• Published 24th Jan 2016
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If You Weren't Afraid - MyHobby



Discord's illness is tearing him apart. He must join Fluttershy and two young stowaways on a journey to his birthplace in order to find the cure.

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The Aftermath

Scratch the Itch

A chill wind blew across the bare mountainside. Fog drifted from the peak, coating everything with a thick layer of frost. A whinny ripped through the sky, hollow and raspy.

Windigoes raced through the mountains. They hovered just above the ground, their pounding hooves unable to meet earth. Plants withered and rotted at the sight of them. Animals scurried, but were unable to escape the murderous ice. The phantasms tore the life from anything that caught their eyes, bringing death and silence in their wake.

Still, their ghastly howl echoed.

The lead windigo swam through the sky, its ethereal mane wafting about its long, narrow head. Blistering blue eyes narrowed as the creature moved forward, taking a secret pass in the sheer cliffs. She left the others behind to freeze the valley, leaving it uninhabitable for years to come.

Darkness surrounded the windigo as it traversed the narrow crags and damp cavers. Living shadows peered at her, their red eyes blazing with equal parts hatred and fear. She ignored them, for why should she bother herself with the lower echelons of the Unseelie Court? No, she had far more important matters to attend to.

The central room dripped with the ichor of mineral water and algae. Stalagmites and stalactites came together like a broken jaw, making the room nearly impassable to a mortal through sheer danger of impalement or crushing. To a being of magic, to a Fae Creature, it was child’s play.

“Bean Sidhe…” A voice like a repressed cough hissed her name as a shadow trailed up a pillar of quartz. “You have come at last. I feared you could not leave the Frozen North for the more temperate climatesss…”

“The curse of the Hearth’s Warming Spell does not travel this far west, Bête Noire.” Bean Sidhe curled her lip at the thought of the ponies’ powerful weapon. “We were forced to skirt the edge for some time, but I felt this meeting was worth the risk. It is not often a Princeling of the Unseelie Court is… indisposed.”

“Deposed, you mean.” The shadow coalesced in the coiled form of a great, gaseous snake. Two embers of light glowed at either side of its head, as a long, forked tongue tested the air. “Discord sent him straight to the Abysssss. He will not return until the Lord of the Court is freed from imprisonment.”

The snakelike fairy, Bête Noire, grimaced as it crossed over to another pillar. It proceeded to coat the entire room with its essence, crafting a web of nightmares.

Bean Sidhe spat. “That leaves the whole of his principality outside our influence! Without a Princeling to rule them, the Fae will scatter to the four winds! We’ll be reliant on our mortal minions to merely contain them!”

A pebble clattered into a pool some short distance away. Bean Sidhe and Bête Noire turned to see what had made the noise. A tiny pony, its coat gray and its cloak dark, eased itself from the shadows. “I wouldn’t say it’s as grim as all that.”

He tilted his wide-brimmed farmer’s hat up to reveal a gaunt, skeletal face. He leered at them with teeth barely covered by skin. “After all, my brother-in-arms taught me everything I know.”

“Merimna.” Bean Sidhe grimaced. “Who invited you?”

“I set the meeting up.” Merimna limped his way towards them, leaving a damp trail behind his raggedy cloak. “When news of Jeuk’s imprisonment broke, I made sure everyone knew about it. I try to keep my fellow fairies in the loop.”

Bête Noire hissed beneath its breath. “He has volunteered to take Jeuk’s place as Princeling of Equestria.”

“That is a rank that cannot be assigned save by the Lord of the Court himself!” Bean Sidhe sent a chilling glare at the tiny fairy below her. “You dare presume to speak for him?”

“Don’t be foolish!” Merimna said. He sat down with a heavy thump, his legs practically falling apart beneath him. “We have lost one of our most powerful warriors, one of our most vicious schemers. It is a position we cannot allow to be empty for long. The Lord of the Court agrees.”

Bête Noire narrowed its eyes. “My wondering is thus: How can we be certain this instruction hails from the Lord himself?”

“Would I lie of such a thing,” Merimna asked, “when a visit to his mountain would so quickly dispel the falsehood?”

“Perhaps,” Bean Sidhe said, “if you had some purpose to accomplish whilst we are still locked to our assigned regions.”

“Well.” Merimna hung his wide-brimmed hat on a stalagmite, allowing a long, stringy mane to flow around his shoulders. A noose hung from his neck, the rope severed a halfway down his chest. “That is what I wanted to bring up. Your little borders, your little restraining orders. They’re holding us back.”

“Of course they are.” Bean Sidhe stomped a hoof on a stone pillar. It shattered like ice, throwing one of Bête Noire’s coils off. “That’s the very crux of it. We windigoes were cast aside by the Hearth’s Warming Curse, and Luna herself guards the night against the Nightmare Forces. As of now, every crusade to destroy these defenses has ended with imprisonment or banishment!”

“We long to return to the moon.” Bête Noire slithered its way to Merimna’s side, dwarfing the small, pony-like fairy. “As the windigoes wish to prowl the living lands. But we are as shackled as Jeuk at the moment.”

“Exactly.” Merimna rubbed his chin. Skin flaked away. “This is something I want to change, my friends.”

He stood laboriously to his feet. He stumbled his way to a pool to splash murky water into his face. Streams ran through gaps in his hollow cheeks. “Jeuk was a master manipulator. He played the long game, working through painstaking plans, fruitless for years before their eventual climax. We haven’t the same luxury of time.”

Bean Sidhe scowled, blowing frosty, foggy air in Merimna’s face. “Make your point, skinthief.”

“Jeuk used memories to great effect.” Merimna waved a hoof in front of his face to dispel the cloud. “Recalling a pony’s greatest loss to bring them pain. Unbearable, inescapable pain. Fluttershy’s dead friend. Spike’s uncontrollable strength. Caution’s failed affair. Scootaloo’s disability. Applejack’s relationship with her citizens. He nearly brought them to the point of death on several occasions. But most of them have grown. Moved beyond their past. Gained strength from their victories.”

He scuffed his hoof along the ground, gritting his teeth. “The strategy no longer works. We have to modify our attack. If their past no longer holds sway over their lives, then we must look to their uncertain future!”

He pointed to Bean Sidhe. “Your windigoes cannot enter Equestria, but the ponies need not understand that. Increase your presence at the Yakyakistan border, and threaten them with being overrun. The threat of eternal frost will plague the ponies day and night!”

He swung on Bête Noire, who drew back with a hiss. “Bring nightmares to whoever sleeps. Double the assault. Triple it! Bring Spike terrors of a romance that shall go nowhere. Bring Scootaloo threat of losing her precious wings. Give Rainbow Dash the horror of completely failing her friends! Whisper doubts to Twilight. Assure Applejack of her ineffectuality. Night comes each day, and Luna cannot defend them all.”

He placed the hat upon his head. His eyes shone like midnight moons. “Jeuk tried and failed to rot the Bearers of the Elements of Harmony from the inside out. We shall tear them apart at the seams.”

