• Published 17th Jun 2012
  • 4,604 Views, 68 Comments

Screwball Over - Warren Hutch

Third part of the "Screwball Trilogy". A profusion of peculiar pygmy ponies plagues Ponyville.

  • ...

Chapter 3

The tiny pink and purple creature stood in the jar on its hind legs with its little front hooves pressed against the glass, its swirling eyes wide with wonderment as it stared out at the large, slightly distorted world around its prison.

The looming lavender face of Twilight Sparkle gazed back, her brow furrowed in concentration beneath her glittering, glowing horn. A gossamer tracework of sensitive magical fields lazily drifted up and down and rotated inside the jar, probing gently at the captive pony thing. Occasionally it would exclaim as it watched the mystic light show. "GooOOOoomm!"

While their hostess had lost herself in her study of the strange little creature, the other ponies had all found something to do to take their minds off of being besieged by an army of miniature pony things. Rarity had retired to Twilight's bathroom to "make herself presentable" after giving Button and Davenport a brief brush down with the unicorn librarian's curry comb and brush. The beige earth pony mare had joined Spike in his morning shelving duties to calm her nerves, while her husband was well on his way to losing a game of pinochle with Pinkie Pie.

All of the library's occupants save for Twilight looked up with pricked ears at the sound of hooves clattering on the upper floors. Rarity poked her head out from the bathroom in a cloud of steam, a towel wrapped around her mane, as Rainbow Dash, Applejack, and Fluttershy came down the stairs from the balcony.

The blonde farm pony was wearing a harness and a pair of saddlebags, and had a pair of goggles over her eyes that she pushed up onto her forehead against her hat as she gave them all a nod in greeting. "Howdy, y'all."

The alabaster unicorn raised an eyebrow in bewilderment. "Applejack? How did you get here?"

The orange mare bobbed her head toward the two pegasi. "I hitched a ride from th' gals here."

She cast a glance over her shoulder toward one of the windows. "Land sakes if'n Ponyville ain't a sight right now. I ain't never seen so much pink on th' ground since Pinkie Pie let that batch o' frostin' git away from her."

The pink earth pony rolled her eyes at her from behind her cards. "That only covered one block, two at the most."

Rainbow Dash ruffled her wings and leaned casually against a bookshelf. "Fluttershy wasn't home, so I had to look for her. I finally found her over at Sweet Apple Acres, and once I told AJ about what was goin' on she insisted on coming along."

Fluttershy smiled shyly to them from behind her draping mane. "I'm sorry I wasn't home when you sent Rainbow Dash to find me. Applejack needed me to settle a dispute between two of her roosters."

She walked cautiously up to the stack of books where the jar sat, her aquamarine eyes wide with curiosity. She cocked her head in wonderment as she stared through the glass. "Oh my."

The tiny creature turned to face her, and spoke to her in a very matter of fact tone of squeak. "Goom."

The butter colored pegasus let out a peep of alarm and ducked down, hiding behind the edge of the table with only her eyes and ears peeking up at the miniature pony thing.

Twilight flicked an ear in acknowledgment as she peered into the jar, her magic reflecting in her large dark eyes. "Yes, it's fascinating. I never had a chance to study this creature during the last couple of incidents. It's alive, but not life as we know it. It's not composed of normal matter, and it's not a magical construct in the conventional sense. At the risk of using vague terminology, it's like they're made out of chaos, but it's chaos that's somehow organized enough to mimic a living being."

The little being sat on its haunches and nodded sagely. "Goom."

The lavender unicorn gave her friends a bemused look. "I'm detecting thought processes, but nothing that would be comprehensible to you or I. The most I can tell is that they seem to have imprinted on Button Stitch."

The tiny ponyoid turned toward where the beige mare stood shelving books. It gave a little hop with an eager smile on its face as it called out to her. "Goom!"

In response, the skittish earth pony gave a nervous squeak and recoiled, knocking a pile of books over onto Spike. With shaking hooves Button set about unburying the young dragon while offering a stream of breathless apologies.

Twilight gave a slight sigh and turned to bob her horn toward the pinochle game. "And they seem to have some sort of animus toward Pinkie Pie."

At this, the jar bound specimen turned its swirling gaze toward the pink party pony, its brow darkening as it squeaked in a voice dripping with venom. "Goom..."

