• Published 24th Nov 2015
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Harmony's Song - pchn00



A young orphaned woman discovers family in a very unexpected place.

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Chapter 8: Meet Celestia

Chapter 8: Meet Celestia

Harm knew this was important to Twilight Sparkle for whatever reason. She just didn't much care. Excellent time in the shower with Fluttershy aside she didn't know the others. Pinkie Pie seemed okay at first but she lost her cool pretty quick and that kind of neurotic high energy was something Harm went well out of her way to avoid in a social situation.

She'd been introduced to most of them, and the names were easy enough to remember. Sunset Shimmer and Sonata had gone back to Canterlot and she was kinda finding herself thinking she'd rather have gone with them. They both sort of resonated with her the way the others weren't really. Shared experiences and all that. These ponies seemed nice. Friendly. They went on big adventures and stuff. She got it. They were a big deal.

Just not to her.

So she smiled politely, she nodded when she was supposed to nod and threw in the occasional 'uh huh' or 'cool' when she deemed it appropriate. It wasn't until she went to the buffet table to load up a plate that Applejack approached her alone. "Miserable, huh?"

"Huh? No. I mean, I wouldn't say miserable."

"Heh, I get it. Twi's a good filly but I don't think she's really parsed that you're a person an not just 'Celestia's little filly'. You got your own likes an what not an I got a bit of a suspicion that brunch with the Princess and her closest friends ain't one of them."

Harm had to smirk at the mare's frankness. "Good guess. I mean you guys seem fine I just uh, y'know. Don't know you."

"I get that. We don't know you either. That said I'm willin' to bet you ain't shy about cussin' in front of young folk. Sweetie Belle for instance."

Harm stared blankly for a moment before the name clicked. "Oh, Belle. Punk rock kid. Yeah we talked yesterday."

"Had a feelin'. Uh, do everypony a favor an don't mention that to Rares huh? Apparently Belle shared some of your wisdom with Rarity and Rarity did not care for it."

"Mmm." Harm was about to say well fuck her then but bit her tongue. It wasn't easy. "So are you the pony on the bottle of booze I inhaled the other night?"

Applejack was just as happy to change the subject. "I surely was! Enjoyed it did ya?"

"That's an understatement. The shit I get back home I gotta drink by the gallon to get a buzz. Your stuff hit me after one glass."

"Shoot, a whole glass? Most ponies can't handle more'n a shot or two. You drink like an Apple."

"Heh, I'm a big girl and a big drinker."

"Well I have family business tonight, Hearth's Warming Even an all. An tomorrow is the big day up in Canterlot, but day after if you wanna swing by the farm I can show you the good stuff."

Harm frowned thoughtfully. Was she going to be here that long? She should probably stay a couple days after meeting her mom she supposed. Do... mom and kid stuff or whatever. "Yeah, that could be cool."

"Well alright. We'll roll out the royal welcome for ya." She finished with a wink and a chuckle and trotted back to the table with her meal.

Harm lingered by the food a bit longer, glancing toward the ponies. All of them had wings and horns of varying sizes except Applejack who was lacking both. With the exception of Twilight they also seemed to be going through some weird second puberty. Fluttershy's legs were to long for her body, the blue one, Rainbow Dash had huge clumsy wings, while Rarity had the opposite problem of very small wings on a large thickly muscled body. Pinkie Pie seemed more or less proportioned fine save her stubby horn.

There was one pony she hadn't been introduced to still, which she thought was odd. A pale white unicorn with an ephemeral mane and cool pink eyes was standing at the buffet table opposite of Harm, helping herself to bites of fruit here and there. She was taller than the rest with a slight curve to her horn. "...sup?"

It took the mare long enough to respond that for a minute Harm thought she was ignoring her. But gradually she focused on and locked eyes with Harm. "...are you talking to me?"

Harm looked left and right, then back at the pony. "Who the fuck else would I be talking to?"

The mare tilted her head staring hard at Harmony, looking her up and down. "How very curious."

"Yeah I'm a regular circus attraction. How come they didn't introduce you?"

"Ah, manners. I apologize I'm not used to... having to use them. I am Pearlescent Strings, but just Pearl is fine."

"Okay, Pearl. Well... what's the deal?"

"Well they don't know I'm here."

Harm looked back at the ponies, most of whom were now regarding her curiously, before looking back at Pearl. "...why not? You're standing right there stuffing pancake into your face."

Pearl snorted a brief laugh and set her pastry down. "Fair enough. It's because they're neither near to death, nor capable of perceiving a being such as myself."

"What the fuck does that mean? Am I dying??"

"No, you're simply... greater than they."

Harm opened her mouth to ask another question, but Twilight Sparkle gingerly approached her side. "Harm, who are you talking to?"

Harm looked down at Twilight, then up at Pearl who simply shrugged. "You really don't see her?"

Twilight shook her head. "See who?"

Harm gestured emphatically. "Her! The big white unicorn sitting there apparently stealing your food."

Twilight cast a worried glance over her shoulder at her equally bewildered friends. "Harm um, there's definitely nopony there."

Harmony brows drew together as she bristled in annoyance. "Why the FUCK would I make this up? What about me up til now has screamed incorrigible prankster to you?"

The young Princess flinched but abrasive nature aside she had to admit Harm did have a very fair point. Her horn ignited as she worked a complex true seeing spell. Turning her attention back to where Pearl was sitting, the unicorn's eyes not leaving Harms with a smug smirk plastered across her face. "Tell her to cast Clear Eyes' Sight Sharing charm on you."