Bean Sidhe and Bête Noire glanced at each other. The windigo whinnied quietly. “This requires further discussion. We shall reconvene at a later date, when all the princelings can meet.”

Merimna backed away, his eyes squinting. “I expected nothing less from the Ancient Princelings.”

“We have lost too many for a full frontal assault, you see.” Bête Noire produced a certain number of tendrils from its coils. “First, we lost the last of the grotesquessss. Then Shadowfright fell to the Elementssss. Now, even Jeuk, the greatest of us, has been vanquished. We must retreat. Regroup. Recoup our lossessss…”

Bean Sidhe nodded. “It is unfeasible. We shall allow the sirens to continue their work in Equestria and bide our time.”

Merimna flicked his tattered tail. “Now is the time for action!”

“Action will cause more loss.” Bean Sidhe nickered at him as snowflakes descended from her mane. “We must plan our next move, not react to theirs.”

She rose higher, reaching eye-level with Bête Noire. “I shall send messengers to the principalities in Felaccia and Giraffrica.”

“And I will spread the word to the Badlands and Saddle Arabia.” Bête Noire opened its mouth wide, and a small, wormy nightmare trailed out. It slithered through the air, in search of a hapless flunky to deliver its command. “In the meantime, Merimna, it seems you have a principality of your own to wrangle. I suggest you get to work, if you seek to fill Jeuk’s horseshoessss.”

Merimna bowed his head. He smirked a halfhearted smirk, his leathery skin cracking. “I bow to the whim of the court.”

He vanished into the darkness.

“He’s going to be trouble, that one,” Bean Sidhe said. “And believe me, I say that as an established harbinger of doom.”

“Still, he has the mental capacity to bring havoc to the mortal realm.” Bête Noire shrugged. “Was Jeuk so different?”

“Yes.” Bean Sidhe moved for the exit, leaving icicles hanging from the ceiling. “He laced his princeship with the murder of children, not the tantrum of one.”

Bête Noire leaned back and chuckled. “An act that still yet pays dividendssss.”

“Dividends, he says…” Bean Sidhe muttered as she froze an unfortunate sparrow solid, preparing to bring winter to the Undiscovered West. “How great a dividend can one madmare be?”

***

The Best Mother

Merry Mare tiptoed through a grove of trees, picking her way through a heavy darkness. The gemstone necklace she wore was the only light, which cast a pale yellow glimmer over her path. She hummed softly to herself, just enough that her enchanted gem continued to throw magic forward.

She tripped on a root that rose just above the dirt floor. She bit back the curse that so readily leaped from her chest, and carried on her way. Her breath grew quicker and shallower without her direct consent. She paused, took several deep breaths, and slowed her heartbeat.

She came to the largest tree in the grove: A towering apple tree, with deep, golden veins snaking through the bark. Buds dotted the branches, ready to bloom into beautiful flowers at the appointed time. It rose up, up, up until the branches grappled with the stony roof of the cavern. Sunlight poured through the veins, giving the tree its much-needed nutrients.

A mirrored surface lay embedded in the bark of the tree, at perfect height for a pony to look into. Merry stared into her own eyes as she approached. She saw shock. Pale complexion, stuttering breaths, wide eyes, shrunken pupils. Textbook diagnosis. Her throat bobbed as she finished her song, and the light became dim save for the amber-hued magic coursing through the tree.

“Did Fluttershy speak with my son?”

The mirror did not answer. Water dripped from somewhere on the far side of the cavern, feeding the grove with fresh-fallen rain.

“Did Fluttershy,” she shouted, “speak with my son?

She dared to open her eyes. Her reflection refused to follow her. It moved of its own accord, placing its hooves on the mirror’s surface. It pushed, found itself unable to break through, and growled from the back of its throat.

The voice that came from the mirror was not her own. “You are no longer amusing, Miss Mare. Most very unamusing.”

“Jeuk?” Merry slammed her hoof into the mirror, startling the reflection into jumping back. “What the Hell are you doing in there? Where is the Master? Where is the Lord of the Court?”

“While I’m here, I have been given a new title by our Lord and Master,” Jeuk said. The mirrored image of Merry adjusted its glasses officiously. “Since I’m stuck here with him, I’ve been named Majordomo. I speak for the Master exclusively.”

Jeuk grimaced, shivering and clutching his forelegs to his chest. “It’s so cursed cold in here.”

Merry gritted her teeth. She nearly gnashed them at the sight. “I told you to leave Fluttershy alone.”

Jeuk coughed. He leaned against the mirror, floating in an endless emptiness. “We all have our sacrifices to make, don’t we? Perhaps yours is your young friend’s life.”

“I told you,” Merry hissed, “that her condition is guarded.”

Jeuk snorted. “Then guard it.”

Merry wanted so much to tear his head from his incorporeal body. Her stomach swam, churning her breakfast and throwing her balance. She steadied herself against the tree and found her bearings, but only barely.

“Then tell me this…” Merry pounded the surface of the mirror once more for good measure, just in case Jeuk missed the seriousness of the situation. “Did Fluttershy speak with Happy? The real Happy?”

Her reflection curled its lip in a dismissive sneer. “You’ve come all this way for such a simple question? I thought you were a dear friend to Fluttershy. Why don’t you ask her—?”

Merry’s voice broke. “I need to know!

Merry’s twisted image leaned its head back, glancing into the shadows behind the far side of the mirror. Its ears twitched as it listened quietly. With a nod, it turned back to face her, speaking with Jeuk’s wavering, humorless giggle. “The Master wishes to assuage you of any doubts. She did speak with Happy. But she is confused, conflicted, seeing what she wished to see. She is content to leave the poor boy in the nether realm. Alone. Abandoned. Confused. She will not rescue him. Nor does she have the means to do so.”

Jeuk smiled, an expression Merry felt was so very foreign to her. “But there is yet hope. If he can speak, perhaps we can truly reach him. We just need more time for the apples to grow. More time to develop our magic mirrors. Then, only then, can you rescue those who have become lost to you.”

Merry let her mouth fall into a neutral expression. She would not give Jeuk the satisfaction of seeing her in distress any longer. “As you’ve said. As you will keep on saying for as long as our alliance lasts.”

“For a good long time, then,” Jeuk said, his eyes becoming dangerous slits. “For your sake.”

“For both our sakes.” Merry backed away, her jaw firm. Jeuk stepped away in sync with her, as if dancing a macabre waltz. “Lest you forget which of us is free, and which of us is trapped.”

Jeuk grinned, and the flesh on Merry’s reflection melted away to take the shape of his wrinkled, blackened, horrible visage. “Be careful lest you forget, Mother of the Sirens.”

He vanished, leaving the face of the mirror completely blank.

Merry shook her head. She cantered through the underground grove, past budding trees, leaping over gnarled roots. She forced a hot tear from her eye, coughing up phlegm as she plotted her next move. The gemstone around her neck sparked to lend new life to her limbs.

