luna a message?” I asked Spike.

I quickly wrote a note and he fire-mailed it to her. Then we began walking east in hopes of finding water or shade or *something*.

For a while, we just ambled along, until I saw a distant clump of trees and we headed for it. The clump seemed to almost grow; it was definitely an oasis around a fair sized pond perhaps a hundred yards in width. There were a handful of houses here, marked with strange runes and many tents and lizard men dwelt there; I could see two doing repairs on one of the houses. What an odd place to find lizard men.

I cast a translation spell and approached cautiously. “I am Countess Cadence of Equestria, hurled here by a magical mishap. Can you…”

They turned, saw us, and one shouted, “DEMON!”, pointing at us.

“No, we’re not demons,” I said. I am rather bedraggled, but not a demon.

He began to howl and soon we were fleeing across the grasslands, with thirty lizardmen in hot pursuit. I should have brought more water; I am thirsty and hot and this was very tiring and I am not used to running.

Spike now got a letter back. “Dear Cadence and Spike,” he read out loud. “Once the sun sets, I can identify your position and teleport to you; right now, I have no good way to find you. Until then, I will work on a way to find Pinkie. Please contact me if you have trouble.”

I laughed nervously, then dictated a quick ‘we may be lizard man chow’ letter to Luna.

At least for the moment, the lizard men can’t catch up to us.

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

Anchor Star and Loose Grip’s Accidental Exile (Anchor Star):

When the weird flashes of light ended, I had a Batpony on my head and my face jammed into a table. “Loose Grip, get off my head.”

We fumbled around and finally both of us were now standing on what had been a table; now the legs had broken under our weight. We both weigh twenty-eight and a half stone in full armor and I’m sure this table was just meant to hold food and books. A dozen humans in robes sat around the table, while another dozen or so humans attended them as servants. One of the robed humans had a tiny dragon, the size of a cat, curled around his neck and a second one had a blue skinned human with pointy ears… well, had something like a blue elf maybe, sitting on his lap, wearing hardly anything. The rest had left their lovers or pets at home… no, wait, a REALLY angry cat sat under one robed human’s chair, hissing at us VERY angrily, though now his owner picked him up and began to pet him and make soothing noises.

“I am very sorry, men and women of Glantri,” I said. I assume this is Glantri. Or Alphatia, given the high wizard content. “If you can contact Princess Luna of Equestria, she will compensate you for your table and take us home.”

Hopefully we’re not about to go to wizard prison; I think we could take maybe six wizards, but not twelve, not even with a surprise attack.

They gabbled at each other in languages I don’t know, though it sounded like the language of the Prancian Griffons; all I can say in that language is very simple stuff like ‘where is the bathroom’ and ‘Make way for Princess Luna’.

Then a man in green robes rose and cast a spell, then asked, “Can you understand me?”

“Yes, sir,” I said and repeated, “I am very sorry, men and women of Glantri. If you can contact Princess Luna of Equestria, she will compensate you for your table and take us home.”

Anchor Star and one of the wizards were eying each other in that ‘let’s have a fight for no reason because we’re idiots’ way. Which usually is a stalllion problem but Anchor Star is a mare. We get paired a lot so I can restrain her crazier ideas.

“I fear I have never heard of such a Princess or Place or of this ‘Glantri’. Is that one of those tiny Italian states?” the man asked me. “I am Michael bani Jerbiton, one of the Masters of this Covenant.”

“I am Lt. Loose Grip and this is Lt. Anchor Star, who needs to *stand down*,” I said firmly but she ignored me. “I do not know what an Italian state is.”

This is going to be one of *those* missions, I could tell.

***********

Princess Luna’s Secret:

I have vast scrying powers but they only work at night. Celestia’s only work during the day. It’s an inheritance from Mother. Even my immortal abilities do not include scrying beyond that, to my frustration.

So on Mystara, I reported to Celestia what happened and on Pandius, I sent a message to Uncle Full Moon, since my avatar can’t leave the library. Well, I could but it would get me in trouble.

He soon arrived and I told him everything. “Can you scry for them, Uncle?”

He sat down and concentrated; he has a lot of scrying abilities. I went back to my work. After a while, he frowned. “I have good news and bad news.”

I sighed and stared off towards the Geography section. “Go on.”

“The good news is that I just found Cadence and Spike; they’re in Davania.” He passed the lock to me, so I could pass it to my other avatar. “The bad news is that I can’t get any kind of lock on Pinkie, Anchor Star, or Loose Grip beyond a dimensional disturbance on the Adri Varna. They may have slipped into a Parallel Prime.”

So Pinkie is wandering around with a very important artifact in another universe. Well, at least I can save Cadence and Spike immediately, given they were sending me an urgent call for help.

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

Cadence and Spike’s Excellent Adventure/Disaster (Spike):

Being hung upside down makes the blood rush to my head; Cadence either passed out or faked it; they had us both strung up from trees.

Basically, we outpaced them but they just could run *forever*, apparently, and just ran us down into the ground. So there we were, strung up apparently for a sacrifice. They danced around and chanted and drew runes on us and then there was a huge poof of fire and smoke and two giant lizardmen appeared. I think one of them was a lizardwoman.

I was, to say the least, nervous.

They shouted a lot and the lizardmen all bowed down before them; then they untied us and hoisted us over their shoulders. Cadence slept through this, but I tried and failed to break free and then POOF, we were back in Canterlot.

And the two giant lizardmen put us down, then poof, turned into Ivan and Princess Luna.

“Okay, the easy rescue is over,” Ivan said, then shook Cadence gently.

She woke up, rubbing her eyes. “I feel woozy.”

“You’ll be okay once you rest and your blood all goes the right way,” Princess Luna said and then sighed, settling down on a couch.

We were in some parlor, decorated with scenes of ducks on water and seaponies. There was a table with tea and cookies and lots of couches to lounge around on. Rarity would… let’s not think about Rarity.

Sigh.

I managed to go this whole mission without thinking about her too.

Celestia now entered. “The Council of Intrusions has confirmed two breaches at the place you teleported from.” She and Luna now stared at each silently a short time, then Celestia said, “The Council says that can’t be the true Key, which should be sealed in a vault which could only be opened by five Hierarchs, one from each Sphere.”

“Anything can be stolen by a good enough thief,” Ivan said. “We have to assume it’s the real thing.”

“You somehow… how did you know to have a duplicate key that exploded?” I asked Princess Luna.

“I had some anti-entropy bombs; I reshaped one of them with Stone Shape quickly and swapped it for the real one, leaving it invisible in the invisible ink,” Princess Luna said proudly. “I am going to call Twilight. Cadence, do you feel up to more danger?”

“I think I have to rest some, I am worn out,” Cadence confessed, staring at the floor. “I’m sorry, Princess.”

“And Rainbow Dash, then,” Princess Luna said. “Probably this should be easy. I just hope Pinkie is okay, wherever she is.”

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

Pinkie’s Pie-Tastic Viewpoint:

“But if it is called Grimtooth’s Deadly Dungeon of Death, why does anyone come to it?” I asked Grak.

“Principle four is that if you put the words ‘Nothing but unavoidable death beyond this door’ on a door, Adventurers will find a way to open it,” Grak said, shrugging as we loped along down a tunnel. “Everyone forced the ‘Inescapable Death Dungeon of Mascus the Adventurer Eater’ to shut down because it was stealing too much business from everyone else. It was just a door and a slide that dropped you into his inexhaustible all-devouring maw. Also, he never spent his gold, so he was draining the economy.”

After a few seconds thinking about that, I decided to never think about it again. “So the heart of the economy of your world is that you lure adventurers into dungeons, take all their treasure, then use it for your living expenses and to buy things to make better dungeons?”