Lips pressed into a thin line Harm looked down at Twilight. "She says to cast Clear Eyes' Sight Sharing charm on me."

"Oh! Oh... um..." Twilight Sparkle vanished with a soft pop, reappearing a moment later with a thick book. "I have it here. It's not one I've really had cause to use before." As she prepped the spell her friends gathered about curiously. Magic ignited along her horn again and formed a tether of light between herself and Harmony. Once more Twilight turned toward where the human woman was staring.

Immediately Twilight's body went rigid. Ears splayed flat against her skull as she sucked in her breath. In a tiny voice she managed to whisper, "The pale mare."

Her smug smirk widening into a toothsome smile, revealing noticeably sharp incisors Pearl stood and dipped into a low bow, before shimmering from view. "She said her name was Pearl."

"Pearl. The pale mare has a name?" Twilight's mind was abuzz at what she'd just seen and learned. "...the pale mare was stealing brunch in my castle?"

"Who's the pale mare? Who was she?"

It was Fluttershy who answered. "Um, the Pale Mare is well... Death."

== Castle Nocturne ==

Queen Radiant Darkness stirred from her meditations as she sensed the coming disturbance. He wasn't unwelcome at times, so long as he acted with the slightest hint of decorum. She closed her eyes against the coming flash, as Discord appeared with a burst of silvery magic.

"How is shein Equestria?"

"Good morning Discord, I hope this day finds you well?" Radiant didn't bother to rise from her cushions.

"Oh don't good morning Discord ME, Radiant. Harmony is in Equestria."

Radiant quirked a brow behind her mask. "Isn't Equestria known for its harmony?"

Discords mouth opened, then shut with an audible snap and despite himself he had to chuckle. "I set myself up for that one didn't I?"

"You did. And I am aware of my grand-niece's presence."

"Well what are you doing to fix it?"

"Fix? There is nothing to fix, Discord. Her return was foretold, just as yours was. And what comes next is foretold as well."

"Isn't she going to rip apart the fabric of reality or something just by being here? Don't get me wrong I enjoy tearing up reality just fine but I like to be the one doing it. Also I've become fond of some of the people here."

"The great Lord of Chaos making friends with ponies. Tut, tut. How far you've fallen."

Discord rolled his eyes, this time they did plop out of his head and bounce across the floor of Radiants' throne room. "Should I lock myself up and BROOD in my castle all day while my subjects carve my likeness into every knick knack they own?"

For a brief instant anger flared in Radiant's eyes, but it was gone as quickly as it arrived. "Fair enough, my barb was unwarranted. I'm quite happy you seem to be getting along in this modern age. You're the only one I can still have a proper conversation with."

"Oh? What about the old lizard?"

Radiant shrugged and rose from her cushions with a stretch. "Bahamut has been hibernating for a thousand years now, and shows no signs of stirring. And his daughter was never terribly fond of me."

"Kids, what can ya do? But seriously for a minute here. Is she dangerous?"

"Oh immensely. But not in the way you worry. Twilight Sparkle and her little coven have severed the lines connecting our dimension to the home realm of Harmony's father. There's no chance of rifts or a merge happening."

"...why am I not relieved?"

Radiant motioned with a wing for Discord to follow as she left her throne room and ambled lazily down a side passage. "We are nearing the beginning of the sixth era."

Discord's frown deepened, his jocular nature vanishing entirely. "New eras usually come with apocalypses. Apocalypsi?"

Radiant shrugged. "Either I suppose. And yes, they do. But never the less, the Era of Peace is coming to a close." The pair entered a small room lined with ancient scrolls and texts. Radiants' magic seized a curtain pull and yanked, revealing a sprawling mural engraved into the stone. "The first sign was the resurgence of the alicorn tribe." The first picture was indeed a number of familiar colored alicorns zipping about.

The next depicted a scene of a blue earth pony emerging from a portal. Then it showed her standing before Celestia in her throne room. The fourth was the mare in front of the Tree of Harmony. The fifth showed her wearing a crown standing atop Canterlot Castle, the masses bowing. "The Era of Harmony will soon begin."

"But it's already wrong."

"What? Of course it isn't. It's never wrong."

Discord tapped the second image. "She's not a pony, she's a monkey with no fur or tail."

"You know they're called humans."

He shrugged. "But I'm still right."

Radiant rolled her eyes as she redrew the curtain over the prophecy. "It's symbolic. An earth pony in a human skin is still an earth pony."

Discord however, seemed less convinced. "I wonder about that..."

== Ponyville ==

It was another cold day. Not that it bothered Harm, but she could tell the way ponies rushed here and there or huddled together. The town was pretty quiet compared to yesterday, folks at home for pony Christmas she assumed. Aside from the bat winged pony at her side there weren't many folks out and about.

"I take it your brunch ended poorly?"

Harm shrugged at her question. "Apparently I met the pony grim reaper and it freaked them all out."

"Ah, the Pale Mare was there?"

"Yeah, you know about her?"

Ambient hm'd softly to herself. "Well I know of her, likely more than most surface ponies. She is was an albino of the deep tribes. Supposedly she is a titan like some of the others you've already met but there is little record of her. She can only be seen by those near death or her fellow titans."

"So why was she in Twilight's castle bumming food?"

"I have no idea." Ambient offered a shrug. "I suppose everypony gets hungry and it is probably difficult to shop about in a market when you cannot be seen or heard by the vendors." Her eyes drifted to the small package in Harm's hands. "Where are we taking this anyhow?"

Harm shrugged. "I'm tossing it in some bushes a couple blocks away."

"...may I ask why?"