Perhaps, she thought, it was time to leave the treacherous fairies to their own devices.

***

Tales of Derring-do

The purple gemstone necklace around Twilight Sparkle’s neck flickered as she cleared her throat. She trotted quickly through the halls of Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns, Fluttershy hot on her heels. She read the room numbers as she passed them, until she finally arrived at the proper lecture room. “Aha! This is the place.”

Fluttershy looked both ways down the hallway. No one was in sight, but she still hunched over with her ears facing back. “Shouldn’t we wait to go in until the lecture’s over? I’d hate to interrupt.”

“Not at all. This happens all the time.” Twilight Sparkle put her hoof to the door handle. “Nobody will even notice—”

“Sparkle!” A.K. Yearling waved a hoof from the front of the hall. Everypony in the room turned to look. “Take a seat! I’m almost wrapped up!”

“—us.” Twilight Sparkle rolled her eyes and let the door close behind Fluttershy. “Well, at least we didn’t disrupt her.”

Twilight scratched the skin beneath her necklace’s cord. The two of them took seats at the rear of the classroom, settling back to relax while Yearling went about her business.

“The dagger’s location was never found,” she told her students. “Although, most historians agree that it was buried in the far reaches of the Northern Equestrian Wastes. To this day, a few adventurous individuals still seek it out.” She brushed back her grayscale bangs and gave the audience a winning smile. “Not that I’d know anything about that.”

Some students chuckled, others shrugged, and a few lumps on a log grumbled that their informative lecture was interrupted by a lame joke. Twilight Sparkle spread her wings across the empty seat next to her, wondering just how Yearling was able to get away with stuff like that.

Her popular novel series seemed to indicate that she took refuge in audacity.

“Alright, that about sums it up. Powerful dagger, pony sacrifice, harvesting hearts, sun-controlling devices. The normal ancient empire shtick. Since there are no more questions—” She sent one unicorn in particular a pointed glance. “—we’ll reconvene tomorrow for the last part of the lecture series on magic-stealing devices. I’ve got an appointment I can’t miss, so scoot.”

The students moved quickly. Chairs scraped against floors as ponies—mostly unicorns, considering the school they were at—stood up and cantered out. Before too long, Twilight Sparkle and Fluttershy were alone in a room with A.K. Yearling herself.

“Alright, Sparkle.” Yearling held her forelegs out. “Come here and give Ol’ Aunt Yearling a hug.”

Twilight smiled and galloped to the mare. They gave each other a quick embrace, then took a single step back. “Aunt Yearling, you’ve met Fluttershy.”

“Been a while, Kiddo.” Yearling removed her glasses and stuffed them in her shirt pocket. She held a hoof out to bump. “You’re looking pretty good for somebody’s who’s gone through a small-scale Ragnarok.”

“Um…” Fluttershy met the hoofbump with a small, uncertain smile. “Thank… you?”

“Don’t mention it.” Yearling unbuttoned her shirt to a comfortable level, halfway down her chest. “I swear, if I ever see a fairy, I’m gonna bop ’em right on the schnozzle. Right in the kisser, pow!”

She walked around her desk to start erasing the chalkboard. Maps and artifacts vanished into a fine, white dust. “The Sparkle family doesn’t usually visit unless there’s something horrible going on, so let’s get right to it. What’s the deal with your friend here, Twilight?”

Twilight smiled at Fluttershy with about as much sincerity as she could muster. It was a little muted by the pained frown she received back. “Well, seems that even after everything that’s happened, Fluttershy, well…”

Twilight let her ears droop. “She still has the Rainbow of Darkness inside her.”

“Holy horseapples!” Yearling jumped, folding her wings tight across her back. She winced and rubbed at the joints, muttering expletives about sudden movement. “When you guys have issues, you don’t kid around!”

Fluttershy covered her mouth. “Is it bad?”

“Only if you intend to steal the magic of the entire country.” Yearling rubbed her temples. She hopped over to the desk and began to stack textbooks and research notes. “Look, I’m all for it being in the hands of the good guys. I’m just not sure you’re the good guy for the job.”

“I um…” Fluttershy blushed bright red, her shoulders hunching. “I don’t intend to use it at all. Ever. For any reason.”

“No? Sweet.” Yearling pulled a specific book free: A Treatise on Magic-Stealing Devices. “I’ve read up on the thing, but there’s not much to go on. As far as we know, Tirek’s the only one who’s ever used it.”

“Not according to what the dark fairy told Discord.” Twilight grabbed the book in her telekinetic bubble. She flipped through the pages until she reached the pitiful single-page entry on the Rainbow of Darkness itself. “According to Jeuk, it was what allowed the fairies to overthrow the entire draconequus species.”

She gazed at Yearling over the textbook. “It’s not something we’re taking lightly.”

“No, of course not.” Yearling shoved the rest of the books into a pair of overstuffed saddlebags. “I’m not sure why you came to talk to me about it, though. I’m not exactly a magicologyst.”

Twilight felt her lip twitch. “The study of magic is called wizardry.”

“You’re the one with the doctorate in that stuff, Sparkle.” Yearling leaned on the desk, propping her hoof on her hip. “I’m just the historian.”

“Yes, but where you can help is with the story of magic-stealing devices.” Twilight shook the book, but didn’t let it leave her grasp just yet. “I was hoping you could give us some idea of what to expect, based on its past. What sort of uses it has, differences with other magic-stealing devices—”

“MSD’s, Sparkle.” Yearling smirked. “We’re gonna be here all day if you spell it out every time you gotta say it.”

“M… S… D’s…” Twilight grinned with a smile that nearly broke a tooth. “Got it. Anyway. Differences, what the outcome is, what the effect has been on sapient creatures. All stuff you’ve had to look at, right?”

“Pretty much.” Yearling tossed a piece of chalk to herself. “Though you guys probably remember the outcome the last time it was used. I was there, too.”

Fluttershy’s feathers ruffled as she hid behind her bangs. “Complete exhaustion. I didn’t have the strength to stand when Tirek stole my magic. And flying was completely out of the question.”

“Got it in one.” Yearling drew up a crude sketch of a pony. She drew an arrow to the legs, to a dotted outline of wings, and to a dotted outline of a horn. “The Rainbow of Darkness seems to completely drain a pony of its magic stores, siphoning it right from their fairy strings. No one has dared to see if a pony can build the magic back up, because having your resources that low is pretty similar to having several pints of your blood drained. Very, very deadly.”

“I—” Fluttershy gulped. “I don’t want to kill anybody.”

“Fair enough.” Yearling drew a heart in the center of the pony’s chest. “The Rainbow of Darkness doesn’t seem to do anything to a pony’s heart except deprive it of the energy it needs to work. Theoretically, if you can fill a pony with magic faster than the RoD drains it… Well, you ain’t got no problems.”

Twilight Sparkle placed her hooves on the desk, setting the book down. “Dooo… you think the Rainbow of Darkness will interfere with the Rainbow of Light?”