The magenta maned mare tossed her head and turned a cold shoulder to her tiny antagonist, replying in a haughty tone of voice. "Hmph! I know you are, but what am I?"

Davenport looked at her over his losing hand with an eyebrow cocked. "Can you understand what it's saying?"

Pinkie shook her head as she casually rearranged her cards and tried to spell out words with them. "Nope! I just don't like the way it says it. I don't take any back sass from anything smaller than a loaf of bread."

Applejack ambled up and squinted her green eyes at the tiny creature. "So where do ya reckon they're a'comin' from?"

Twilight shrugged helplessly. "That I can't determine. I'm not even sure that they're operating under enough real world logic to say that they come from anywhere. They simply shouldn't exist in this world."

At this Rainbow Dash pushed away from the bookcase and dusted off, hovering above the growing huddle of ponies around the jar. "Y'know, I might have a guess about someplace we can look. While I was flying over town looking for Fluttershy, I could see two main concentrations of these little creeps, one of which was around your tree here, and the other was in this hollow outside of town. It's not like they're hard to spot from the air. When I did a low flyover I saw a trail of 'em heading from there to here."

Twilight nodded, and turned toward her assistant. "Spike! Go to the geography section and get the map of Ponyville please."

The dragonet shrugged off the last of the books and scampered into one of the side rooms, returning shortly with a yellowed roll of paper under his arm. He cast an annoyed glare at his guardian as she swept some books off the table onto the floor to make room, unrolling the map and flattening it with her magic.

She levitated a pencil over to Rainbow Dash, giving the pegasus a look of intense interest. "Show us."

Dash took the pencil in her teeth and drew a circle around the library tree, and then made another circle around a couple of contour lines marking a hollow in the surrounding countryside. She then proceeded to mark a dotted line between them. She pointed at the second circle with a hoof. "I'd be willing to bet all the foil backed rares from my Wonderbolts trading card collection that there's something there that'd be worth knowing about."

Applejack drew herself up and adjusted her hat, looking up at her pegasus friend with a lopsided grin. "Well, then, RD, I reckon you and me oughta head on up and check it out while the gals here try to figger th' angles on this critter."

The cyan mare gave her a brash smile in return. "Okay, but if I'm gonna keep havin' to airlift you everyplace I might need you to lay off the apple fritters for a while. I think I nearly pulled a wing hauling you into town." The farm pony's jaw dropped in shock and outrage as Dash darted up the stairs with a mocking laugh and a rainbow contrail in her wake. "Race you to the balcony, Applesnack."

The blonde farm pony lashed her tail angrily as she shouted after the pegasus. "Hey! I'll show you a pulled wing, you consarned fruit striped feather duster! Git back here!" With that she galloped up the stairs after her.


The junk pile was crawling with little pink pony things, who looked skyward as a large, winged shadow passed overhead. One that was perched atop the buckboard of the old wagon pointed skyward with a tiny hoof at the pair of ponies that dropped from the sky in a lazy spiral and called out a warning. "Moop!"

The milling horde cleared a patch of trampled ground as Applejack's hooves touched down. Rainbow Dash let loose of the harness straps and gained some altitude, hovering over her friend's head as she scanned the roiling pink field full of mini ponyoids around them. "So, any idea what we might be lookin' for here?"

The farm pony shrugged as she cast about as well. "I dunno. Somethin' weird, I reckon."

The rainbow maned pegasus gave her a dubious look before continuing to sweep her gaze across the carpet of creatures. "That's like searching a cloud bank for 'somethin' white', AJ. What if we..."

She paused, her attention attracted by something at the foot of the ramshackle collection of cast off appliances and farm equipment. She jabbed a hoof toward it. "Hold it, what's that?"

Applejack turned to look as her pegasus companion launched toward a large cluster of little pink ponyoids gathered around a yellow cap with a green propeller on top. Several of the tiny creatures spotted the cyan mare approaching. They lifted the cap off the ground and scurried away with it just as Rainbow Dash reached her destination, moving a bit too fast to stop gracefully.

She plowed into the ground, digging a furrow with her snout until she came to an undignified stop with her hind legs in the air on either side of her drooping, multicolored tail. Some of the tiny ponyforms around her stared with curious, swirling eyes, while others bounced and giggled, flinging themselves face first onto the ground in imitation.