"One of those two agents who came and found me asked me to smuggle it into their world for them. It's contraband or whatever."

"Will you not get in trouble for this?"

"Eh, I doubt it. I'm God's kid right? Who's gonna discipline me?" Harm laughed, but it sounded forced and a touch shrill to Ambient's ears.

"Mm." The young thestral fell silent as the pair walked the streets of Ponyville. Harm navigating them by road signs until she came to the cottage with the trio of candies on the mail box. Following the note she'd received earlier she stuffed the package with the tablet in the bushes by the mail box and continued on.

She didn't head back to the castle at first. Instead she took a sort of meandering route zigzagging along the streets, wandering aimlessly like she had the previous day. Ambient was content to see the sights along with her, being just as much a visitor to this land as Harmony was. "Are you planning to visit Lady Rarity's boutique?"

"No? Why the hell would I want to go there?"

"Did she not offer to craft you a dress for the meeting with your mother?" Ambient didn't have to read deeply to feel the waves of fear, anxiety, and anger radiating from Harmony at the word mother.

"I don't wear dresses. I brought a suit from home."

"Ah, I too do not care for skirts and the like."

"No?" Harm glanced at her traveling companion for the first time since she decided to tag along on her errand. "Do a lot of formal functions in... bat land?"

Ambient offered a patient smile. "My homeland collectively is called the Hollows. It is a series of interconnected caverns filled with our cities. My city is called Nocturne, the capitol of the Hollows where Queen Radiant makes her home."

"Oh."

"As to your question, yes. My brother is the Queen's consort and Captain of the Starlight Knights and... I'm boring you."

"What? No. Oh you read minds. No not boring me just... my attention wanders."

"They make medication for that."

Harm smirked. "Smart ass. I know, I have some. I don't like what it does to me when I take it. Go on though. It's more interesting than anything Twilight has to say."

"Mm. Well I am one of the Queen's personal students so when she has a formal function I have a formal function. Formal functions mean dresses."

"Bummer. Hey so like, Celestia's parents are gone right?"

"They are."

"So why isn't she Queen Celestia? Why is she a Princess?"

"Ah! I wondered that myself actually. Evidently she never married."

"...and?"

Ambient shrugged. "And that's it I guess. When a Princess weds she becomes a Queen."

"Huh. Weird."

"Indeed."

They lapsed into a silence again, but it wasn't awkward like before. More comfortable. Ambient stole occasional glances at the giant walking at her side. She was powerful physically but emotionally was quite another matter. Her observations proved all the more keen when Harmony's inner peace was suddenly wildly disrupted. Refocusing on her surroundings with some mild alarm Ambient quickly located the source of Harm's discomfort.

They'd come to a large plaza in town, dominated by a massive golden statue of a regal alicorn mare looking out at them with a serene stare. The rising sun carved behind her head made it clear who it was. "So... this is her, huh?"

"It is safe to assume so, yes."

"Huh." Harm walked closer, and hopped up on the base of the statue walking around it slowly. Examining every inch of it from tail to horn. "...huh. You uh, think this is real gold?"

"It would be safe to assume that as well. Surface ponies tend to be rather... lavish with their decoration."

"Yeah. Yeah uh, I guess so." Harm climbed down and moved to sit on a nearby bench, staring at the metallic giant in front of her.

"Harmony, if I may... you seem very out of sorts. If you like I could soothe your emotions a bit. Help you calm down."

Harm grunted at the use of her full name but didn't bother to correct Ambient. "I appreciate it but I have my own way of soothing. Wanna get drunk with me?"

Ambient had never been drunk. Most alcohol was forbidden in the Hollows except a small bit of mushroom wine on very special occasions. "Yes, I do."

"Well let's go get shit faced."

That didn't sound very appealing, until Ambient gleaned the meaning from Harm's surface thoughts.

== Twilight's Castle ==

Ambient silently vowed never to get 'shit faced' again. As she rose with a groan from the foot of Harmony's bed. The woman was still very unconscious, and the young thestral limped her way out and winced at the bright sunlit halls of the castle. "Whoa."

She winced and turned to the voice. It was Twilight Sparkle's young wyrm, Spike. "...please do not shout."

"Uh... I didn't. Sorry. Aren't you not supposed to be out without your mask?"

Ambient's eyes widened and she sucked in her breath, hastily rushing back into the room. Spike could hear a very unhappy Harmony squawking in alarm before Ambient returned with the mask on her face. "Thank you for pointing it out."

"I don't get why you hide your face, you're pretty cute under there."

Ambients' cheeks darkened. "Y--yes well, it's cultural. If you will excuse me I very much need a glass of water."

"Got trashed with Harm, huh? First time having a hangover?"

"Yes."

"Gotcha. It happens to Twi sometimes, I can whip you up something for it."

"It would be appreciated." Ambient fell into step with him, before the sound of her own hooves felt like thunder piercing her brain. She took to hovering lazily behind him down the hall. "Were you and the Princess not in Canterlot?"

"Yeah we just got back a few minutes ago. We do Hearthswarming Eve with the family every year so we can spend Hearthswarming day at the castle. We just came back to pick up Harm."

"Hm." Ambient followed him to the kitchens, where he moved with impressive quiet and grace preparing her hang over cure.

"Ambient! Good morning!"

Ambient emitted a small wail and covered her ears with her hooves as Twilight Sparkle bellowed her greeting. "She's hung over, Twi."

"Oh! Oh, um. Sorry. Wait, how old are you?"

"Old enough to know that was a poor idea."

Twilight shot Spike a look. "I told you we shouldn't have left her alone all day Spike!" She winced as Ambient wailed again. "Sorry, Ambient."