“Your Rainbow Power stuff?” Yearling shrugged. “Search me. Rainbow Power’s pretty clearly able to undo the effects of the RoD. On a country-wide scale. I don’t think you’ll have any issues with that little godsend.”

She scratched her cheek with the tip of her chalk. “The RoD’s effect on the individual using it is kinda funky. It’s obvious that different magic types have different effects—you’ve got your baseline pegasus magic, your earth pony magic, your unicorn magic… But for the most part, eating it just seems to augment existing abilities.”

Fluttershy peered at the book and flipped pages aimlessly. “I don’t normally have the ability to turn a mountain into gelatin.”

“Well, actually,” Twilight said, lifting her head officiously, “I have a theory that you were not causing those changes to the environment, but they were merely the result of the chaos magic leaking from your body. The more stressed you were, the more it forced itself out. Thus, the craziness at Las Pegasus.”

“Yeah, what she said.” Yearling etched a picture of a small knife next to the pony. “Contrast that bundle of side-effects to the dagger I’m looking for: The Spade of Hearts. It has the power to pull the heart right out of a pony. Kinda. It just rips out all the stuff in the heart that produces magic.”

“That’s horrible!” Fluttershy sat down in Yearling’s chair, her wings sliding around her shoulders. “Does… does it kill the ponies right away?”

“That’s the crazy thing. According to the texts, the ponies don’t die.” Yearling pointed out a book mark, which Twilight flipped to. The dagger showed up in intricate detail near the top of the page, sporting a curved blade and a glistening pommel stone. “The dagger has the power not to pierce joints and marrow, but soul and body. Legend has it that a pony’s soul is contained in the heart, and that when they’re separated, it leaves the pony a barely-functioning zombie-vegetable. A waking coma.”

Twilight raised an eyebrow at a nearly-comedic illustration of a pony lumbering around and drooling. “You know it’s thriller, thriller night?”

“Cool it. I’m just telling you what the sources say.” Yearling hefted the book onto her back to carry it to her bags. “It’s kinda interesting when you look at the differences here. While the Rainbow of Darkness uses a pony’s body to store the energy, the Spade of Hearts contains the nucleus in a shell of solidified magic; ie. crystal.”

Twilight Sparkle nodded. “Easy transportation. Genius.”

“Dreadful,” Fluttershy said. “I suppose I just have the one question: How do we get the… RoD out of me?”

Yearling glanced at them, her lips pursed. “Until now, I assumed it was a genetic ability that Tirek’s people have. Since that’s not the case, I have no idea. How’d you get it in the first place?”

“I was…” Fluttershy puffed her cheeks out, as if eating the answer so that she didn’t have to say it. After she swallowed it down, she related the condensed version. “A fairy gave it to me.”

“Simple, then. Give it back.”

“The fairy is gone, now.” Fluttershy pressed her fetlock against her mouth, breathing a soft sigh. “Very, very, very, very gone. And good riddance.”

Yearling threw a hoof out. “So much for the easy solution, then. Nothing in the texts say anything about removing it. It’s beyond me.”

“We’ll figure it out, Fluttershy.” Twilight hugged her friend with an outstretched wing. “I’ll make sure of it.”

“Thank you,” Fluttershy whispered.

“As for you, Sparkle.” A.K. Yearling waved Twilight closer. When they were nearly touching, Yearling lowered her voice. “How’s your throat doing?”

Twilight Sparkle moved the gemstone aside. A prominent scar appeared; a jagged, hairless white mark across her neck. She removed the necklace entirely and set it aside.

She cleared her throat a time or two, and then spoke in a weak, rasping voice. “I can force out a few words… But it’s still hard.”

Fluttershy nuzzled her friend’s shoulder. “Oh, Twilight…”

“But it’s something.” Yearling lifted the corners of her mouth. She patted Twilight shoulder, pressing the necklace into her hoof. “It’s more than most ponies can say. And I’m grateful for that.”

Her eyes took on a distanced glaze. “Not everybody’s lucky enough to come back from the dead.”

Fluttershy lowered her eyebrows as she looked at Yearling. Twilight watched her move slowly to the older mare’s side, then touch a feather to her back. “At least it doesn’t end there.”

“Death seems pretty final to me.” Yearling hoisted the saddlebags onto her back with a grunt. “Dang. Shoulda waited for Martial.”

“Well…” Fluttershy sat down as Yearling moved past her towards the exit. “I mean, when a pony dies, they’re born as a star. And those never go out.”

“Sure, if you believe that sort of thing.” Yearling pulled a silver pocket watch out of her pocket to check the time. “Still got time before—”

“I only believe it because I’ve lived it.”

“Lived it.” A.K. Yearling twisted around to smirk at Fluttershy. She turned to Twilight with a bit more sincerity in her grin. “What about you, Sparkle? You believe the story that stars are the dreams of ponies living and dead?”

“Our family was always pretty traditional, so…” Twilight shrugged with her wings. “Yeah, I guess. Science is kinda ambivalent on it since you can’t exactly measure and-or track a soul. But Fluttershy does have a story about it.”

Fluttershy gave Yearling her brightest, most earnest smile. “If you wanna hear it.”

Yearling clicked her watch shut. “I’ve got time, so shoot. What’s the big revelation?”

“When I was in the middle of going crazy because of the chaos magic,” Fluttershy said, “a fairy from the Seelie Court whisked me away to the land of dreams. I met somepony who had been dead since I was a little filly.”

Yearling met Twilight’s eyes with a narrow, straight-mouthed expression. “Izzat so? How do you know it wasn’t just you going gonzo bananas?”

“I suppose I don’t, really.” Fluttershy tilted her head downward. “I don’t know if it wasn’t some hallucination, or imagination, or misremembered stress… I just remember that my friend and I spoke with each other. It was so lovely. He told me things that I desperately needed to hear. Things that I had to learn, or everyone would suffer for it. He was so undeniably real, and good, and solid.”

She flicked her tail to the left and sighed, deeply and warmly. “Maybe I did imagine it, but it doesn’t really do me any good to think of it like that. Not when the whole experience was so real to me. If it was fake, then it doesn’t matter if I believe it or not. But if it was real, then it matters more than anything.”

Her smile faded into a serious frown. She caught Yearling’s eyes with her own and held them with all her love. “I know I’d rather live believing I’ll see him again, even if it’s not in this life.”

“I know the feeling.” A.K. Yearling nodded, pulling the bun out of her mane. Her voice was low and even, her words carefully chosen. “I appreciate you telling me. It’s… pretty obvious you care a lot about that stuff.”

“I really do.”

“Yeah.” Yearling chucked Twilight in the shoulder. “I’m gonna bounce. I’ve got a lot to set up for my next adventure and stuff.”

Twilight gave her a brief nuzzle on the neck. “See you later, Aunt Yearling.”

“Be safe!” Fluttershy waved with a wing. “Or at least take care of yourself!”

“Ha! Advice I should probably take.” Yearling gave them a salute, flipping a pith helmet onto her head. “And Fluttershy… Don’t stop believing, okay? Maybe you can believe enough for both of us.”