“It’s the heart of the Troll economy, anyway,” Grak said, now opening a door and leading me into a *huge* cave; there was a large lake, lots of stalagmites and stalactites, fungus growing on the walls and dozens of glowing crystals in the ceiling which dimly illuminated the room; we skirted the lake, heading for a platform with a half-dozen big chairs on it with attached fishing rods.

“Adventurers come for treasure, die, and then we use their money to buy food, magical items, gems, things to help us build more, better, and bigger dungeons, and so on. The money we spend in the towns keeps the human, elven, and dwarven economy going so they can send more adventurers. The circle of economic life,” Grank told me.

I reached the fishing pole chairs. “So he wants me to test this?”

“Yes. This part of the dungeon isn’t open to visitors yet as the traps need further testing,” Grak said.

“Do you get a lot of Pony adventurers?” I asked him, hopping up into a chair and working the fishing rod with my hooves; it was clumsy as this really was designed for hands, but I made it work and soon was waiting for a bite.

He now stepped to the very edge of the platform. “Not really. Most people wouldn’t turn into a horse with a Metamorph Me spell. At least not for a dungeon.”

I tried to parse that. “Wait… you think I’m polymorphed?” I asked him as I waited for a bite.

“What’s a polymorph?” he asked curiously. “A shapeshifting polygamist?”

I had a bite! It began to tug. “Okay, let me reel it in,” I said; the chair began to wobble but I held on tight as Grak watched, frowning. Then I pulled the trout out of the water. “Not bad. I’m vegetarian, but you eat meat, right?”

Grak took the trout, but he gave it the stinkeye as if it had been a very naughty trout. Then he swallowed it in one gulp and began spitting out the bones, into the water.

I don’t know if Fluttershy would like that, but I don’t know ecology well.

So I pulled a half-dozen fish out of the water. “This is a lot of fun,” I told him. “I’m not taking too many fish, am I?”

“Get up,” Grak said, so I did; he undid part of the platform and got inside it and began monkeying around.

While he did this, I ambled around, splashed in the edge of the water some and sang a little song about Seaponies.

“Okay, try it again,” Grak said, getting over to the edge of the platform.

I wonder what went wrong. It seemed fine to me.

I got in the chair, cast my reel and waited. Soon I had something *big*. I could see a huge thing… is that a small whale? I pulled and pulled and then… the twine or whatever it is broke.

Grak went and opened a secret door in the wall to a supply closet; he now restrung the reel and I tried again. The huge fish got it and now the chair began to rattle. Grak licked his teeth nervously and the whale or whatever it is tugged and I tugged and…

Suddenly, the whale or whale-like fish, flew up into the air as suddenly the chair rotated backwards, smashing through the platform and then spun through the undercarriage, full of complicated machinery; I heard Grak scream and then I heard the sound of a whale falling on a troll.

It’s very specific but hard to describe. Imagine if you dropped a stone golem from the roof of Celestia’s castle onto a giant mushroom, maybe.

The chair I was in tried to rotate back into place but it bounced off the whale and now I was stuck under the platform; what does all this machinery do, anyway?

I began studying it; it looks like it’s set up to fire springs which launch the chair into the air when the chair gets tugged, pulling a pin out of place. That sounds pretty fun. Then you swim back and have to reset it.

There’s some flaws with the design, though. I began trying to fix them while I was stuck here.

I was still trying to fix it when I heard the sound of someone beating up a whale or whatever that thing is. Fluttershy would know. I wish she was here.

Well, not *right* here as she’d get filthy and there’s not room for two ponies under here.

“I don’t know where the talking pony went,” Grak said.

“I’m under here! I can’t get out,” I shouted.

The troll crew pulled me out, and one of them said, “This trap really relies on adventurers being suckers too much.”

“I don’t think you CAN underestimate their intelligence,” a second said.

“I think I figured out how to fix this,” I said, then showed them and they stared at me, but then re-fitted all the equipment the right way. Then I hopped up in the chair and began fishing.

This time a giant shark bit onto my reel and the whole thing worked perfectly to fling me into the air after it; I shouted, “Yahooooooooooo!!!!!” as I went flying over the lake and then came down on the giant shark’s head, knocking it out.

I swam back to shore. “I think you’re going to have to pay the shark more,” I told them.

They looked at each other, then Grak said, “How much damage can you survive?”

“All the damage I’ve ever taken!”, I said proudly. “What doesn’t kill me usually ends up as my friend!” Or runs away. Some people are hard to be friends with, unfortunately.

The trolls huddled, then one of them said, “I am Baragashkakkorashmishharkekekekoring, but you can call me Barag. Come with us, maybe you can figure out what’s wrong with another one of our prototypes.”

“Sure!” I said. Man, Applebloom won’t be happy she missed this.

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

Princess Luna’s Secrets:

Twilight and I carefully drew the runes into the magic circle; shifting to a parallel plane *deliberately* is harder than teleportation and it’s best to prepare an anchor point. Either of us can easily teleport back to it.

Spike walked around nervously, while Ivan sat in a chair, reading a book he’d gotten from the library while we were making preparations. ‘Thircanius’ Guide to Magical Weapons, Volume Five’. Hmm, must be… well, anything published in the last 1000 years is usually new to me.

Rainbow Dash was plopped down on the floor next to him, also reading, ‘Bio-Research in Blackmoor: A History’. Her face was all scrunched up, and her Element was glowing; I had gotten hers and Twilight’s Elements out of the vaults, along with Pinkie’s.

Part of me worried that I should get the entire team, but I don’t want to take them all into another prime plane in case something goes wrong. As Immortals go, my planar travelling experience is fairly low. I mainly travelled with others during my period as a novice… which I then ended messily.

We then began another circle for the second trace; we don’t know who went where; I am hoping one of the traces leads to two of them so we don’t lose one of them forever.

Though it could mean one of them is back on the Adri Varna. I hope not.

“Man, this is crazy. Green Slime was originally invented as a lubricant but it killed the people who made it and got spores into the air and now it’s found all over the world,” Rainbow Dash said, shaking her head.

“Man, we lost two people to that stuff in the Money Pit,” Ivan said, shaking his head. “Which, by the way, turned out to have wooden coins at the bottom. Old Elven currency, now worthless due to being waterlogged.” He slumped in his chair. “By the time we got everyone raised, we lost money on the whole thing.”

We now finished the circles. “Dash, pick a circle,” I said.

Dash began to circle it them, studying them. “I’m picking the first one we try?”

“Yes,” Twilight said, then looked to me for confirmation. I nodded and she continued, “Rescuing people is about loyalty, so you should choose.”

“Hmmm…” Her element glowed softly but Rainbow Dash looked uncertain. “They both reso-thing with loyalty.”

“Resonate?” Twilight asked.

“Yeah.” Dash’s eyes went to half-mast and she hovered over each circle, then frowned. “I think this one is more dangerous… maybe.” She pointed to the one on the left.

Twilight paused and now she concentrated, horn glowing and the glow mixed with Dash’s glow. “This one has a faster flow of time than our universe or the other circle,” Twilight said, pointing to the more dangerous one. “I think we should do it first, as it means more time for those lost there to get in trouble.”

We all got into the circle, Ivan riding me, Spike on Twilight, Dash above us and then Twilight and I chanted and the magic blended together and then light erupted around us.

When it cleared, we were all on a large round table covered with dinner plates and dishes of food which we were now trampling and the table promptly collapsed; six of the twelve humans around the table teleported, flipped backwards or in one case, turned into an eagle and evacuated the immediate area. Six others were caught unready and sat in their chairs, in some cases now wearing their food.

Not the best way to meet the locals.

One of the ones caught off guard now said in clumsy Common, “Arr U Eeekwestrian?”

“Yes,” I told him. “I am Princess Luna, seeking my guards.”