Spike shrugged and brought a glass of unpleasant looking... and smelling fluid to Ambient Dark. "Oh, whatever Twi. So they had fun drinking. You did have fun right?"

"I suppose... yes." Holding her breath she hastily downed the foul concoction. Shivering heavily as she got it down her throat and offering Spike the glass. The young dragon replaced it with water, which she gratefully nursed. "Princess Twilight I believe I have a matter of some import to discuss."

"Oh? By all means. Spike could you see if you can get Harmony up and about? The train pulls out in a couple hours and if she's um... not very lucid she might need time to wake up."

A less than enthused Spike huffed. "Yeah go wake up the giant hung over human, awesome. Happy Hearthswarming, Spike."

Twilight sighed at his melodrama and turned her attention to Ambient. The young mare took another long sip of her water. "I do not think it prudent at this time to introduce Harmony to Princess Celestia."

"What?! Why not??"

Another soft whine came from Ambient, but she had to admit her headache WAS feeling better. "When I first encountered her, her emotions were very... dull for lack of a better word. She felt anger, happiness and such but as if through a very thick filter of something I cannot quite put into words. However the more she's been here the more this filter has lifted. It is dangerously thin now and if broken completely I worry she may react... strongly."

Twilight Sparkle frowned thoughtfully, while absentmindedly pouring herself a glass of juice with her magic. "I wonder if it's related to the elements."

"Hm?"

"The elements of harmony, they're crystallized pieces of Harm's magic removed when she was a baby to control her immense magical energy. Maybe when they removed the elements it took something else from her too."

"Hm. And now that she is in proximity to the bearers of these elements it is what? Reawakening her muted emotion?"

"It's possible. How can that be a bad thing though? This is good news I think."

"Yes and no. Consider it like a small wound you'd put a bandage on yes? Do you immediately rip the bandage off, or give the wound time to heal before removing it?"

"You make it sound like Harm regaining these emotions is hurting her."

"I think it very much is, yes. She has never had to deal with them to this extent, and the more she does the more she flounders. She is feeling lost and worried which are feelings I do not think she is used to. I worry about her mental state if she meets Celestia as she is now."

Twilight sighed softly as she mulled over Ambient words. What she was saying did make sense... but Celestia was so close to having her filly back. "I'll let Harmony decide."

"That is-"

"She's a grown mare and can make this decision on her own, Ambient. But thank you for your concern and your counsel."

Clearly Ambient wanted to say more, but she recognized a tone of royal authority when she heard it. "As you say, Princess."

== First Class Train Car ==

Twilight looked from Spike to Harm, then back to Spike. Probably for the tenth time since the trio boarded the train. Finally she jerked her head meaningfully in Harm's direction.

Spike grimaced and took a deep breath looking up at Harm. "I like the suit."

Harm glanced down at herself. She was wearing a tailor made black suit, a white dress shirt underneath and very uncomfortable dress shoes. An ornate silver locket dangled from her neck. Her hair was pulled back in a lazy ponytail. "Thanks. My boss got it for me." She didn't look at him as she spoke, she just stared out at the passing countryside.

When no elaboration was forth coming Twilight flailed at Harm again, earning a dirty look from Spike. "Oh yeah? What for?"

"Oh uh, a friend of his needed extra security for his concert. So he rented me out for a big chunk of cash. Needed a suit to do the job though."

"You were a bodyguard? That's kinda cool."

"Eh, the guy was an ass." She finally looked away from the window. "Crappy music too."

"Harm..." Spike swallowed his nerves. "Are you one hundred percent sure you're up for this?" He ignored the look Twilight was shooting him. "I mean Princess Celestia's kinda immortal and you are too right? There's no reason to rush."

Harmony seemed to deflate into her suit as she sagged in her seat on the train. "I'm fine. It's fine. Really. It's fine. Super fine."

"Please stop saying fine."

She narrowed her eyes at Spike but didn't lash out, just relaxed again and went back to staring listlessly out the window. Twilight finally spoke since boarding the train. "That's a lovely locket, Harmony."

"Mmm. I'm pretty sure my mom gave it to me."

Spike didn't think Harm ignoring her full name's use was a good sign but Twilight didn't seem to be concerned, just curious about the locket. "I do sense a bit of magic about it. What makes you think it was from Celestia?"

Harm didn't respond verbally, she just lifted her hand and clicked the locket open. There were no pictures inside, but a voice that was unmistakable Celestia's sang out in soft dulcet tones;

"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.

You make my happy when skies are gray..."

Harm clicked it shut before the song could continue. She took a quick breath and rubbed at her nose before leaning her head against the window. Twilight Sparkle had to blink back tears at the small piece of jewelry's magical revelation. "Celestia must have recorded it for you, probably for when she would be busy with court business I imagine..."

"I guess."

Twilight was starting to feel a worrying niggle of doubt that maybe Ambient and Spike were right. Rather than heed it, she ignored it and put a hoof on Harm's knee. "Well you'll be meeting the real thing very soon."

Harm could see the cliff side city in the distance growing a lot less distant. "Yeah..."

== Canterlot Castle ==

Celestia yawned lightly as she glanced at the time. Nearly time to lower the sun, which meant it was time to kick off the Hearthswarming Ball. She really did hate having to deal with the nobility, but seeing the look on Twilight's face when she opened her gift this year kept her going. She had to fight the urge to sneak off to Ponyville, though she suspected the town would be fairly quiet given the holiday and their focus on family there.