Fluttershy stood up and brushed herself off. She rubbed one foreleg with the other, trying to smile but failing. “I’ll try.”

Yearling laughed. She whistled a jaunty, catchy tune to herself as she skipped down the hallways of the illustrious school. “Adventure’s out there, and I’ve got it running scared.”

***

Solitaire with Friends

Lacer the Displacer found himself led by chain down the halls of Solitaire, the most secure prison in Equestria. More specifically, the most secure prison designed to house mortal creatures. While the undying went to live out their life sentences in Tartarus, the shorter-lived inmates were taken to an island east of Canterlot.

Gray stone and iron bars waited him. He tugged at his restraints, almost tripping with his middle pair of legs. The Royal Guard escorts barely paid it any mind, just nudging him back to the proper pace with an armored foreleg.

“These guys creep me out,” one of them said. “You know that they disappear when they’re not under direct sunlight?”

“Yes, Checks, I read the report, too.”

“And then they can throw their image like a ventriloquist throws their voice?”

“Cut the chatter, Checks Position.”

The guard leading the procession halted. They stood before an empty cell, bare except for a cot bolted to the wall and a drain near the back of the room. “All the comforts of home. Clean linins will be by before bedtime. Breakfast is at six sharp. Complementary deck of cards is on the cot. Enjoy your stay, Lacer.”

Checks Position unclipped the chains from Lacer’s six feet. He glanced at the cell behind them, nibbling his lower lip. “Congratulations landing yourself in the worst section of the prison. This is where they put attempted assassins. You tried to kill Lady Fluttershy? Well, the guy across from you tried to snuff Princess Celestia herself. The guy next to you? Poisoned an interdimensional diplomat.”

“Both failed,” the other guard, Footnote, said. “Just like yours. Have fun living out your sentence, bucko. All three-hundred years of it.”

Checks Position’s voice couldn’t fade quickly enough as the three guards trotted back the way they came. “Do displacer beasts really live that long? Do you think they might let him out someday?”

The third, Addendum, rolled his eyes. “Not a chance. The multiple life-sentences will make sure he stays a good, long—”

Lacer crawled to the cot and lay down, opening the pack of cards and starting a game with himself. Echoes of his sister's voice came to him, as loud as they were the last day of his trial.

“Good job getting caught, Butt-munch.”

“Love you, too, sis.” He sighed. At least he was filthy, filthy rich. Caged in the middle of nowhere with no way to spend it, but still rich. Maybe he’d get out on good behavior someday. Maybe Catrina could pay to bail him out somehow…

He glanced across the hall and saw his fellow prisoner peering at him. He was a bulky earth pony, with one eye cloudy white behind a painful scar. “This ain’t a free show, buddy. Pay for the ticket or leave.”

The earth pony rolled his massive shoulders. “No offense intended, mate. Just curious. It’s been ages since oi seen a displacer beast. Saw a few in my days as a Royal Guard. Never had the chance to meet friendly-like.”

“Friendly, huh?” Lacer flipped a card over and found an ace. He moved it into position on one end of the cot. “I guess you meet all kinds of folks in prison.”

“Yeah. That’s right. Name’s Caution.” The earth pony leaned on the bars of his cell, grinning with pristine teeth. “Heard you were in for tryin’ to kill Fluttershy. Who ordered the hit?”

“If you talked with me a month ago, I’d have said Tirek.” Lacer glowered at the king of clubs and flipped the draw pile over. “Once that fell through, though, I took a job with a fairy named Jeuk.”

“Jeuk, eh?” Caution grimaced, resting his snout against cool iron. “Yeah, oi’ve had dealin’s with that ol’ so-an’-so before. Pleasant chap, as long as it suits him.”

Lacer the Displacer let his ears jump up. He looked at the earth pony with renewed interest, stacking a few cards together. “Really? Ain’t the best boss I ever had, man. Most rich folks threaten to take your home, not eat your soul.”

“Doubt oi really had a soul to eat, all things considered.” Caution paced back and forth in his cell, chuckling mirthlessly. “All the trouble in moi life pretty much tracks back to the blasted Unseelie Court, you know. Even now.”

He winked at Lacer. “Oi see your three life sentences and raise you twenty-one. Tryin’ tah kill Celestia ain’t without repercussions.”

“Dang.” Lacer sucked on the inside of his cheek. The scar on Caution’s eye was healed, but it looked fairly new. Probably injuries sustained in the assassination attempt. “Look, I’m no friend of Equestria, but ain’t killin’ Celestia kinda dangerous? There’s the whole ‘raise the sun’ thing.”

A weak voice warbled from the cell next to him. “You’d have thought that’d be the first thing on his mind.”

Caution waved a hoof. “Never mind him. Aspen’s been a nervous wreck ever since Jeuk paid us a visit a year ago.”

He lay down on his cot and rocked back and forth on its weak connection to the wall. “The Unseelie Court’s got plans for the sun. That ain’t really what’s important.”

“No?” Lacer drummed his paws on the metal surface of his bed, wishing desperately for his pillow and sheets to arrive a little faster. “What is?”

“Family, mate.” Caution lay back and stared at the ceiling. He curled his forelegs behind his head to cradle it. He breathed quietly as his tail waved lazily to and fro. “Ain’t nothin’ more important than family. Even the family you don’t know.”

Lacer flicked a card across the room. His game of solitaire was over, having come to a screeching halt with no more legal move available. “You got that right, man. I get the feeling I let mine down.”

Caution looked up. A grin grew across his mouth, white breaking across a red coat. He closed his blind eye in a wink. “Got the feelin’ you’d like the chance to fix your mistakes, right?”

Lacer shrugged with two pairs of legs. “Sure, but I ain’t exactly got a key to Solitaire, know what I’m sayin’?”

“Stick close, mate.” Caution chuckled, kicking a hind leg in the air. “We ain’t stayin’ in here forever.”

Lacer’s ears stood straight up. His shoulders hunched as every muscle in his back tightened. “What makes you say that?”

“I know some people.” Caution Tape shut his eyes. “Friends on the other side, you might say. Folks with interest in seein’ us cut loose.”

Lacer gripped his bars. He felt a lip curling in a sneer, letting his fangs show. “An’ you’re sayin’ I’m invited?”

“That’s it exactly, mate.” Caution turned his attention to a letter-sized sheet of paper taped to the wall, covered in incomprehensible scribbles. “’Cuz ain’t nothin’ more important than family. Nothin’ at all.”

***

Pumpkin Patch-up

Pumpkin Cake opened the door slowly, keeping her movements hushed in the hospital hallway. She leaned into the room, glancing around for any sign of life. “Psst?”

“You can come in, guys.” Thunderlane leaned over the back of his chair, hanging a foreleg above the ground. “Just be quiet. The babies are asleep.”