One of the other wizards began shouting about something and now the one I was talking to looked worried. “I am Magister Michael bani Jerbiton. Your guards are here…” He struggled for words, sighed, and cast a spell. “They have gone with some of the grogs and Magister Lucius bani Merinta to negotiate with the dryads for Plant-oriented Tass. They arrived here three months ago and have lived with us ever since.”

I winced at that. Three months. My poor guards.

Well, if time is faster here, we can wait a little while for their return.

One of the humans with slicked back black hair, wearing a black shirt with red flames under a green tunic, got up in our face, shouting and waving and pointing; he was covered with dinner.

“That is Magister Francois bani Tytalus. He is trying to challenge you to Certamen, a dueling contest, because you covered him in food and he feels insulted,” Michael bani Jerbiton said, sighing. “You are not obliged to accept, but some here will think less of you if you refuse.”

“I’ll duel him right through the wall,” Rainbow Dash said excitedly. “I… oh man, I have food on me!”

It was only at this point I realized we were food-splattered too.

“I can duel him,” Twilight said. “Non-lethal, I presume.”

“Yes, it was invented by our founder to ensure wizards stopped killing each other in duels,” Michael bani Jerbiton said.

I could see younger wizards now cleaning up the mess with magic, which included cleaning us up. Apprentices, I assume.

“If you don’t mind, Twilight,” I said to her.

“It shouldn’t take a duel,” Twilight said, sighing. “But we don’t want an incident, either. So how do we do this?”

It was soon time to go to the arena.

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

Twilight’s Duelling Journal:

I’ve never fought an actual formal, proper duel before, so I thought I should start a dueling journal to record such experiences. Fortunately, I had two blank journals with me!

This world is called ‘Dirt’. I wonder if that’s an error in the magical translation; surely they have a prettier name for their world. This country is called ‘France’ and bears some resemblance to our province of ‘Prance’ and to ‘New Averoigne’, which… wait, could this be the world the New Averoigneans came from?

I quickly noted that in my geography journal for later study.
.

So, the dueling arena is on the roof, under a huge glass dome; the stars shone down on us as we each entered through a door and passed into the central circle; four human wizards moved to equidistant positions around it and cast a spell which shrouded the inner ring with a field of light blue force. Observers could still watch, but this would block the magic.

As I understand it, Certamen can’t actually kill anyone, though your foe will *appear* dead at the end. All your magic becomes illusions you experience as real.

Magister Francois bani Tytalus burst into flames at the start, so I triggered a rain of snow on him, snuffing it; he threw a fireball and I teleported out of the way; he stared at *that*, eyes wide, leaving himself vulnerable to me making his mane grow so it covered his eyes; he pushed that aside in time to get hit with lightning and go flying.

I waited to see if he was down and he chanted and the ground under me ignited in flames; OWW. I teleported but now I was somewhat scorched and he reshaped the fire into a tumbling ball.

He chased me around with it as I couldn’t stay still long enough to cast. So I teleported behind him and flung him into his own flames; this disoriented him but he was immune to his own fire.

I should have anticipated that!

I created a lariat of lightning and tried to lasso him, but he dodged and cast this water spell where the lightning discharged down it into the floor and into my hooves as I ended up standing on the water. *Nice*, though I didn’t enjoy it and went stumbling backwards.

I heard a noise; Dash was shouting something and trying to break into the arena and Luna was arguing with her.

“I have this, Dash!” I shouted, though now I was dodging three falcons made of lightning, while the magister prepared a *big* spell.

Unfortunately for him, when he unleashed a great rolling sheet of fire at me, I teleported to the other side of it, then… and then the fire hit the water and the whole place filled with steam and we couldn’t see each other.

Further, the electrical falcons now turned into a lightning storm that zapped us both. I fell into what was left of the water, then gathered it off me into a whip of water and lashed out with it; this showed me where he was when he yelped and then I *froze* him.

He stumbled out of the mists, slowed by the ice and now I turned up the cold. He babbled, tried to cast another spell, got wobbly and fell over.

The Certamen field collapsed and the duel was over.

“And the winner is Duchess Sparkle,” Magister Michael bani Jerbiton announced. “This affair of honor is settled.”

“Are you okay?” Dash asked me, eyes wide.

“I’m fine,” I told her. “It was perfectly safe.”

Now she grinned. “I knew you’d kick his ass,” she said, miming a back kick.

After that, we had no trouble while we waited for the guard ponies to return. I just hope this doesn’t keep us from getting to Pinkie in time.

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

Pinkie’s Pie-Tastic Viewpoint:

“Okay, pull the lever,” Barag said from down the hallway.

The lever was set into the wall of this dead end corridor in the dead end. It was labelled ‘Treasure Vault Release’. So I pulled it; I like to be helpful.

Immediately, I dropped down into a deep pit, though I landed on my feet and then… part of the ceiling opened and gold began to rain down into the pit. But only one side. Eventually, the pit filled up partway, enough for me to clamber back out. “Well, getting the treasure out of the pit is going to be a lot of work.”

“Dammit, it still doesn’t fill the pit,” Barag said, scraping the wall with his claws. He came and looked down. “The math indicates the vault should fill it and drown the person who falls in with gold.”

I studied the vault through the hole. “That vault is *much* smaller than the hole. Can I see the plans?”

He showed me the scroll and I studied it. “See here? ‘ means foot and “ means yards, right?”

“Yeah,” he said. “Standard notation.”

“And the pit is measured in yards and the vault in *feet*, so it’s one-twentyseventh the size of the pit! Someone left out the second ‘,” I told him.

“Dammit, Gorrshkarakator,” Barag said angrily. “No wonder those two captured adventurers were happy to stumble into this trap. Someone’s going to take a fall.”

“I already did,” I said.

He looked at me, then laughed a grim laugh. “So you’re an engineering pony?”

“I’m mostly a bard and cook, but I’ve learned lots of things,” I told him. “You might consider filling the expanded vault with coin-shaped hard cheeses; it’s going to take most of your wealth to fill this thing with gold coins once it’s the right size.”

“Wouldn’t it go bad?” he asked.

“Cheese was invented to use up milk before it went bad. Cure it properly and it’ll last long enough to do its’ job.”

“Here, come with me, let’s see what you think of the treadmill staircase,” Barag said.

Another troll with us said, “Given it’s busted, it’s more like a normal staircase.”

“Oooh, I like staircases.”

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

Princess Luna’s Secrets:

Having recovered my guards, it was time to go rescue Pinkie, so I cast the spell to home in on her and we all landed on a bed which attempted to rise and crush us against the ceiling. Dash and I battered it to bits, but there was no sign of Pinkie. I soon, however, had a lock on her. Teleports were blocked, so we would have to go the hard way through what soon turned out to be a dungeon.

Hold on, Pinkie, we’re coming!

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

Pinkie’s Pie-Tastic Viewpoint:

I was in my nice new office, working on a new trap; since I can’t get home on my own, I had to get a job to support myself, but thankfully, the Trolls are equal-opportunity employers, at least if you’re smart and don’t die easily. I even got this cool earring that lets me call the other employees or the boss remotely! It’s like having Unicorn telepathy magic! I love it, but we all spend like half our work time chatting instead of working, which is probably why Grimtooth is so cranky all the time.

Currently, I am trying to upgrade Murderbed 3.3, which basically isn’t very good at all; it has failed to kill me or even injure me successfully each time I’ve slept on it.

The problem is that fast movement wakes me up so I jump off it and slow motion just pushes me gently against the ceiling until I get bored of it.

Maybe it should shackle you in your sleep? But how will it tell where the appropriate limbs are? And human shackles work poorly on ponies…

Grak stuck his head in through the door. “Hey, do you have time to come check out the new iteration of the electro-water cannon?”

I spat out my quill pen onto the diagram on my desk. “I’m always ready to drink from the fire hose,” I said, getting up.

“GIVE ME THE KEY,” Sombra said.

I looked around; no sign of Sombra. “Did you hear that?” I asked.