The train carrying Twilight and her friends was likely pulling into the station by now. Musing to herself she crossed from one side of her spacious personal chambers to the other, levitating her 'festive functions' crown and regalia out. Stepping into the boots and replacing her usual finery. "I should make Pinkie Pie a proper Princess just to see how the nobles react."

"They'll probably explode."

Celestia nickered softly in surprise and whirled to find Sunset Shimmer standing in her doorway. "Sunset! You startled me."

"Really? I hadn't noticed." But by the mare's smirk it was clear she had. She let herself into the room and offered Celestia a small gift. "Here. Happy Hearthswarming."

"You don't want to wait for everypony else?"

"Eh... I'm probly gonna skip the get together."

Celestia frowned slightly. "Oh? Why?"

Sunset offered a non committal shrug, but Celestia had a fair idea. The ascension of so many ponies of late was likely beginning to eat at Sunset Shimmer's pride. Especially given all she'd accomplished in the other world. "Well, you'll be missed."

"Heh, I bet."

Celestia glanced at the gift her student had given her, before passing it back. "Bring it to Luna's this evening. You can join us in our own celebration tonight. Bring Sonata too."

"Er, really? I mean isn't that your family time?"

"Yes, Sunset. It is. And I consider you a part of that." Celestia trotted briskly from her room, a smirk of her own in place. Nopony one upped her at inflicting stunned silences.

== Castle Entryway ==

Harm had never been in a real castle before. Her old man had taken her to Medieval Times a few times back home but she was pretty sure that was all fake. Canterlot Castle didn't seem fake. Twilight and her friends were leading the way while Spike kept pace at Harm's side. "All that is like, real gold and marble and shit, huh?"

"Yeah. I mean, I think so. I'm pretty sure if it's Celestia or Luna related it's real gold or silver."

"Of course it is." There was a huge crowd of pones gathered, but they all seemed to part almost subconscious for Twilight Sparkle and her entourage. The upside of royalty, Harm assumed. She was keenly aware of all the looks she was getting. She knew they saw her as a pony but she was definitely a stranger in Twilight Sparkle's circle, which means she stood out. Folks who stand out get talked about.

"Harm... seriously. We can bail. I know some pretty cool spots in Canterlot we can hit up instead."

Harm took a deep breath. She seriously considered it, but she was so close. "No. No I can't turn around now. But uh, thanks Spike. Really."

"Alright.." He let the matter lay as they entered the doors. Celestia would be lowering the sun soon and the guard would be changing over but for now the usual day guard were present in their golden armor. Harmony looked them over as she entered the castle proper but they didn't pay her much attention so she returned the courtesy. Inside was just as gorgeous as the outside. Beautiful silk tapestries hung from the ceilings, large paintings adorned the wall while smaller sculptures and busts dotted the inside of the foyer.

The place was packed with ponies in giant stupid looking dresses. She couldn't help but glance at the gem laden monstrosities Rarity had created for Twilight and her friends, and was doubly thankful to Jerry for making her bring her nice suit. Her eyes were drawn to a massive portrait of Celestia in the center of the entryway, Luna beside her. The pair smiled gently and their eyes seemed to follow her wherever she moved. She supposed it was meant to be comforting to the incoming common folk but she just thought it was creepy.

"Quite an impressive pair, eh?"

Harm blinked when she realized she didn't recognize the voice. She looked to her side to find a male pony with elegantly styled blue hair and an equally styled moustache standing beside her. He wore a fine silk suit jacket with a monocle over one eye. "Oh uh, yeah I guess."

"First time at the castle?"

"That obvious huh?"

He chuckled. "You have the look about you. I must say that is an exquisite suit. Not enough mares wear them in my opinion."

"Oh uh... thanks. Nice... monocle."

"Ha! Well thank you, I've always been fond of them."

Harm turned her attention to him, happy to not be looking at the portrait. "So what's the deal with those things anyway, I always wondered. Like do you need glasses in just the one eye or...?"

"Keep an old stallion's secret?"

Harm nodded.

The pony lowered his voice. "I always thought they were cool as a colt, so I wanted one. My father never indulged me, so as soon as I saved enough it was the very first thing I ever purchased."

"Ha. That's pretty awesome actually."

"Thank you, most would find it a silly story but I'm quite fond of it. You came with Princess Twilight Sparkle's entourage yes?"

"Oh uh, yeah. Shit did I lose her? I got distracted."

"Heh, not to worry her friends tend to stand out. Let's see if we can't reunite you, hm?"

"Thanks. I'm Harm."

"Really?"

"It's short for something."

"How delightfully mysterious. I'm Fancy Pants, Duke of Canterlot."

"...really? Fancy Pants?" She snickered.

"Yes well, I blame my father. Made his fortune in, can you guess?"

"Making pants?"

"Quite. He was a commoner who worked his way up to great wealth and wanted me to aspire to even greater heights."

"So, Fancy. You in the pants game too then?"

"Sweet Celestia, no. I'm a real estate magnate when I'm not being dragged into some political scheme or another by the other nobles of Equestria. What do you do, Miss Harm?"

"I hit people."

"Ha!" His bark of laughter drew no shortage of stares and scandalized looks from the other upper crusts of Canterlot. "Really?"

Harm shrugged with a smirk. "Sometimes. I'm a bouncer."

"Ahh, I see. So you weren't entirely jesting."

"No, but most folks look at me and decide they'd rather calm down or leave quietly than for me to bounce 'em."

"I certainly believe that. Ah! And I see our frantic Princess is about to have a classic Twilight Sparkle meltdown. No doubt searching for you."