Pumpkin and Pound walked in together, balancing a cake box on their backs. It was a lovely little package, done in Sugarcube Corner’s signature yellow, tied with a lovely red string. A tag hung from the top listing Thunderlane’s name, alongside Cloudkicker’s.

Pound held the package up proudly, grinning from ear-to-ear. “A congratulatory cake for you guys, courtesy of Sugarcube Corner’s newest chef!”

Pumpkin pulled her cheeks back in a tight-lipped smile. “So if it tastes like dirt, blame Pound.”

Pound responded by simply sticking his tongue out at her.

Thunderlane waved them further into the room. He couldn’t have repressed his smile if he tried. He pointed to the hospital bed with a tiny whinny of delight. “Meet the new arrivals.”

Cloudkicker blinked her eyes open, cradling a baby filly in each foreleg. She gave the Cakes a tired, yet undeniably mischievous smile. “Ach. So the twins meet the twins. ‘Tis a fated day, then.”

Pumpkin laid her hooves on the bed as Pound set the cakebox on a nearby wheeled table. “Oh my gosh, they’re so precious.

The newborn twins lay against their mother, curled up in fuzzy little balls. The one on the left yawned and batted at something in her sleep. The one on the right nuzzled against Cloudkicker, her wings stretching to their full length of ten inches.

Pound hovered over his sister. He balanced his hooves lightly on her head as his wings kept him aloft. “What are their names?”

Thunderlane cracked open the cakebox and licked his lips. He set it aside and folded his wings across his back. “The one with the charcoal coat and yellow mane is Dovetail. The one with the white coat and blue mane is Summer Wind.”

Pumpkin chanced a glance at Cloudkicker. The new mother held her children close, their bodies rising and falling with her breaths. She saw weariness in Cloudkicker’s eyes, behind the contented smile. “You all look super tired.”

“Aye.” Cloudkicker raised an eyebrow at Pumpkin. Her lip quirked up at the corner. “I never fought so hard for anythin’ in me life. Not as much as for these wee ones.”

She kissed her little ones on the forehead. “A big challenge, is bein’ a mother. Only the strong need apply. Almost didn’t think meself strong enough for a bit there. But Thunderlane helped me pull through.”

“Now I’m a daddy!” Thunderlane said with a hushed giggle. “This is literally the coolest thing ever.”

Cloudkicker blew him a kiss. He caught it and stuffed it between his feathers for later.

She sighed, resting her head against a large pile of cushy pillows. She winked at the Cakes. “I’m sure I don’t have to tell ye some sacrifices are far and away worth it?”

Pound hopped to the ground. A distant look entered his eyes. “Yeah, I’d say so.”

Pumpkin Cake glanced away from the fillies long enough to see the enchanted heart monitor. All three inhabitants of the bed were beating away, powering their bodies with normal amounts of lifeblood and lifelight. Healthy and hearty. Tired but strong.

“I’d love to coo over the babies some more,” Pound said, “but we should probably let you guys sleep.”

“Aye, I’d thank ye for that.” Cloudkicker yawned, and Dovetail joined in. “Ye’ll have plenty of time to see them. Especially once the two of you are old enough to babysit.”

Pumpkin held up a hoof. “In the meantime, Scootaloo comes highly recommended.”

Thunderlane scratched behind his ear. “You think that if we set her up with Rumble, she’ll babysit for free?”

“Ach, ye spendthrift.” Cloudkicker shoed the Cakes away with a wing. “Off with ye, then, or I’ll not get me beauty sleep.”

Pumpkin closed the door as quietly as she could and whispered a goodbye. She and Pound shared a smile and headed for the elevator. Quiet bustle surrounded them as they made their way through the maternity ward of Ponyville General Hospital.

Nurse Redheart paused in reading a clipboard. “You kids find Cloudkicker okay?”

“Sure did,” Pound said. “Thanks.”

Pumpkin Cake held her breath and stared at Redheart. Medical information surrounded her at the nurses’ station. Muffled doctors’ conversations whispered from a nearby room. An IV ambrosia drip rolled past as an orderly cantered towards their patient.

Pumpkin’s ears drooped. ‘I want to heal.’

Redheart looked up, twisting a pencil between her lips. “Do you need somethin’, hun?”

Pound glanced back. He waited for his sister beside the elevator and pressed the button with a wingtip.

“Say I wanted to do something medical.” Pumpkin shuffled her hooves. She swished her tail side-to-side. “Something to help people. Where would you start?”

Redheart gave her a shallow smile. “Hope you like school, because you’re looking at eight extra years of it.”

Pumpkin shrugged.

Redheart bobbed her head. “You should check out the Ponyville Fire Brigade. Big Mac teaches a first-aid class to those guys. See if you can join for a class or so. That’ll give you a good base.”

Pumpkin smiled at Redheart, spinning on her rear legs and running at a reasonable pace towards the opening elevator door. “Sounds great. Thanks!”

Redheart shook her head, jotted down a note, and returned to her rounds.

Pound shuffled to the side to give Pumpkin space in the small room. He twisted his ears and scrunched his muzzle. “So, you wanna be a doctor now, or what?”

“Dunno yet.” Pumpkin leaned against the wall and felt magic energy course through the elevator shaft, lowering them to the ground floor. “I just had a funny feeling. Like this was something I wanted to do with my life. A little glimmer.”

She booped him on the nose and laughed. “I guess I’m just starting to figure out what kinda person I want to be.”

He rubbed his nose and giggled. “Yeah. I kinda got that feeling, too. Must be Scootaloo’s pep talks.”

They both blinked. Simultaneously, they raised their hind legs to look at their bums. Blank flanks stared back.

“Eh.” Pumpkin Cake tossed her curls as the doors opened. “It was worth a shot.”

***

Scandalous Vandalism

A little colt and his mother sat in a tiny park outside one of Las Pegasus’ many casinos. The colt sucked on a watermelon-flavored popsicle, dribbling all over the place. The mother cleaned him up as best she could, but it was a war of attrition. Before long, entropy would set in and the popsicle would be discount fruit juice.

The colt looked up at the centerpiece of the park: a statue commemorating the salvation of Las Pegasus from utter destruction. It was made in the likeness of Discord himself, his arms raised triumphantly, his mouth open with a wide smile full of laughter.

The top half of the popsicle crumbled off and plopped right onto his mother’s purse. His mother fussed and fidgeted with the dropped dessert, cleaning it off as quickly as she could with rapidly-dissolving tissue paper. The little colt looked back at the statue.

Where once was marble and stone, there stood a flesh-and-blood draconequus. He put a finger to his lips, shushed him, and handed him a fresh popsicle. The colt grinned at him.

Discord vanished, and in his place the statue had claimed the new addition of a ridiculously-wide sombrero. The colt giggled and sucked on his brand-new treat.

Author's Note:

I hope you enjoyed this story of Fairies, Wishes, and Melodrama!

Be on the lookout for a follow-up blog post, since my final thoughts are too lengthy to fit in this tiny box. It'll also be where I put the answers to the Q and A I posted a couple months ago, so that'll be cool. See you then!