Grak sniffed the air. For some reason. “I heard a voice but I can’t smell anyone.” OH.

I sniffed the air; the usual weird metallic tangs and hints of spices and leather. “Maybe we imagined it.”

“GIVE ME THE KEY, OR I WILL DESTROY YOU,” Sombra said.

“I can’t give you the key if you don’t *show yourself*,” I said.

After a *long* pause, he appeared, standing on my desk, where his evil corrupted my elaborate diagram into some sort of curled up bits of shadow! “Hey, I put a lot of work into that,” I told him angrily. “Also, you took your key and blew up!”

“IT WAS A FAKE! GIVE ME THE KEY OR DIE!” he shouted.

Grak turned. “We’ve got an intruder!” he shouted down the hallway and then got lighting bolted by Sombra; Grak fell down, twitching.

I bolted down the hallway. “INTRUDER ALERT!” I shouted. “It’s an evil Shadow Pony who wants something he blew up himself because he’s not too bright!” That was probably too mean but I’m angry.

I don’t like me when I’m angry.

This is just like when Inky ate all the cakes and blamed me for it.

Admittedly, I had planned to eat them all but she struck first.

I dodged lightning but the trolls who rushed into the hallway were less lucky. I left many twitching trolls lying on the floor.

“Pinkamena D. Scholar,” Grimtooth said to me via my magic earring. “Lure him into the Solar Flare trap.”

Oooh, Light against Shadow. “I’m on it, boss.”

I ran through a series of hallways, down a staircase, then leaped over a small chasm and up another staircase, through a series of dart traps which still need to be reset, and finally into the Chamber of the Solar Flare, leading him RIGHT in front of the huge sun painted on the wall.

WHOOSH, a huge jet of flame rushed over him and only then did I suddenly realize that might, in fact, kill him. I felt horrified for about three seconds, then saw that the flame had turned black and now he was somehow bending it into a lasso with his mind and snaring me with it.

Also, he was flying without wings AND was unhurt.

“Boss, he just turned the solar flare into evil fire or something and I’m caught,” I told Grimtooth.

“Dammit, keep him talking about his evil plans or whatever idiocy he came here for and I’ll round up a posse,” my boss said. “Dammit that trap has a four skull rating, but every time you REALLY count on it, it fails.”

“It would be five skulls if it *never* failed,” I reminded the boss.

“I know,” he said and now I could faintly hear him shouting at other trolls.

“GIVE ME THE KEY!” he shouted.

“I can’t get in my saddlebags while I am tied up!” I protested after some effort.

There was a long pause. The Solar Flare trap went off again and he just made a… is that an evil Solstice Tree of evil fire?

It even has little presents on it. I mean ornaments. No presents.

I checked.

He untied me, but kept one leg bound so I could not flee. I dug and threw him my house key. “The Cakes are going to be really mad at me for giving you this but I have no choice.”

He didn’t even *titter*.

“THE KEY TO THE PIT OF BANISHMENT!” he shouted.

“You stole it! It blew up!” I protested.

He flipped me upside down and my saddlebags poured out on the ground. Various food items and cooking utensils, including all eight jars of pickles… which I had forgotten I had! Dammit, I could have shown Grak my pickle cigar gag! I tried to grab a jar but I couldn’t reach.

Two romances, an adventure novel and the book Twilight wants me to read but which I can’t figure out all fell out next, followed by the Glasses of Groucho, my malfunctioning time travel snow globe, both rubber ducks, my Glasses of Disguise, my rubber goose and… no rubber chicken? Dang it!

Gummy fell out, utterly bloated, along with the remains of the alligator treats; I think he ate them all. The Blackmoorian Can of Preservation was in his mouth but he was too full to bite down. And next to him was the invisible ink bottle.

“YES!” Sombra said and took my invisible ink bottle.

“Uh, that’s not a key, you know,” I said. I mean, we did try to use it to make the key invisible but…

When he shattered the bottle, the ink fell off it, rendering that key to the pit thing visibile.

Wait… I had it the whole time? Did I do a switcheroo and *forget*?

“Yes, now I will…”

“SUFFER LIKE NO ONE HAS EVER SUFFERED!” an angry female voice boomed; the ‘Solstice Tree of Evil Fire’ now suddenly exploded into a huge alicorn made out of evil black and red fire with eyes of ruby with black and red fire inside them.

The Solar Flare trap went off and she wrapped Sombra in chains of black fire and when he tried to squeeze out, she filled the gaps with black ice full of black lighting; my entire coat stood on end and my mane and tail frizzed; I hopped back; he’d lost his grip on me, and I began scooping up everything into my saddlebags, starting with Gummy.

“YOU CANNOT TOUCH ME!” Sombra bellowed. “I AM THE CHOSEN OF THANATOS, THE HIERARCH OF YOUR SPHERE!”

For a moment, I thought whoever this is was going to just explode. Is it Cunning Thought? It sounds kind of like her if she stood in an echo chamber.

Now alarms began going off. “WARNING! LEVEL FIVE DIVINE POWER IN USE. EVACUATE TO SAFETY ZONES.”

I sped up gathering my stuff. Thanatos… he’s the head of the Sphere of Entropy. Cunning Thought’s boss. Could slap even Celestia around. “Ummm… can you use that much divine power on this plane without getting in trouble?”

“I DO NOT CARE. AND WITH THIS…” the key flew over to Cunning Thought. “I CAN ENSURE THIS FOOL SPENDS THE NEXT AGE LOCKED UP, POSSIBLY FOREVER.”

Princess Luna now burst in with Ivan riding her, along with Twilight, ridden by Spike, and Dash, ridden by no one. I hope she didn’t get turned down. “Mother! You need to reduce your power expenditure before the Council of Intrusion decides you’re in violation of the rules and locks *you* up.”

“If I stand down, this little shit will escape,” she hissed. So it *is* Cunning Thought.

Spike looked vaguely hypnotized by all the fire, while Ivan said, “Cunning Thought, you are standing in front of a fire trap!”

WHOOSH, she shaped it into another layer of prison for Sombra, who continued to pontificate. But now you couldn’t hear him. “I like fire,” she said, but she did seem a little calmer. “And this little shit and his master betrayed you so he got off scott free and you spent a thousand years in prison!” Cunning Thought said, still angry but not in total echoing bellow mode.

“Mother, we can contain him together, but you have to stand down; I can feel a probe starting! They’ll be here soon! And neither of us can count on them being reasonable about this,” Princess Luna said, sounding frustrated. “Please, won’t you trust me to be strong enough for this?”

For a moment, Cunning Thought was utterly silent; I could faintly hear something about ‘crystals’ and ‘whores’ from inside the prison. Or maybe ‘holes’.

I could see Ivan disarming the Solar Flare trap. I licked my lips. “How about if we all have some cookies? Or pickles! Or pickles AND cookies, which I have never tried.” How have I never tried that? Maybe I could even make *pickle cookies*.

I fought the urge to figure out how to do that.

Spike looked at Cunning Thought, then at Sombra. “So… what exactly did he do to piss you off so much?”

“I know Thantos voted with the rest of the Council of Intrusion to lock up Princess Luna after her rebellion for abuse of Immortal Power on the Prime,” Twilight said softly. “Whereas I assume he hid Sombra or something, where no one could find him.”

“I think the crown malfunctioned and flung him through time or hid him outside it for a time or something, until we set him free,” Princess Luna said softly.

“THANATOS CAST THE DECIDING VOTE TO SEND LUNA TO PRISON WHILE HIDING HIS PROTÉGÉ FROM PUNISHMENT,” Cunning Thought shouted, now very angry again.

“I’m sure the three of us can contain him,” Twilight said, stepping up. “Celestia and I would not like to see you imprisoned for breaking the rules. And neither would Luna. Can’t you trust us?”