"Mmm." She could see Twilight Sparkle flying and teleporting all over the place above the ball room before her eyes landed on Harm. She appeared in front of the pair with a bright flash.

"Harm! Where were you?!"

"I was in the hall looking at the art, then talking to this dude. Relax."

Twilight ruffled her wings in annoyance before calming herself and flashing Fancy a smile. "Thank you, sir. I should have been keeping a closer eye on her."

Fancy raised an eyebrow. "Why? She seems quite capable of caring for herself."

"Ehe he! Yes! Yes she is. But still, thank you. Come on, Harm."

Harm rubbed the back of her neck. "Actually I think I'll just kinda mingle y'know? Just come get me when it's time for your sit down or whatever alright?"

Twilight Sparkle wasn't to keen on the idea, but she knew pushing the issue would just cause a backlash. "Well okay, I'll see you soon then."

"Yeah, okay. And uh, nice meeting you."

"You as well, Miss Harm. Perhaps we'll have the chance to talk more another time."

"Yeah that'd be alright." She meant it too. He seemed like a pretty cool guy. She drifted away and into the party, the crowds parting for her like they always did. She migrated toward the buffet table and was relieved to see a couple familiar faces in Sunset Shimmer and Sonata Dusk. The former of which looking exasperated as the latter stuffed her face non-stop.

"Hey, Harm. Enjoying the part?"

She shrugged at Sunset's question and helped herself to a small pastry. "No. Not my kinda party."

"Mun eiver."

Sunset sighed. "Sonata, swallow then talk. But I agree, I don't like this stuff either. I'm more of a rager kind of partier."

"Yeah? Hard to imagine you little guys getting hard core."

"Stick around, I could show you some shit."

Harm laughed. "Well damn, I didn't think you guys could swear."

"Eh, I picked it up in the other world I was living in for a while."

"So... hey. Let's bail. Show me around the castle a little."

Sunset and Sonata shared a look. "I dunno if Twilight would like that."

"So? Is she your boss?"

"No."

"Then fuck it. You know where the fancy dinner is gonna be, right? Just send her a... horn text and let's go."

Sunset snorted in amusement but shrugged. "Sure, alright." A brief burst of magic flashed along her horn. "What do you wanna see?"

"Hm.."

== Throne Room ==

The room was empty save the trio standing in the center. Harmony looking around slowly, taking it all in while Sunset and Sonata stood over to the side, letting her have her time and space. She crossed the room quickly with her long stride, standing in front of Celestia's throne. It smelled nice. Like wild flowers and fresh rain. Gingerly she reached a hand out and ran her fingers along its edges. "So she sits here every day huh?"

"Pretty much, yeah."

On impulse Harm turned, and planted her butt in the seat cushion. It was comfy. Plush but not to soft, just enough firmness to give some support. The same with the back cushion. She leaned back slowly. She crossed one leg over the other. She threw one leg up over an arm of the throne, before returning to a neutral seated position. "Comfy chair."

Sonata leaned forward. "Yeah? I always wanted to sit in it..."

Sunset stepped on Sonata's tail as she tried to go forward. "Not surprised, Princess Celestia likes to sit and eat and uh, mostly that's it."

Harm chuckled and stood up. She glanced at the long stairwell around the other side of the throne. "Hey... can I just meet you guys at the dining room?"

"Harm I don't know if that's a great idea. Twilight will have a melt down..."

Harm shrugged. "I just want a little time to myself is all."

"Well... alright. We'll wait outside the throne room okay? Just don't take too long. The sun's down, dinner'll be in about thirty."

"Mmm." Harm offered a noncommittal grunt in response. The two ponies did leave, and she was alone in the throne room. She looked around the room again. She took in the stained glass windows. The delicately crafted glass really was impressive. She recognized Twilight Sparkle and her friends in a few of them. Most had people she hadn't met yet.

She walked with calm, measured steps along the windows and to the staircase behind the thrones. The steps were carved wide and long, clearly made for someone of a quadrupedal gait. She climbed them quickly, finding herself up on a higher level of the castle. Fresh flowers lined the halls, brightly illuminated by shining golden globes hanging along sconces above her. Magic probably.

Her trek continued down the hall. Her left hand out as her fingertips grazed the smooth stone walls and hard wood doors. Her dress shoes made little sound in the plush carpets as she walked, before finally stopping at a door. There were no special markings, no big sign. But she knew what room this was.

She tried the handle, and found it unlocked so she showed herself into Princess Celestia's personal chambers. The smell on the throne was much stronger in here. The room her mother slept in. More hesitantly now, she stepped into the room taking it all in. The massive bed that would barely fit in Jerry's bar, let alone her small room above it. Opening a large set of doors revealed Celestia's closet. Which was only slightly larger than her loft. Dozens of shoes and crowns, all varying shapes sizes and colors lined the walls of the closet.

She closed the door quickly. Finding herself compelled to keep poking around she checked another door on the wall opposite the closet. As soon as she crossed the threshold gentle music began to play, as those magic globes lit up the wash room. At first she thought she was looking at an indoor pool, but judging by the rest of the rooms accessories, it was a bathroom. Her fucking mom bathed in a massive pool of heated and judging from the aroma, scented waters.

She closed that door quickly as well. Backing into the room she looked around slowly, one more time. Then took a deep breath. "What the fuck am I doing here?"

== The Dining Hall ==

A groggy Luna plodded her way into the lively private dining room she and her sister generally shared alone. Today was a clear exception, Twilight Sparkle and her friends were in attendance. As well as Cadance, Shining Armor and the young Flurry Heart, and her twin brothers both clearly fighting to stay awake at the late hour.