The blonde earth pony picked up her hooves and gave chase to the group that had borne the hat away, her progress hampered by trying to avoid stepping on the little creatures as they scurried in all directions in her path. "Git back here with that, you ornery li'l varmints!"

Applejack made a leap for it as they darted under the half collapsed chassis of the old wrecked wagon. She ran solidly into the side, the force of the impact running all the way through her to the tip of her tail as the rotting wood cracked around her head. A flock of winged apples circled her head, chirping and tweeting, as she slumped heavily back onto her haunches.

A loud squeak and a squelching sound caused her to snap out of it instantly, hopping to her hooves and spinning around in horror. A flattened pink disk with a pair of crossed, swirling purple eyes lay on the ground.

A moment later, it popped back into the shape of a ponylike creature, which shook a tiny hoof at the mystified farm pony and gave an indignant chirp. "Narf!"

Applejack shook her head to clear it, adjusted her crumpled hat, and whistled over to Rainbow Dash, who still lay face down among a curious circle of mini ponies. "Yo! Rainbow! Quit watchin' the little Wonderbolts flyin' around yer thick skull and git yer rump airborne again."

The multicolored pegasus lurched upright and cast a glare in the earth pony's direction. She dusted off with a few flaps of her wings, and took up a position over the carcass of the wagon. She met the blonde earth pony's gaze and gave a nod, preparing a rapid dive. Applejack spun on her fore hooves and bunched her powerful hind legs, taking aim at the radiating pattern of cracks that her head had just made in the side of the crumbling haywain. She gave her companion a wink. "Okay, on three. One."

Rainbow Dash's maroon eyes narrowed. "Two."

Applejack grinned. "Three!"

The old wagon crumpled in the center in a burst of splinters as the professional apple bucker's hooves connected and sent the wreck spinning into the air. The cyan pegasus dove under the hurtling mass of junk and grabbed the yellow and green cap from among the stunned mini ponyoids before they could even react to suddenly being under the open sky again.

She grinned over her shoulder and gave a mocking laugh. "Hah! Faked you twerps right out of your beanies!"

Her head whipped around as the cap in her fore hooves started to vibrate, the propeller adorning its crest spinning like a top. She let out a startled cry, screeching to a midair stop as a gout of whirling smoke burst from underneath, followed closely by a tiny pink and purple pony who let out a startled squeak as it dropped. "Bleeeeeeeb!"

The pegasus tossed aside the hat, allowing it to flutter toward the ground suspended by its spinning propeller, and dove to catch the plummeting little creature before it hit. It looked up at her with wide, spinning eyes and gave her a crooked toothed grin. "Bleeb!"

Rainbow Dash drifted downward and set the tiny ponyoid gently on the ground among its duplicates. "There you go. Safe and sound."

She turned at the sound of Applejack's voice. "Nice catch!"

The cyan pegasus gave her friend a lopsided grin as she saw the earth pony farmer standing with the propeller beanie perched on an upraised hoof. Rainbow tossed her multicolored mane with a laugh. "Same to you, and more of it!"

Dash's expression changed to one of alarm as the horde of tiny pony things around Applejack's hooves started to surge in a pinkish tide, climbing up the blonde mare's muscular legs like swarming ants. The earth pony reared up, raising the captured beanie higher as she kicked with her other foreleg and batted the besieging creatures away with her tail.

With a rapid beat of her wings, the pegasus launched toward her companion and caught her by the harness, carrying her skyward as the surge of mini ponyoids dropped away with angry squeaks into the roiling mass below. After a few kicks of her hind legs, Applejack was free of passengers, panting for breath as she clutched the hard won beanie to her chest.

She looked up at Rainbow Dash with a wan smile. "That's another one I owe ya, RD."

The colorful pegasus scowled, looking back at the hollow as it receded behind them. "And I owe those little jerks some payback for attacking you right after I saved one of 'em from a pancake breakfast."

She cast a wary gaze down at the propeller festooned cap. "Let's get that thing back to Twilight so she can figure out how to stop 'em."


Twilight Sparkle looked up at her friends' expectant faces from a tabletop littered with gibbering little equimonculi scattered around the yellow and green propeller beanie. She bit her lip, her ears laid back and her eyes wavering. "I... I don't have any idea how to stop these things."

As if on cue, the propeller started rapidly spinning, and the cap jumped a hoof into the air in a puff of smoke. A moment later another tiny pink creature wriggled out from under the brim. "Klook!"