I suddenly realized that Dash had vanished… can she turn invisible now?

“I SHOULD JUST SNUFF OUT HIS MISERABLE LIFE AND THEN I WON’T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT THANATOS FINDING A WAY TO GET HIM OUT OF BEING PUNISHED,” Cunning Thought said, now weaving a net of acid around the prison as it floated in the air.

“If you kill him, Thanatos will stop at nothing to make you pay for it, you know that!” Princess Luna pled with her. “Mother we don’t have much time and you know it!”

“I FINALLY UNDERSTAND WHY THOR JUST BLUNDERS AROUND SMASHING THINGS!” Cunning Thought shouted. “I AM GOING TO SMASH THIS LITTLE SHIT!”

This isn’t like her; she’s all subtle and kind of funny and… I had no choice. I scattered pickles on the floor, then tripped on them, making them roll under my hooves until I collided with Twilight, sending Spike into the air to somehow go headfirst into one of Cunning Thought’s saddlebags; thankfully, he is fireproof.

“Ooops, I’m so clumsy,” I said, laughing weakly.

Cunning Thought stared at me like I was insane.

“Trap disarmed,” Ivan said, then turned to warily face Cunning Thought.

Twilight laughed, then covered her mouth with one hoof. “Sorry, Pinky,” she said weakly.

Princess Luna looked at me, rushed over, and… slipped on the pickles, sliding across the room howling; Ivan rushed after her and now HE slid on them, crashing into her as she crashed into the wall and I rolled around laughing.

When Princess Luna tried to rise, slipped and she and Ivan tumbled more, Cunning Thought began to laugh. At first hoarsely, then with an easier voice and as she laughed, her fires died away until she was just a red-coated mare… an Alicorn mare, but not a thing of terror and flame and… I could have cooked something off her flame! I missed a gag!

I guess it would have made evil shadow food, though.

“Luna,” Cunning Thought said, sounding now like a fond mother, now helping Princess Luna up… or she thought as now *she* slipped and fell onto Ivan and Princess Luna. This sent Sombra flying and the prison began dissolving and Twilight quickly trapped him in a bubble of purple light but he began thrashing and the bubble bent in unnatural ways.

Luna and Cunning Thought began to rise, trying to cast spells, but slipped again, tumbling in a kind of ball, right into Twilight and now her bubble popped and Sombra was free.

*Where is Dash?*

I began feeling this weird breeze; something was wrong with it. Sombra began to cackle, seizing the key, which apparently laid on the floor all this time. “VICTORY WILL BE MINE!”

“I HATE THIS PLACE!” Dash shouted, looking charred, covered in burnt paper, tangled in fishing lines and wires and having some sort of rock monster chewing on her right leg; then she hit Sombra; SONIC RAINBOOM.

The key went flying and Gummy stuck his head out of my saddlebag and ate it.

Then he sank back out of sight.

Gummy, if you throw up inside my saddlebag, I won’t be happy!

It was only funny the first ten times.

“I paid my protection money to the gods! Please take your divine brawl OUT of my dungeon!” I heard Grimtooth shouting.

“Agreed,” a man’s voice said and suddenly, we all turned bright yellow and vanished.

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

Princess Luna’s Secrets:

We found ourselves before the council of Intrusion. Ixion for the Sphere of Energy. Terra, Mother Nature, for the Sphere of Matter. Noumena for the Sphere of Thought. Khoronous, Father Time, for the Sphere of Time. And Nyx for the Sphere of Entropy. However, Thanatos was here as well, skeletal as always. He is the ruler of the Sphere of Entropy, and thus the boss of Mother and Nyx. He had Sombra tucked under one arm, since he was twenty feet tall today.

Mother and I and Ivan were still tangled on the floor, with Twilight near us and Pinkie a bit further away. I’m not sure *where* Spike went.

“You look lovely as always, Hierarch,” Nyx said to Thanatos in a sultry way. Perhaps *only* Nyx could do that to Thanatos.

I am standing before…

I am lying on the ground, tangled up with Mother and Twilight, all of us now coated in pickle juice. It was necessary but this is going to weaken our position. Dash hovered above us, laughing her head off.

Spike now stuck his head out of Mother’s saddlebag. “You know there’s a fire elemental in here, right? Or something like it.”

Mother Nature blinked at Spike, while Ixion now studied him.

“Yes, it’s one of my little darlings I spawned with Rathanos. The children all burned their way out of their crèche and I was rounding them up,” Mother said cheerfully as if she had not been close to murder before.

“What exactly is going on?” Ixion demanded.

“Sombra had this evil key and somehow it ended up in my saddlebags and Gummy ate it,” Pinkie told them. “Hmm, I guess I won’t get any severance pay from my new job.”

Ixion clearly felt *less* enlightened than before.

“This little shit finally came out of his hidey-hole and my darling daughter and her friends caught him. I expect he’ll be getting to find out what a thousand years in prison feels like, maybe more, given he stole the Key of the Pit of Banishment,” Mother said, her voice starting to heat up but she cooled it down. “Which apparently is going to need better security.”

Ixion rumbled deep in his throat, while Father Time said, “I am not sure if there *is* better security possible. If this is the real key… something ate it?” He turned to Pinkie.

“Gummy, my pet alligator.” She pulled him out and began shaking him; he did not seem to care, just wobbling about.

Mother Nature gestured and Gummy now spat up the key; Ixion made a face at it and Father Time gestured and it became instantly clean and landed in his hands. “It is the Key,” he said, frowning deeply. “But its history has been erased; everything before the moment Sombra confronted you all… in whatever that was… is gone.”

Pinkie now cuddled Gummy as best she could.

“Do you mean from the moment we met him in the ruins of the Crystal Empire, sir? Or when we encountered him on the parallel prime?” Ivan asked.

“The ruins,” Father Time said. “As for Sombra… well, he was not an immortal and thus his effort to overthrow the Crystal Empire is not the business of the Immortals to punish. Mortals have the right to rule themselves or overthrow each other. However, theft of the Key of Banishment most certainly is. Especially by a candidate for Immortality. Now a failed candidate. He has to be interrogated to find out who helped him as there is no way he stole it himself.”

“THE VAULT MUST BE UNSEALED,” Thanatos said, as if he needs to show off among the Immortals. “THAT WILL REQUIRE US TO GET ODIN.”

“Odin has gone off on some quest for wisdom and is not responding to efforts to contact him,” Noumena said, frowning as he sat in this weird pose he always does when he is in a chair. I think it’s a meditation technique. “Until he returns, we cannot check.”

Mother now made a rumbling noise in her throat. “Assuming he has not gotten himself imprisoned by one of the Outer Beings again.”

“He was not Hierarch, then,” Noumena said, eyes narrowing. He made a dismissive gesture. “He is absent, not imprisoned.”

“I can contain Sombra and arrange interrogation,” Mother Nature began.

“*I* will get the truth out of him, for I command the Light of Truth,” Ixion said.

I’m not sure if that’s anything special or just him bragging.

Nyx made her usual bedroom eyes at him. “I would love to help you, Ixion. I’m quite good at getting people to… tell me secrets.”

Ixion’s eyes crossed.

I can’t tell if she’s sincere or just likes to mess with his head.

Mother grumbled, then said, “The Sphere of Thought is probably best suited to get the truth out of him, as his mind remains mortal and hopelessly stupid.”

Sombra seethed, clearly not stupid enough to start anything but understandably not wanting to be insulted. He should be glad we stopped Mother from doing horrible things to him.

I would be angrier with him, but seeing Mother so angry… Mother does not get angry like that. Or if she does, it’s to manipulate you. But I think she really was angry on my behalf.

If Pinkie hadn’t had those pickles… but that’s Pinkie. A force of chaos, but one whose chaos tends to good. Which is why she commands laughter, which forces the mighty to think again at what they are doing.