Celestia was chatting with Twilight, the latter of whom was gushing excitedly over the unwrapped package in her lap. Luna rolled her eyes slightly and moved to her customary seat, nodding thanks to one of the thestral maids who served in the castle in the evening, as the young mare poured her a mug of coffee. Nursing it gently she sighed and tuned out most of the noise.

A small commotion drew her eye to the main doors as they opened, and a somewhat worried looking Sunset Shimmer pulled Twilight Sparkle aside. They conversed in hushed tones before Twilight yelped in alarm vanishing in a bright flash. She continued to sip her coffee as Celestia trotted over, beginning to question Sunset.

Sunset Shimmer was not like most ponies. Neither was Luna, which was a common bond the two had discovered and had slowly but steadily formed a genuine friendship over. She was sardonic, at times abrupt, and had little patience for nonsense. She was also a good liar, but had a small tic where her left ear would twitch when she was avoiding the truth. Finding herself beginning to worry Luna set her mug aside and motioned the maid back over.

"Fetch Commander Echo for me at once."

The maid bowed her head and closed her eyes. The faint outline of thestral mind magic illuminating them. "Oh, she was already on her way, Princess."

"Ominous." Luna rose from her seat and without a word to anypony stepped out in the hall to wait for the commander of her night guard. It was a short wait. The thestral mare was flying with clear purpose toward the dining room, but landed when she spotted Luna. "Commander, what is the trouble?"

"Bit of weirdness, Princess." Echo was a thestral mare of middle age, her stark white mane contrasting to her inky black coat. Streaks of silvery grey showed here and there in her hair, while she had clear laugh lines about her eyes. "We had an intruder in your sisters chambers."

"Were they apprehended?"

"No. We didn't know what exactly to do. It was a huge draft mare in a suit, we checked with the door watch and they said she was a member of Princess Twilight's entourage."

Luna narrowed her eyes in thought. "What exactly did she do?"

"Entered Celestia's chambers, milled about for several moments then leapt out her bed chamber windows into the courtyard below. Then she just bolted."

"She took nothing?"

"No, Princess. Not as far as we could tell."

Luna's frown deepened. Why would Twilight Sparkle bring such a pony? "The mare's coat and mane?"

"Black mane, blue coat."

"Hrm." The same coloration of Harm's illusion. Harm, the earth pony trapped as a human who was here to meet her estranged mother. Harm, whose name was short for Harmony. Luna rocked back on her hooves as if physically struck.

Echo's eyes widened in alarm. "My Princess? What is it?"

"Assemble the guard." She barely managed to find her voice.

"Princess? Which squads?"

"All. All of them! Assemble all of them, now! Find this mare! Every thestral in the castle must be out hunting her down! If she is located do NOT engage, contact me immediately! Am I understood?"

Echo didn't know what was going on but her lady liege was worked up and that's all she needed to know. Without a word she spun, spreading her wings and taking to the air.

Luna took a long moment to collect herself. Several deep breaths before she re-entered the dining room. Sunset Shimmer was speaking to Sonata Dusk at one corner of the table, and she made her way to the pair immediately, leaning in and lowering her voice to a harsh whisper. "If you and your empty headed compatriots do not find and return Harmony immediately my sister may well raze Equestria to the ground in a ball of molten fury, am I understood clearly?"

Sunset sucked in a breath and cast a nervous look toward Celestia. "I tried to tell Twili-"

Luna cut her off with a not so gentle slap across the face. "Damn Twilight Sparkle. You should have told me. You should have told Celestia. How could you betray us like this?"

Ears folded, Sunset Shimmer shrank back from the fury in Luna's eyes. "Princess I'm sorry. We'll... we'll make this right, right? The thestral filly at Twilight's can find her!"

"Do it. And know that there will be consequences for you, Twilight Sparkle, and everypony else involved in this travesty. We are MOST displeased, and the only reason I am not telling Celestia right this second is because if she learns of it it could very well doom our kingdom." She paused, glaring at the mare staring at her in fear. "Why are you still here? GO."

With a yelp but Sunset and Sonata vanished in a bright flash of teleportation magic. The room had fallen silent, everypony staring at her. Celestia looked most concerned. "Luna? What's wrong?"

Luna's wings ruffled uncomfortably. "Nothing you need concern yourself with, Celestia. A minor emergency but your festivities do not need to be interrupted. Please, enjoy yourselves. And do excuse me." Before her sister could ask another question, Luna was gone. First teleporting above the city, then taking wing about it searching desperately for a family member long lost.

== The Road to Ponyville ==

Harm wasn't one to show off. She didn't like it when attention was on her. Of any sort really. She kept as low a profile a girl could when she was just shy of seven feet tall. Everyone knew she was different. They knew she was strong.

She was also fast. Very fast.

The landscape was a blur as she ran as hard as she could. Canterlot already fading in the distance behind her as her legs pumped, carrying her toward Ponyville faster than the train had carried her away. She was a fair jumper as her rapid trip down the mountain Canterlot was perched on attested to.

She didn't know what she'd do when she got to Ponyville. Hopefully one of the geniuses could open the portal and send her home. She just had to get away from this place. The tears had stopped, probably because she ran out. But the tightness in her chest wouldn't go away.

She didn't see the dark shapes in the sky high above. Even if she were looking for them she probably wouldn't have noticed them. It was a foursome of young night guards. While not nearly as fast as Harmony, her frantic run found her tripping often. She'd pick herself back up and charge on quickly, but it slowed her enough for one of the many dispatched squads to locate her.