The lavender unicorn shook her head solemnly, ruffling her frazzled mane. "I've tried every spell I can think of, and even a few that only apply tangentially. Nothing seems to stop them."

Rarity pursed her lips as she used her telekinesis to catch one as it tried to leap down from the table and placed it back among its fellows. "Well, I think it's past time for you to send a letter to the Princess about this, don't you?"

Twilight let out a sigh and hung her head. "You're right..." She raised her voice to call for her faithful draconic assistant. "Spike?"

She looked up to see the little purple dragon holding a scroll up with a supportive grin on his face. "Signed, sealed, and ready to be delivered."

A fond smile flitted across the scholarly unicorn's face as she stepped forward and nodded for him to climb onto her back. As soon as he'd settled himself in his usual seat she galloped up the stairs, followed by her fellow Elements of Harmony as she hurried out to the top balcony of the library tree.

Spike drew in a deep breath as they stepped out into the bright midday sun. A flare of green flame curled from his lips onto the rolled parchment, causing it to vanish in a puff of sparkling ash.

The dragonet leapt down from Twilight's back as she ducked behind her telescope and trained it on the distant, gleaming towers of Canterlot Castle on the grey flanks of the mountain that loomed at the far end of the verdant valley that cradled Ponyville and its environs.

A few minutes later, Button Stitch and Davenport came up the steps to join them. The beige mare cleared her throat nervously to get the others' attention. "Um... More and more of those little... things are showing up. They're falling off the table and wandering all over..." She glanced over her shoulder, letting out a nervous whicker as she saw the little creatures begin to work their way up the steps. Davenport hastily kicked the door shut behind them and braced his hoof against it, casting the heroic circle of friends a pleading look.

Twilight grinned as she peered through her telescope. In the distance, the cupola housing the Royal Observatory rotated smoothly toward Ponyville, the vast lens of its own telescope pointing toward the besieged town. "Don't worry. Help is on the way."

Moments later, the assembly of ponies watching from the high platform let out a collective gasp of wonder as two coronas of magic burst in the air over the rooftops. One was radiant white, and one was a blossom of shadow, but both resolved into the regal forms of the immortal Princesses of Equestria, their broad wings beating through the cool air as their etherial manes and tails trailed behind them.

Four elegant hooves shod in gold and four in silver touched lightly down on the high terrace as the royal sisters' subjects made what space they could. Davenport and Button fell forward on their faces, while the rest of the mares took a knee and bowed their heads respectfully, save for Twilight, who smiled gratefully up at the elder binarch, her decorum forgotten in a swelling of affection for her mentor. She cast a fond gaze at the younger sister as well.

The royal siblings exchanged a wry glance in spite of themselves as the lavender unicorn gave a little hop. "Princess Celestia! Princess Luna! Thank you so much for coming so quickly!"

Celestia bobbed her long, tapering horn with a grave look on her face. "Twilight, my faithful student, my sister and I..."

She was cut off, blinking in shock, as a multitude of high pitched voices called up from the streets below in uncanny unison. "Princess Celestia! Princess Luna!"

The sisters wheeled and stared over the railing, as the bearers of the Elements joined them. Down below, a section of the pinkish blanket of tiny pony things began to roil and shift, galloping in a spiral that coalesced into a wide circle of empty cobblestones.

A line of pink trotted out into the grey expanse, shifting and looping until the procession of little creatures had formed a caricature of a grinning draconequis with his lion's paw and eagle's claw steepled in front of him. The tiny components of the image moved like a tightly disciplined marching band on a playing field, making the claw seem to tap on an interposing pane of glass and the mouth begin to move. The chorus of unified squeaks sounded over the eerie silence that had fallen over Ponyville. "Is this thing on? Are we rolling? Good..."

Twilight glanced at Princess Luna as the regent of the night's voice came in a bitter whisper. "Discord... O calamity and woe betide us..."

The lines of pony things moved to make the image raise its paw to its ear. "Hmm? What's that? Speak up, Princess Luna. Nopony's gonna pay any attention to you if you mumble."

The dusky moon princess launched into the air with flaring turquoise eyes, a crackle of lightning arcing around her starry mane. "BASE VILLAIN! I SHALT SMITE THEE FROM ORBIT WITH METEORS THRICE INSCRIBED WITH CURSES ETERNAL AND WREATHED IN ELDRICH FLAMES! I SHALT..."