“HE WAS MY STUDENT, I WILL OVERSEE ANY INTERROGATION,” Thanatos said.

This is going to go on forever, I can tell.

“Should we be here?” Twilight asked nervously.

“No,” Ixion said. “Thank you for assisting Luna, but this is a matter for the Immortals to settle now. Luna, can you return them to the Prime?”

“Of course,” I said. “Thank you, everyone, for coming with me to recover everyone.”

“Of course I came,” Rainbow Dash said. “I always stand up for my friends.”

“Oh, before you go… everyone, this is my daughter’s coltfriend, Ivan; he is a candidate for immortality under Asterius,” Mother said, scooting over and bumping Ivan over next to me. “They refuse to say how soon I will have grandchildren, however.”

Ivan and I both turned red. Well, I tried, but you can’t tell if I blush because of my black coat. “We’re not… We haven’t…” He began to flail his hands and I tried to get my composure back.

“While it is not forbidden, dating mortals only ends in tragedy,” Ixion said, shaking his head and frowning at us.

“I think it’s very romantic,” Nyx said, smiling at us. “I approve. If his quest fails, I can turn him into a vampire for you, Luna dear, and then he can be with you forever anyway.”

Of course Nyx thinks that is a good idea.

“THIS SORT OF PATHETIC BEHAVIOR IS WHAT GOT YOU IMPRISONED FOR A THOUSAND YEARS,” Thanatos pronounced. “ESPECIALLY WITH SOMEONE AS SELF-DESTRUCTIVE AS THIS FOOL.”

“Love isn’t pathetic!” Pinkie protested. “Well, sometimes, but not *this* time.”

“I am not self-destructive!” Ivan shouted angrily at Thanatos.

“Do not shout at the Hierarch of Entropy,” Twilight urgently whispered to Ivan, having somehow suddenly gotten right next to him.

Pinkie stepped between them, rising bipedal, a forehoof thrust towards each of them. “Let’s not fight! We’re all friends here, right?”

“FRIENDSHIP IS ONE OF THE MOST INSIDIOUS OF LIES,” Thanatos said.

“It is not! Friendship is awesome!” Rainbow Dash said angrily; he ignored her.

“Yes, but that makes it useful,” Mother said to Thanatos. Mother, you never change. Unless it would confuse me.

“I AM UNINTERESTED IN YOUR PRATTLE,” he said to Mother; for a moment, her eyes flared and then she just grinned at him.

“Sadly, Rathanos will never make an honest woman of me,” Mother said mournfully, turning to Ivan. “Don’t be like Rathanos, Ivan.”

Ivan stared at her. “What?”

“Enough,” Noumena said. “Loki, you have once again shown your ability to turn anything into a mockery. We have business to discuss. Luna, please send the mortals home.” He slumped in his chair, frowned, then assumed his meditative pose again.

“YOUR VENGEANCE WILL FAIL, YOU KNOW, IVAN. THEY ARE BEYOND YOUR POWER, EVEN IF YOU BECOME IMMORTAL. I WILL ENJOY WATCHING YOU DIE TRYING, HOWEVER,” Thanatos said.

“Thanatos, that is *enough*,” Ixion said. He turned to me. ‘Please send them now before Thanatos or Loki rob us of any more dignity.’

I nodded. “I will see you soon, my friends.” And I teleported them home.

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

Pinkie’s Pie-Tastic Viewpoint:

Twilight showed us a chart full of circles and lines and glowing stars. “See, this is the world of ‘Dirt’, where I fought the duel, and this is Trollworld, where Pinkie landed,” she said, tapping two circles. “This is Thieves’ World, where everyone is some kind of thief.”

“How does anything get made if everyone steals everything?” Dash asked.

“I don’t know, but it’s ninth of my list of parallel primes I would like to study one day,” Twilight said. “How are you doing, Spike?” she asked him worriedly.

“I’m fine,” he said and came over and hugged her. “I enjoy working with Cadence, but I miss you.”

“I miss you too, Spike,” she said, snuggling him and I smiled.

We were in the Canterlot library, where Luna sent us. Ivan was sitting in a chair, grimacing at a bookshelf as if to set it on fire with his mind. I came over and put a hoof on his shoulder, balancing on my hind-legs and leaning on the chair some for stability. “Thanatos just likes to tear people’s hearts out. You shouldn’t listen to him,” I told Ivan. “He’s just a meanie.”

Ivan made this weird noise. Is he broken?

“Pinkie is right, he is a terrible being,” Twilight said, letting go of Spike and coming over. “It’s going to be okay, Ivan.”

“You wanna be alone a while, man?” Spike asked him. “Sometimes a man has to go off and think.”

“I think so,” Ivan said. “Luna will know where to find me. Thank you, everyone.” He was unusually quiet. Then he stepped into the shadows and vanished.

I hope he’s okay; brooding is really the most fun with an audience. “I am starving. Can we get some food?”

“Sure. Can you tell us about what you saw in Trollworld while we eat?” Twilight asked excitedly.

“Of course I can,” I told her and began telling her the whole saga as we headed to get FOOD.

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

Ivan’s Brooding on the Roof:

I was tucked away between two towers where I could easily balance, looking up at the stars, when a bat flew up to me. It spat up a letter and flew off. It was from Nyx, offering to make me a vampire right now so I could be a vampire Immortal and thus *doubly* immortal and harder to kill just in case something went wrong. I had no way to send her a reply. Luna will know something.

Luna… I’m drawn to her but we’re both wary due to the *many* issues. Marcus can just bonk anything at all, but while turning into a pony is fun…

I do not want to think about this. We’re fine, as we are, even if she… she can be so…

Damn me.

Helga would just go for it; she’s a born romantic. Marcus would go for it because he was born to bonk anything female. I’m surprised he ran away from Twilight. But I grew up where love and romance were a lot less common than either unhappy marriages or things more like a friendship where you have sex sometimes and work together to survive.

She just understands me like none of my past girlfriends could.

I hope they lock up Sombra for *ten thousand* years.

“Hey, you want company?” Soarin’ asked and I nearly fell off the roof; he’d somehow snuck up on me and now was hovering off to my right.

“Hey, Dash is here if you want to see her,” I told him. “I’m just feeling frustrated at being a little man in a big universe.”

“She told me I should see if you wanted to man-talk, since Marcus isn’t here,” he told me, landing lightly on the roof by me and settling down into that… I don’t know what to call it. Sphinx-like, I guess.

“How are things with you two?” I asked.

“We get mobbed by people who want my time when we try to go out, otherwise good,” he said, sighing.

“Maybe you could have Twilight disguise you or fly to Darokin where no one will care,” I mused.

“Hmm, yeah,” he said. “So how about you?”

“We discovered more about the Crystal Empire, thwarted Sombra’s plot and got embarrassed by Cunning Thought. But I fear Thanatos is going to find some way to wiggle Sombra out of this and the fact that he got the… I don’t know if I can even talk about it,” I said, clenching and unclenching my hands, then rubbing them on my legs. “A bunch of Immortals got told Luna and I are lovers when we’re not.” I stared up at the sky. “I don’t know. I like her, but it’s not… it’s not as easy as Marcus and Rarity make it look.”

“Yeah, I’d imagine. I can’t even imagine dating a non-Pony.” Soarin’ paused. “No offense,” he said, not even looking at me.

“None taken,” I told him. “I don’t want to rush into anything because her mother decided to mouth off.”

We drifted into a long talk about past lovers which left me feeling a little better if still generally aggravated with the universe, and especially that shit Thanatos.

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

Princess Luna’s Secrets:

Sombra is currently in the hands of the Immortals of Thought for interrogation, which is to say, mind-reading. Twilight took her friends home to Ponyville, after I thanked everyone. And I took Cadence to the gardens for a talk; Spike tagged along.