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Comments ( 7 )

just found the story and the "part of..." does that mean that to understand the story I need to read the other stories?

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Author Man has generally been pretty good about making each story stand on its own. But all of the stories together form a much bigger picture.

And to Author Man himself I say, glad to see a satisfying resolution to this story. Looking forward to the next one!

“Maybe friendship…” He winced, even as the words left his mouth. “Is magic?”

Munchy turned to him, an earplug half-pulled from its place. He and Tirek shared a look, pondering the thought, until they arrived at the same conclusion.

Naaahhh!

:raritystarry: Similar cynicism and snideness?! They are becoming friends. :twilightsmile:

Anyway, that's a lotta tantalizing teasers, there. It seems to be that the people the nightmares talk about are most of the people who have been major characters in previous stories. Whereas less known entities like Sweetie and Apple Bloom have less to be miserable about yet. Presumably because he hasn't heard of what will yet happen in Rhythm and Rhyme.

Great story, though. Very satisfying conclusion, too.

Figures Discord basically immediately starts breaking the letter of the rules.

That was quite an ending.

 Munchimonious Masticator the Morlock

Now that's a title! Is he descended from Baron Munchausen?

Commander Skyhook lowered his eyebrows. “So we watch her.”
“Closely.” Twilight Sparkle swallowed hard, a sick little feeling welling up in her stomach as Adagio gunned for Windblown. “Very, very closely.”

Nice. Not sure on which side Adagio will land in the future. She's befriended some of the good guys, but blood is thicker than water...

Discord’s head materialized beside her, his neck sticking through a small hole in the fabric of space-time. “Hi, there. Just checking this whole ‘portal anytime’ thing. 

Awesome! Discord has a rather empty land to warp to his heart's content, while still visiting his dear friends whenever he wants. In some ways, this rather resembles the show today, except Discord is on a far continent instead of a different dimension.

Rainbow Dash was the first to scoop Fluttershy up in a hug. She was closely followed—and overpowered—by a horde of woodland creatures headed by a particular bunny and a passionate bear.

Critter-pile!

Pinkie Pie scooped all four of them into a bear-hug to make Fluttershy’s friend jealous. In the next breath, Cup and Carrot made the family hug whole, tears of joy and relief pouring down their faces.

That's what I call a 7-layer cake!

Did I ever tell you the one about Cheese Sandwich, Braeburn, and the Tatzlwurm?”
Pumpkin smirked as she leaned on the back of Pinkie’s head. “Is it the one where the sweat runs down their flanks in a dreamy fashion as they race to the rescue?”

Pinkie has a crush on the Tatzlwurm? :pinkiegasp:

“I’ll second that,” Merry Mare said. She let the door shut behind her, offering a brilliant smile. “I suppose we’re set up for the same time this Friday, Rose?”

Nice to hear what Merry has been doing to keep busy while not being a Mayor. And now I have to wonder if she's been giving Roseluck's phobias and anxieties the same level of work she gave to the roads...

“If he was capable of speaking to anybody,” Merry snapped, her tone hushed, “he would have spoken to me by now.”

The core of a powerful scene. I'm not surprised, but still saddened. Merry doesn't really have faith in a lot of things, and that can't be helpful when trying to reach your son in the Undiscovered Country.

“O… kay…” Truffle Hunter rolled a new sheet of paper into his typewriter. “So the counselling session with Cloudkicker—?”

So Merry does anger management too?

“Six in the evening. I can work with that.” Bulk rose up on his tiny wings and did a slow, plodding loop over the hedges surrounding the restaurant. “Yeah!
Fluttershy tottered on her legs. She pressed a hoof against her cheek, smiling through the rosy tint on her cheeks. “I said yes. I can’t believe I said yes!”

Nice to see Bulk finally got over his fear of butterflies. :yay:

“Maybe friendship…” He winced, even as the words left his mouth. “Is magic?”
Munchy turned to him, an earplug half-pulled from its place. He and Tirek shared a look, pondering the thought, until they arrived at the same conclusion.
Naaahhh!

Tirek is back where he started, but his circumstances have still changed for the better. It reminds me of the Long Spoons, and how the setting doesn't matter nearly as much as the company.

“Nopony’s doubting you had your day some three-thousand odd years ago.” Applejack reached around Adagio and plucked a marker stake from her grasp. “But here and now, I’m the subject matter expert in growin’ apples, period.”

This scene is hilarious. Perhaps we have identified the real heirs of Adagio Dazzle after all?

Pumpkin’s mouth skewed to the side. “I though fairies couldn’t lie.”
“It helps that we mostly keep our mouths shut.” Ribbon raised an eyebrow, narrowing her glare at the filly behind her. “Something you could stand to learn, Pumpkin Cake.”

Sneaky indeed.

Merimna flicked his tattered tail. “Now is the time for action!”

So Beetle here wants to drop the subtlety and go for all out war on the mortals. It's possible it might work, mortals have only ever defeated parts of the Court, not the whole Unseelie hosts simultaneously. But has he forgotten that Discord is one quick teleport away? No, the only possible way for the Dark Fae to achieve victory is if the allied with some demigod with another magic-stealing artifact, but what are the odds of that?

 “Since I’m stuck here with him, I’ve been named Majordomo. I speak for the Master exclusively.”

Ha, he's been demoted!

Perhaps, she thought, it was time to leave the treacherous fairies to their own devices.

I do regret that Merry hasn't figured out yet who killed Happy, but at least she's realizing they are a dead weight at this point.

“Your Rainbow Power stuff?” Yearling shrugged. “Search me. Rainbow Power’s pretty clearly able to undo the effects of the RoD. On a country-wide scale. I don’t think you’ll have any issues with that little godsend.”

Has the Tree of Harmony dropped another seed to power another Rainbow Power? That will be good to have as a backup weapon.

Yearling threw a hoof out. “So much for the easy solution, then. Nothing in the texts say anything about removing it. It’s beyond me.”

Flush it down the toilet and let the city plumber deal with it.

“I know some people.” Caution Tape shut his eyes. “Friends on the other side, you might say. Folks with interest in seein’ us cut loose.”
Lacer gripped his bars. He felt a lip curling in a sneer, letting his fangs show. “An’ you’re sayin’ I’m invited?”

I'm certainly intrigued to see where this leads. I always love seeing recycled minions!

Where once was marble and stone, there stood a flesh-and-blood draconequus. He put a finger to his lips, shushed him, and handed him a fresh popsicle. The colt grinned at him.

Yup, Merimna's got a tough road to hoe alright. At least he's not the Princeling with the Principality of the Far Side of the World. That poor fae has just got a lot of empty space and Discord!

Quite an action-packed story, though not quite as Dark as Daybreak. We really got to learn more about the villains in the Heart's Promise verse, and how they operate. Can't wait to see more of these guys in Rhythm and Rhyme!

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Flynt Coal has it right. For the most part, the stories stand well on their own. There may be a reference here and there, but I do my best to make sure you don't notice connections unless you've read the other stories.