The image of Discord rolled its eyes and casually examined one of the claws on its paw. "Save your breath, twinkle toes, I can't hear you. If you're seeing this message, then it means that somehow Celestia's farcical friendship fan fillies lucked into a temporary victory and I'm currently too busy growing moss to give a flying fig about your theatrics."

Princess Celestia reached up with a wing and brushed her sister's shoulder with a pained look on her face. Princess Luna looked abashed, and alighted on the balcony with a blush on her indigo cheeks. Both rulers cast a fierce glare down at the caricature of their ancient foe as it made a sweeping gesture with its paw. "So, Celestia. What do you think of MY little ponies?"

The regal stewardess of the sun furrowed her brow, her demeanor surprisingly icy for a bringer of warmth and light. "What are you up to, you old villain?"

The image steepled its claws with a gloating smile. "You're probably asking what I'm up to. Well, by now I'm not up to anything except the top of a pedestal, but that doesn't mean I didn't leave behind a few little amusements to play themselves out while I'm cooling my heels in the sculpture garden. You're looking at the endgame of one of them right now. Everypony knows that the one with the most pieces on the board is the one who wins."

The uncanny sound of innumerable squeaky little voices united in a sinister laugh echoed over the rolling hills as the princesses and the bearers of the Elements exchanged troubled looks. A smug grin formed on the image's face. "And one of the most pernicious parts of my perfectly prepared plan, my precious princesses, is your plucky little protege pushed the penultimate piece into place."

Twilight's pupils became like pinpricks. "Wh-what?"

Discord's image held up its paw, and a contigent of little pony creatures coalesced into a diagram of a propeller beanie. "That's right, brainiac. You got everything exactly bank flackwards, just as I expected."

More tiny pink figures broke into the circle and formed into the outline of a pony with a button and needle cutie mark in the draconequis' other claw. "That drab little fussbudget I found counting threads in her sewing shop wasn't a hole in reality, she was a plug."

Twilight looked over to see Button Stitch standing at the railing beside her, her amber eyes wide with horror. Down below the lines of creatures shifted so that the propeller beanie was placed on the pony figure's head. The cutie mark changed from needle and button to a screw and a baseball. The outline reached a hoof up and flapped at its lips as spiraling eyes appeared on its face.

The voices continued. "A plug that was juuust leaky enough that you couldn't help but want to 'fix' it. You pulled her loose thinking that you were 'curing' her."

The image of the ancient spirit of chaos plucked the beanie off and tossed the distorted pony shape over its shoulder into the mass of the throng. A surge of motion along the outline erupted as a galloping mass of tiny pink equinoids pouring out of the image of the hat.

The chorus of squeaky voices chuckled. "When what you were REALLY doing was opening the door under a WONDERFUL bucket full of chaos just ready to pour out over all of Equestria."

The caricature Discord reached up and formed the beanie into an umbrella, which it held over its head as more little creatures poured down on it like rain. It held a paw out flat in the open space around it, casting a sidelong grin and a wink. "I was never really good with numbers. Maybe Princess Moon Pie can get out ye olde abacus and calculate how long it'll be before every inch of Equestria is swamped with pink and purple pygmy ponies."

The image waggled its eyebrows and pinched its nostrils shut with a claw as the circle of open pavement filled back in from below with tiny ponyforms making a wave like a rising tide, until the space where the message had been was once more a featureless carpet of pink and purple.

The princesses exchanged glances, and Celestia turned to address the bearers of the Elements with a solemn expression. "This is grave news, my little ponies. We haven't much time to come up with a solution to..."

She turned again as the uncanny unison voices rang out once more. "Oh! One more thing!"

They turned to look down at the street, and saw a pair of linework claws pull open the circular space of open street again like they were pushing aside curtains. The draconequis caricature leaned casually on the edge of the circle and adopted a conversational manner. "You're doubtless putting your pointy little heads together to try to solve this, so I guess I'll save you a little panicking time by pointing out some flaws in your plans before you embarrass yourselves." It winked one of its unevenly sized eyes. "Don't ever say I'm not a good sport."

The image of the propeller beanie appeared in its upraised claw as tiny ponyoids galloped out to form its outline. "You can't destroy my stylish little chapeau. You can't do anything to it. It's not made of boring old normal matter. You can no more destroy it than you can eat the color blue."