“Valerias reclaimed the Heart and has put it to work elsewhere,” I told her. “The Crown broke and Father Time thinks it is skittering into the future, throwing off strange temporal shadows at times; we cannot count on recovering it. If the Crystal Empire rises again, it will require great effort. That may be part of your destiny, but so long as Shadow Ponies rule the Adri Varna, it is not going to be an easy one.”

“I think for now I am going to focus on finding those of Crystal Pony ancestry, in whom it might be awakened,” Cadence told me. “So did most of its people get hauled across time with the Crown?”

“Some, I think, were corrupted into Shadow Ponies, but yes,” I told her. “I will study that hour glass artifact. It may be able to help you.”

“Thank you,” Cadence said to me. “I guess we had a mixed success.”

“I wish I could have done more,” Spike confessed.

“You are always a help to everyone who travels with you, Spike,” Cadence said, gently tapping his shoulder with a hoof. “You’ve been a huge help to me.”

Spike started to say something, then looked off at the zinnias, which are starting to die as it gets colder. “Your mother was really angry,” he said softly.

“I was surprised too,” I confessed. “Mother rarely lets her anger show. Especially not to that degree. All her emotions are usually calculated to help her get what she wants.” I sighed. Which makes dealing with her hard.

“And she would have been in a lot of trouble if we hadn’t stopped her acting on it,” he continued.

“Mother was violating rules on using Immortal power on the Primes, yes,” I told him. “But also, killing Sombra would have made getting to the truth of what is going on a lot harder and would have brought down Thanatos’ enmity on her. Everyone would assume it a revenge killing and Immortals are not supposed to do such things to mortals.”

“But that doesn’t always stop them,” Cadence said softly, studying the daffodils, which also are drooping.

“No, it does not. But because Mother stopped before anyone showed up, it will likely be let go. And Sombra will face justice for the Key. Which will ensure the Pit of Banishment does not give up its contents.” For which I am glad.

“And the Carnifex are bound in the Pit,” Spike continued. He’s getting at something by steps.

“Yes.”

“Did he think they would serve him? From what little I know of them, they’d probably see him as dinner,” Spike said to me, now looking right at me.

“He could not control the powers he had gained; I think they ruined some of his mind,” I told Spike. “He probably believed he could fill them with darkness and control them, conquer the world, blah blah blah.” I slumped, wings hitting the ground. “He wasn’t always like that. But we both delved into darkness for power and couldn’t control it. I don’t know how any of the Entropics keep their sanity. But most of them are not out of touch with reality to that degree.”

“Would it be possible… I guess I’m too young for any of the Dragon Immortals to have any time for me, though,” Spike said, frustrated, idly eating a rock.

“I don’t think there is much they could teach you that you would be ready for, yes,” I told him. “Is there something you want to know?”

“What I really am. I don’t think I’m a normal dragon,” he told me.

“You are not,” I said and he winced. “But that isn’t bad. When you are older, I expect your aunt can help you figure out better how your parents changed you.” If not why. But Amethysts do strange things to their offspring. “But I think they wanted you to be able to both be a dragon and able to function in a society. If dragons do not adapt to the rise of humanoids, I fear they will all go into decline and their loss would be a tragedy.”

“I think you’re meant to be the seed of a better future for dragonkind, Spike,” Cadence said kindly to him, patting him again. “Maybe we could visit Dawn Gleaming and Spikey; they serve one of the Dragon Immortals; they might have lore we do not.”

“Thanks,” Spike said. “You’re really nice, Cadence,” he said, smiling at her.

“So are you, cute little Spike,” she cooed at him.

I hope he does not just end up transferring his crush to her, but I think he’s learned a lesson in where anger can take you.

“I’m not little,” he protested, but he smiled.

“You are currently scaled well for Pony society,” I told him and he smiled at that too.

I should talk to Ivan, but it will be awkward. Damnation, Mother, why do you have to meddle in things like that?

“Hmm, HEY, I can write my own letter and send it to Dawn Gleaming and Spikey can send hers back to me. I’m going to do that right now,” Spike said.

He sat down and started writing and I smiled at him for a moment. I envy him for simple problems with simple solutions.

At that moment, my library-working avatar told me that Nyx had dropped by and was asking about fashion designers and she had told Nyx about Rarity.

Urgh. This can’t end well. I will send Rarity a warning in a little while.

“I had best go read all the reports I missed,” I told them, rising from the grass. “I will see you later. Thank you so much for your help.”

“Any time, Princess,” Cadence said.

“See ya around, Princess,” Spike said, still busy writing.

Good luck, Spike.

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

Pinkie’s Pie-Tastic Viewpoint:

I was busy manning the front desk, bored out of my mind; after my exciting adventure, waiting for customers left me jumpy. Also, I kept worrying about having left my dungeon job in the lurch. I hadn’t properly quit and they’re probably worrying about me. After all, I got carried off by intruders, never to be seen again!

Hmm, that might be a good internship for Applebloom one day. I should talk to her about it.

Then Cunning Thought walked in the front door, looked around, then said, “Are we alone?”

“Well, I am pretty sure aliens do exist, from the things Twilight has told me,” I told her. “But I’ve only ever met… do Immortals count as aliens? You live on the moon, right?”

For a few seconds, there was silence, but then she smiled. “I meant, here in this building.”

“Mr. Cake is in the kitchen, cooking, while Mrs. Cake does battle with getting the children to take their nap. They are a handful,” I told her. “But they’re very sweet.”

“Do you plan to be a mother one day?” she asked me calmly.

“I don’t know if I could handle it,” I confessed. “I understand my parents better now just from helping with the kids. Were Celestia and Luna a handful?”

“A *giant* handful,” Cunning Thought said. “They were born with huge power because I was already an Immortal. I remember Celestia exploding dinner when I tried to teach her to cook and she heated the pot too much. Luna would somehow get high in trees, then was stranded and couldn’t get down or explain how she got up there.” She laughed loudly at that and so did I. “Anyway, I came to thank you. I owe you a boon.”

“For what?” I asked.

“Making me laugh when I had to let go of my rage,” she said solemnly. Then she pulled a piece of paper out of her saddlebags with magic and passed it to me. “Write on this and burn it.”

I began looking for a match.

“Not right now! When you wish to claim the boon. I will get it and aid you if I can.”

I carefully took it; it looked normal except for having Cunning Thought’s cutie mark as a watermark. “I only did… I want everyone to laugh. Even Thanatos.” I licked my lips a little nervously. “Maybe especially Thanatos.”

For a moment, her eyes… they scared me. Then she sighed. “Even Korotiku cannot make Thanatos laugh and he has been trying for millennia. I gave up trying long ago. But if you could make him laugh, you might well become an Immortal yourself on the spot.”

“That’s possible?” I asked. “I thought you had to do a bunch of complicated quests and stuff.”

“For reasons we do not understand, a handful of people have become Immortals by doing something thought impossible or being caught in strange forces,” Cunning Thought told me. “You would have to somehow change Thanatos’ very nature to make him laugh and if that isn’t worthy of immortality, what is?”

Then I know what I have to do. He must be so mean because he’s going to explode from all his pent up failure to laugh. I know I get cranky if I can’t laugh. “Why do you work for him if he treats you badly?” I asked.

“He is the head of the Sphere of Entropy. I have no choice but to obey, so long as he is the most powerful of us. So long.” Cunning Thought smiled a little smile. “But he is ancient, predating the Immortal Storm. It is unlikely any of us could challenge him any time soon, though Nyx is probably the next strongest. She is too easily distracted, however. Still, sooner or later, even the Immortals end or ascend or choose rebirth. We shall see which of those is his fate.”

Heavy.

I was trying to think of a way to lighten the mood when Cunning Thought said, “But unless you achieve Immortality, you will likely never see him again. And I must ask for seven buckets of ice cream. One of strawberry ripple, one of swoofberry crunch, and the other five to be whatever flavors the Immortality Crusaders favor. Oh, and an eighth one of your choice, since I want to try something new.”