So, yeah. Read the other ones if you're looking for a deep experience. Read this one if you like the premise.


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And to Author Man himself I say, glad to see a satisfying resolution to this story. Looking forward to the next one!

Thank you for saying it was satisfying. That's something I was very nervous about for a long time, it being a mid-series adventure story. There was a time I wasn't sure if I was gonna be able to pull it off, but I feel like maybe I can be happy with it now.


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:raritystarry: Similar cynicism and snideness?! They are becoming friends. :twilightsmile:

They're either a buddy cop movie or a youtube channel waiting to happen!

Anyway, that's a lotta tantalizing teasers, there. It seems to be that the people the nightmares talk about are most of the people who have been major characters in previous stories. Whereas less known entities like Sweetie and Apple Bloom have less to be miserable about yet. Presumably because he hasn't heard of what will yet happen in Rhythm and Rhyme.

It's the law of narrative causality! These people have been main characters because interesting things have happened to them, thus the villains have interesting things to talk about. The others, as you have long suspected, will soon have their time in the limelight.

Great story, though. Very satisfying conclusion, too.

I'm so glad you found it satisfying. There were a lot of spots I had to really work at it to make everything line up right, and I'm not entirely convinced everything worked, but to know the story was enjoyed so... It really encourages me.

Figures Discord basically immediately starts breaking the letter of the rules.

Discord plays by Calvinball rules. :twilightsmile:


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Now that's a title! Is he descended from Baron Munchausen?

My new headcanon is that Munchausen's last adventure landed him in Equestria, where his descendants gradually devolved into the yahoos and morlocks we all know and love.

Why yes, the series has become a stealth Vern/Swift crossover. Why do you ask?

Nice. Not sure on which side Adagio will land in the future. She's befriended some of the good guys, but blood is thicker than water...

But will the blood be family, or just spilt?

Awesome! Discord has a rather empty land to warp to his heart's content, while still visiting his dear friends whenever he wants. In some ways, this rather resembles the show today, except Discord is on a far continent instead of a different dimension.

It was basically the month after I started writing this that we got a glimpse of Discord's home in the show. I wasn't sure what to do with that information, I'll be honest. I guess I sorta winged it and hoped nobody noticed I was distracting them from the issue.

Still don't have a Heart's Promise canon answer to "what happened to Discord's home?" But I'll cross that bridge if I haven't already burned it.

Pinkie has a crush on the Tatzlwurm? :pinkiegasp:

:pinkiesick: Yes. Of course. That's the only way that sentence can be interpreted. Pinkie has designs on the tatzlewurm, and they will have tiny Tatzlpony babies.:pinkiesick:

Come on, man! Isn't the potential love triangle between Cheese, Braeburn, and Pinkie enough for you? :raritydespair:

Nice to hear what Merry has been doing to keep busy while not being a Mayor. And now I have to wonder if she's been giving Roseluck's phobias and anxieties the same level of work she gave to the roads...

For some odd reason, she is incredibly interesting in everything that effects Roseluck's life... not the least of which is her daughter...

Also, Merry being a counselor is the most ironic thing I've ever thought of in my life, and I feel evil for thinking of it.

The core of a powerful scene. I'm not surprised, but still saddened. Merry doesn't really have faith in a lot of things, and that can't be helpful when trying to reach your son in the Undiscovered Country.

Not much faith, and what's there is lessening by the day. This is a plotline to watch with great interest, let me assure you.

Because spoilers.

So Merry does anger management too?

Naw, it's just that pregnancy can take a toll on a person, especially the first time around. Especially with twins. Especially with all the stress Cloudkicker's put herself through with the weather team and Cloudsdale refugees.

All that stuff that would be really interesting character moments if I'd had enough room to put them in the story, but you know how it is. The Appendixes are full to bursting!

Nice to see Bulk finally got over his fear of butterflies. :yay:

Bout darn time, too! Fluttershy almost lost her chance at being Twilight's mother-in-law! This is a thing that cannot be missed!

Tirek is back where he started, but his circumstances have still changed for the better. It reminds me of the Long Spoons, and how the setting doesn't matter nearly as much as the company.

Long Spoons. I like that analogy. Tirek definitely had some character growth in this story, most of it humbling. Sometimes you need to break down a building before you can build a better one, and Tirek's had his fair share of wrecking balls.

An inner change can be helped by an outward one, so perhaps there's hope?

So Beetle here

I admire your google-fu, but my reference hails from Strong's Concordance. :trollestia:

wants to drop the subtlety and go for all out war on the mortals. It's possible it might work, mortals have only ever defeated parts of the Court, not the whole Unseelie hosts simultaneously. But has he forgotten that Discord is one quick teleport away? No, the only possible way for the Dark Fae to achieve victory is if the allied with some demigod with another magic-stealing artifact, but what are the odds of that?

Pretty low, actually, since what Fae Creature wants anything to do with Changeling technology after what happened to them?

I do regret that Merry hasn't figured out yet who killed Happy, but at least she's realizing they are a dead weight at this point.

Slowly building hype for a moment that may or may not be incredibly important to Merry's arc as a whole... check! :twilightsheepish:

Has the Tree of Harmony dropped another seed to power another Rainbow Power? That will be good to have as a backup weapon.

I kinda thought that Rainbow Power still lived inside them all, ready to be called upon whenever another Tirek-scale villain appeared.

Besides, what happened to the Heart's Promise Tree of Harmony may surprise you.

Flush it down the toilet and let the city plumber deal with it.

:rainbowlaugh: The crap she has to deal with, I tell you what!

I'm certainly intrigued to see where this leads. I always love seeing recycled minions!

It's like the reverse Teen Titans, where all the minions gather together to do what no single minion can do!

Writing that scene, I realized that two of the characters were introduced in Lord Mayor Applejack, way back in 2014! Makes me wonder what three years in prison has done to poor Aspen the Alliterative.

Yup, Merimna's got a tough road to hoe alright. At least he's not the Princeling with the Principality of the Far Side of the World. That poor fae has just got a lot of empty space and Discord!

Have you seen Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2? Because I feel like that Fae is the "Taserface" of The Heart's Promise world. :trixieshiftright:

Quite an action-packed story, though not quite as Dark as Daybreak. We really got to learn more about the villains in the Heart's Promise verse, and how they operate. Can't wait to see more of these guys in Rhythm and Rhyme!

Prepare to be disappointed! There's very little fae activity, instead allowing us to focus on those who defeated the fae the first time: The changelings! And also Ahuizotl, but mostly changelings!

But of course, they're always there. You just don't always see them. OOoooOOooOOOoOOooooooo! :raritywink:

This was great! I haven't read such an interesting story in ages... and while I was a bit doubtful about the inclusion of some characters or a tad confused because I haven't read some of the connected stories, I loved how everything flowed together. If I wasn't so afraid of my own ideas not working, this would be the type of story I'd love to emulate!

Wonderful fic! Bravo!

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