"That's gotta be the fugitive huh?" The youngest in the squad, a stallion barely old enough to qualify as such looked to his more experienced fellows.

The oldest in the bunch, a veteran mare nodded. "Obviously. I sent the Commander a message, she'll find Princess Luna and they'll be here soon enough. For now we just-"

But the young cadet had stopped listening. Eager to impress his superior and hungry for advancement in the guard he'd dipped into a dive angling at the fleeing earth pony. While she was running at very impressive speeds, a full dive from this height carried him at her quickly enough to close the distance, and collide hard with her.

Harm had no idea what hit her, but it hit her hard and fast and she went down just as hard. Skidding along the snowy ground, bouncing once off a hidden rock and tumbling end over end to land on her back in the snow. With a groan she picked herself up. Her suit was trashed but she barely cared, wiping blood from her nose with her sleeve she groggily scanned the area for her assailant.

She barely saw him in time. The black and purple armor was hard to see when he was airborne but he came in low enough for another dive that he was outlined clearly by the snow. Shrugging off her jacket she whipped it overhead and stepped aside, letting the diving attacker swoop right into her waiting suit jacket. She balled the other end around him as he tried to escape, then drove her first into the squirming bundle hard several times. She heard a satisfying crack before he went still.

She didn't hear the others. But they were all around her coming from nowhere. These she didn't see against the snow, but she felt them. They darted in quickly, struck her hard then were gone. The face, chest, stomach, arms, legs. A constant barrage of quick jabs and more than a few cuts. She spun back and forth trying to locate the source of the attack but the more experienced thestral guards weren't falling for her jacket trick again.

She knew she was losing blood, to much of it judging by the way the world was getting fuzzy and she was swaying on her feet. She braced herself for the next barrage, but before it could come a keening crack split the air, as black crystal jutted from the ground all around her. Harmony focused with some effort and saw three bat pony's in some kind of fancy purple armor squirming in the crystal.

"It seems the erstwhile fruit of my otherworldly loins has found herself on the wrong end of the law in fair Equestria."

She turned to the smooth male voice, as this world's Sombra calmly approached her. "I just..." She took a few unsteady steps toward him and lost her footing, falling forward to be caught by him.

"You just what, child?"

"I just want to go home."

"Then home you shall go." He cast a baleful glare toward the trapped night guard, before he and Harmony disappeared.

The squad leader grimaced. "Princess Luna is going to have our heads."

== Twilight's Castle ==

Harm heard voices arguing. A male and a female. She recognize them. Looking listlessly in their direction it was Sombra and Sunset Shimmer. She glanced around the room again in mild confusion. Wasn't she just outside int he snow? Something warm was on her hand. Looking down she found Sonata Dusk resting her head over her hand and thigh, looking up at her.

"Sonata... I wanna go home, man."

Sonata perked her ears toward the arguing pair, then looked back to Harmony. "Can I come with? This place sucks."

"...get me home, You can come with. I'll... letcha crash in my place or something."

"Alrighty. You'll probly have to help but we can do it." Nodding once, she moved over to stand behind Sombra, who seemed more interested in debating with Sunset than minding the former siren. He probably should have paid some attention to her, as Sonata lifted a heavy tome off one of the book shelves and clubbed him in the back of the head, dropping him to the ground hard.

Sunset shrieked in shock. "Sonata!? What are you do-" Sunset Shimmer joined Sombra on the floor as Sonata clubbed her across the face with the same volume. Tossing it aside she trotted to Harm and helped the woman to her feet.

"So like, we can open the gate. They just left the rune things out."

"Mmmkay."

"But I need you to sing with me."

"Nnnn, I dun sing, Sonata."

"I know, but I need another bard to harmonize with me to do this. You don't have to like, sing words just make noise. Alright? Just follow my lead."

Harm did not want to do this, at all. But she wanted to be gone even more, so she nodded along with Sonata. The pony took in a breath and began to gently croon a simple rhythm, but Harmony could feel there was a crackle in the air. She listened for a moment to get the meter before reluctantly she opened her mouth.

Sonata had been around for a long time. She'd sung with a lot of partners, made music with a lot of creatures. But she'd never heard anything like the sounds coming from Harmony. Each note was pitch perfect and carried enough weight to make her embarrassed of her own tuneless squawking. But she kept at it, and the pair's joined harmony was having an effect.

The rune stones shuddered, flashed, and finally flared to life creating a crackling gateway. Harm stopped singing immediately and stumbled forward, tumbling through into the same motel room she'd left from a few days ago.

Sonata cast a quick glance back at Sunset and winced. "Sorry." She lunged forward, as she passed the portals entryway she snapped her tail, flicking the key rune through the portal with her, just barely making it through herself as it snapped shut behind.

== Canterlot Castle ==

It had been an odd Hearthswarming but they all were the last few years, Celestia mused to herself. She walked to her chambers with a stretch, rolling her neck and yawning heavily. It was far later than she was used to being up, and she was very much ready for bed.

Her sleepiness evaporated somewhat when she noticed her chamber doors open. All the staff had the day off, and she knew none of Luna's guards would enter her chambers and leave the door ajar. Cautiously she nudged the door open fully. "Chrysalis if you're here for some revenge scheme I am not in the..."

She trailed off when she saw a small object sitting on her night stand. The world fell away and there was nothing in it but Celestia... and the small silver locket sitting unassumingly beside her reading lamp. Numbly she crossed the room and stared down at it. With a shaking hoof she reached out and nudged it open.

Celestia's cry could be heard all through the city of Canterlot.

Author's Note:

I had to google how to spell incorrigible for y'all! I hope your gratitude is boundless.