“Oh perfect, you can try my squash-kiwi-surprise flavor!” I said excitedly. The surprise is a toy! “Let me know if you like it. Throwing an ice cream party?”

“For the Crusaders. The first two, I am sending to my daughters,” she said.

I began filling the order. “So is Sombra in prison?” I asked.

“More or less, until Odin returns and we can get to the bottom of this. Assuming he’s not busy auditioning Valkyries in a vacation plane right now,” Cunning Thought said.

“So all’s well that ends well.” I said.

“Nothing ever ends well permanently, but yes. Thanatos will probably find some way to wiggle Sombra out of this.” Rumble. “But we’ll see.”

I passed her the ice cream. No story can end poorly that ends with an ice cream party, right?

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

Princess Luna’s Secrets:

I was about to dig into the ice cream, even if Mother sent it to me, so it probably will turn me into a duck or something, when Celestia entered my office with another tub of ice cream. “Why don’t you call Ivan and I will call Moondancer and we can have a little ice cream party? I think she’s feeling irritated you didn’t take her on the rescue mission.”

Blast it, I didn’t even think of that. “Okay,” I said. I am more nervous than I should be about seeing Ivan. At least Mother sent ice cream and not herself.

In fact, we ended up with a large ice cream party as more ponies kept showing up and Celestia sent for more ice cream and by the end of it, I hadn’t done anything productive for three hours, but I felt better.

Ponies gradually drifted away until only Ivan, Celestia, and I were left. Celestia gently nuzzled me. “You okay?” she asked softly.

“I am,” I told her.

“I need sleep but we can talk later, okay?” she said.

“Okay,” I told her. She then headed out.

That left Ivan and I and a mess to clean up; he began gathering ice cream buckets, spoons, cups, and so on. I wiped down the room; we have servants for this but…

This is ridiculous. I am an Immortal. I can talk about my feelings without having to evade it.

Finally, Ivan came over to me, stood a few seconds, then said, “We shouldn’t rush anything. I like you a lot but we both have a lot to deal with. So let’s just take it as it comes, okay? Whatever your Mother decides when she’s talking to her Celestia toy.”

Exactly what I wanted to say and could not. “Thank you, yes. If all goes well, we will have eternity to work our way forwards, right?”

Now he grinned the grin I like. “Exactly.” Then he stared off at nothing and frowned. “How does Thanatos even know what I want?”

“Words gets around; Immortals gossip about each other’s students and sometimes even spy on them,” I told him. “But I doubt he actually cares enough to meddle. But he tries to bring everyone down, even his fellow Entropics. But he is too potent, too ancient for them to challenge him. Though I think one day, Mother will.”

“If he suffered a Stroke, he would decline in power, right?” Ivan said thoughtfully.

“Yes, but his revenge would be terrible,” I warned Ivan. A Stroke is a major setback to some large plan of an Immortal, or something which causes havoc for his worshippers. I suffered one when Celestia thwarted my plan to… whatever exactly I thought I was doing. I was a mess at that point.

Ivan sighed. “I know.” He looked out the window. “Want to go dancing? I know Helga is having a ball tonight back in Glantri and I hadn’t planned to go due to distance, but you can teleport, so…”

I smiled at him. “Sounds great to me.” I took on a Belcadizian form and then took his hand and we teleported to Helga’s hall. I can do with a little fun before I have to return to my duties.

We’ll just take it easy and see how it goes.

I could probably apply that to a lot more of my life. But unlike Celestia, I worry about things.

But tonight, fun.

Sometimes a Princess just needs a little fun.

Pinkie, no doubt, would be proud of me.

Just going forward, one hoof at a time.


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

Pinkie’s Pie-Tastic Viewpoint:

I looked around in confusion, certain the story was over, and yet it wasn’t over. I could see why it was Luna’s turn, to close off her story, but wasn’t my part done?

Or does this mean I get to go to the ice cream party?

Once I got off duty, I ran up to my room in order to get changed to go to the party or whatever plot twist was next, only to realize, just as I opened the door to my room, that I was naked, so I didn’t HAVE to change.

I decided to put on clothing to retroactively justify my intent.

However, I now found Gummy playing with another little alligator… or crocodile… I’m not really sure which he is or how to tell.

Mom lied to me when she told me crocodiles were ALL made out of chocolate. I used to love eating choc-o-crocs at the Spring Festival.

I still do, really.

The other one had blue scales and a funny rune on his forehead and they were busy chasing each other’s tail. There was a note but someone had drooled on it, so I couldn’t read it at all.

Now Gummy has a playmate. That’s an even better way to end a story, right?

Because I don’t know what to do if this story isn’t over!

Goodnight, Old Ones! May you enjoy your omniscient spying on all of space and time. Man, now it sounds like the next level up from Immortals are just *peepers*.

Ummm…

Please don’t take offense! Just a joke, just a joke! Bye!

THE END

Okay, now I’m free to…

You’re still here!

*Pinkie vanishes into the distance in a cloud of dust*.

THE REAL END. FOR NOW.

Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!
Comments ( 14 )

Awesome to see you posting again!

The long awaited continuation.

I think Applebloom would be really interested in Pinkie's story, unless it's classified. She probably has all kinds of dungeon design suggestions now. And that definitely won't cause any problems down the line, like the last time they ran a dungeon and everyone got caught up in it.

I have just downloaded an app that changed all instances of "War" to "Party", among other things. I thought you had done it to get a better glimpse into Pinkie's mind.

So, there were many Partynings felt, and Partyds placed...

Goodness, what an unexpected update to see in my shelf. I honestly thought you'd quit, or worse yet, died. Glad to see neither is the caae.

The instant I saw the trolls name as Grimtooth, I couldnt stop laughing for a whole minute.

As for Heirarchy, Mortals, Immortals, Outsiders, Azathoth? (DEATHS Boss), Observers, Pinkie Pie. :pinkiehappy:

You know, for such an ardent adventurer, Dash looked upset at taking on Daring Doos Last Dungeon. If Pinkie still has teh communication earing, could she ask for the Boon to be a Teleboon? A simple fixed portal between her current location and the Troll Dungeon World, or given her Element, from the Tree, or equivalent, out and back?

Thanatos will have Mr Slant to lawer things for Sombra, given Odin isnt around, Sombra will be let out on bail etc?

Pinkie's Grimtooth Adventures would be a worthy story in and of itself, but it's really nice seeing this update. :)

Is... Is Gummy The Winslow?

Also, can't figure out the last dragon that Spike met- is that meant to be an Ember introduction? All I get with a Google is the Runescape blue dragon.

“These pillars fried the brains of people who did not do the assigned reading,” BL Far Traveller said, doodling on the board as I carefully began designing the FUN MACHINE which would enable *anyone* to laugh.

At first I thought this was Pinkie not listening and just filling in the blanks later, but then the other students actually started to respond to him...which still doesn't necessarily rule out this just being Pinkie.

So very much enjoyed this latest installment. Please keep up the stories from this realm!

Please!:pinkiehappy:

7774475
Yeah, that's what I thought too.

Loved the crossovers with Ars Magica and Tunnels & Trolls, so to speak. :)

This is a beautiful not-so-little story, I like especially how you were able to merge the Equestria lore and the D&D/Mystara lore the only possible flaw I can find is the lack of the great and powerful Trixie. I hope we can eventually see some othe chapters of this story.

BTW did you have a specific edition of D&D in mind when writing this, from the mention of rituals one could think 4e edition, but is still vague.

9015371
I want to use Trixie but I have not had the right circumstance.

This has been one hell of a trip. Thank you for a wonderful read of both epic and absurd scope. Here's to anything else you may add to it.

Login or register to comment
Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!