The beanie diagram shifted into an image of Screwball, which the caricature draconequis placed on its head between its mismatched horns. "My little creations are pretty much indestructible too. Stomp them, stab them, mangle them, staple them, fold them, they'll bounce right back."

A wicked grin spread across the caricature's face. "Magic might work on 'em. But you should know that they're also completely innocent, like newborn foals with a less jaded outlook on life. Bear that in mind before you put on your fancy jewelry and set about scorching the earth with rainbows."

The outline form of a butterfly drifted into the circle, which the image casually flicked away. "I wonder how much juice you'll be getting out of the Element of Kindness knowing that you're flash frying the poor pwecious pipsqueaks with your orbital friendship cannon."

Rarity looked over to see Fluttershy standing at her side with her eyes flaring like aquamarine gemstones.

The caricature of Discord produced the image of a pair of sunglasses and put them on. "Huh, is it me, or is there a glare today? Anyway, speaking of which, Princess Celestia will probably suggest sending the beanie to the moon, which is pretty much her answer to everything, isn't it Princess Luna?"

A smug grin spread across the image's face as both princesses reared back with a tumult of emotions washing over their faces. Twilight could feel a palpable aura of outrage radiating from the royal sisters that made her shrink down with wide, fearful eyes.

A disk of pink appeared on the tip of the image's finger. "Well, I'm sure all the ponies will notice your night sky with a bright pink moon taking center stage. Although they might avert their eyes from how tacky it'll look. That's in the near term."

The disk became larger and larger until it dropped off the outline's claw and smashed down through the bottom of the circle, sending up curling lines in imitation of tendrils of smoke.

The caricature of Discord peered dubiously over its sunglasses down toward the imaginary crash site. "In the long term, well... I'll leave it to all the junior astronomers following along at home to figure out how all the extra mass thats going to build up will affect the moon's orbit. I'm not really up on these hifalutin' "laws of physics" that you all seem to think are so important."

The image reached down, and picked up a symbol resembling Celestia's solar cutie mark. "If you decide to pull a switcheroo and throw it into the sun, do me a favor and point my statue toward it so I can watch what happens. I've never seen an unstable font of chaos get dropped into such an important piece of celestial furniture. Even MY imagination fails me on what could result." It tossed the symbolic sun over its linework shoulder, causing a burst of scattering little creatures to gallop across the circle like the debris from an explosion. "I bet it'd get Ponyville's resident sugar vacuum shaking like aspic in an earthquake, 'cos it'll probably be a doozy."

The caricatured chaos lord removed its sunglasses and gave a leering wink. "Some joke, eh Pinkie? I'd take the next train outta Dodge, if I were you. There's only room for several trillion goofy little pink ponies in this town, and YOU aren't invited." The pink mare's eyes grew wide as her frizzy mane deflated a little around her laid back ears.

The figure of Discord reached up and grasped the top of the circle in its claws. "And on that note, I bid you all farewell, or fare-badly as the case may be. I'd stick around to insult the rest of your little six mare sunshine squad, but the rest of you are too drab, boring, and lame to bother with, and I've got buffalo to stuff into leotards. Ta Ta."

With that, it drew down a wave of little creatures like a blind and was gone as the chorus of squeaky voices raised in sinister laughter came to a crescendo. Moments later the laugh died away, and a wash of babbling gibberish started to drift up from the overpopulated ground once more.

Celestia closed her eyes and let out a long sigh, as Luna ground her dainty hooves on the planks of the balcony and glared at the expanse of pink and purple that spread before them far below.

Both regal sisters turned as Twilight Sparkle's voice came cracking and tremulous between them. The lavender unicorn looked to be on the verge of tears. "Oh your highnesses, I... I'm so s-sorry. This is all my fault..."

The sun princess leaned down and nuzzled her student on the cheek. "It is not your fault, my beloved pupil."

Luna's solemn voice sounded beside her, with a note sadness lurking behind her measured tone. "Verily. 'tis the way of villains to cast the blame for their crimes at the feet of those who would stand against them, that they may pretend their wrongs are righteous for having been opposed. This I know from bitter experience..."

She gave a flicker of a smile to her sister, who reached up with a gleaming white wing to gently brush the tips of her indigo feathers.

Applejack spoke up. "So what are we gonna do about this? If'n we don't stop these li'l critters from poppin' outta that hat, Equestria is doomed."