• Published 3rd Jul 2017
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Let It R.I.P. - Aragon



One day, just like that, Twilight decides she's going to die.

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A Tisket a Tasket

“What is death to an immortal?
A sigh of relief.”

—Princess Celestia, Thoughts to Make Myself Sad, Vol. VIII


The seed of mayhem was planted exactly twelve hours and forty-three minutes before the funeral, and twelve hours and fifty-one minutes before the explosion.

The most important place in Twilight Sparkle’s Castle in Ponyville was the Map Room. Its name was, literally, “the Map Room,” because it had a Map, it was a Room, and Ponyville was a rural town that regarded originality in the same way it regarded higher education.

It was also the only place in the entire Castle that had something akin to a throne: Twilight Sparkle’s personal chair. One among equals, of course, but still—if the Princess sat on it, then by the legal definition it was a throne.[1]


[1] Princess Celestia herself had written this law, because in spite of her appearance, she greatly enjoyed toilet humor.


So that’s where Rarity sat that morning.

“Of course, I’m not saying I deserve the throne more than Twilight ever did,” Rarity was saying at the moment, filing her front hooves with a concentration one usually reserves for open-heart operations. “But, well. Now that she’s gone, why, I’m certainly the most fitted for the role, don’t you think?”

“Uh.” From the corner of the room came the sound of bureaucracy being paused. Spike popped his head from the mountain of letters and scrolls he’d been buried in, quill in his hand. “Of course!”

“Exactly.” Rarity gave him a sweet smile, then went back to her hooves. “Plus, I do think I am the one who deserves it the most, being the organizer and so on. I have to say, it’s horribly stressing to take care of every detail like this. I can’t help but admire how easy Twilight made it look.”

Spike squinted. “Right.”

It’s at this point in the tale that Spike’s Corner must be described.

The mere existence of Spike’s Corner was impossible, at least geometrically. The Map Room was perfectly circular. Nevertheless, there it was, all sharp angles and straight lines, a pulsating non-Euclidean mess of raw power.

And it was entirely made of paperwork.

Mountains, of scrolls, letters, clauses, maps, official petitions, and legal forms stood tall around Spike, sometimes going all the way up to the ceiling. The dragon himself, quill in hand, was running around in circles, grabbing whichever document grabbed his attention, trying to make a sense of what was going around him. He wasn’t as much “busy” as he was “facing the bureaucratic equivalent of the seventh circle of hell.”

And the content of those legal forms were even worse. Most of them referenced each other, half of them contradicted the other half, and at least twenty percent were written in a completely made-up language that consisted entirely of words with over seven syllables. And they just kept coming, no matter what.

This is why Spike’s Corner had gone from a mere pile of letters to unholy mess of a paper golem: Hellspeak may be scary, but no language will ever be as eldritch as legalese.

Spike had been trapped in his Corner, battling paperwork like a rock fights a river, for the last four hours.

Rarity, on the other hand, had arrived thirty minutes ago, looked at the list Twilight had left for her, and then she’d started filing her hooves.

“And make sure to invite every noble worth their title, dear,” Rarity added once Spike went back to work. “Don’t just send letters to the princesses. This is a special occasion.”

“Every…?” A tinkle of panic made it to Spike’s voice, and he looked at Rarity with a restrained face. “But… But that’s over a hundred ponies! And if I have to follow the proper etiquette, that’s at least three letters each!

“Oh, dear.” To add emphasis to her words, Rarity changed hooves, and started filing the left one. Oh, yes. Looking good. “I know you’re busy. We all are! But if we work together, and if we work as a team, I am sure there’s nothing we can’t do. Each of us has to play their part, is all!”

“…Right. But, Rarity, I don’t think I can do this on my—”

“Shush!” Rarity sat straight on the throne and looked at the door. “Somepony just knocked, didn’t they? The door is open, dear!” She took off her reading glasses [2] and smiled. “You may pass!”


[2] Sewing glasses, actually. Rarity had perfect vision and could read and sew just fine without them, but she absolutely killed the bespectacled look. And taking the glasses off to clean them with a handkerchief was the perfect gesture when one wanted to look smart.


Defeated, Spike went back to his corner, to sulk and suffocate in the paperwork.

The door opened, and Rarity blinked in surprise. “Why, Fluttershy, dear,” she said with a sing-song voice. “What are you doing here? And you, Pinkie Pie?”

“Hi, Rarity!” Pinkie said, bouncing all the way to her throne and waving her hoof in the air. “I’m done with cooking! Hi, Spike. Are you managing with that paperwork?”

I don’t even know what most of these say!

“Great! I knew you could do it!”

Half of these papers aren’t even addressed to us! I’m pretty sure this is supposed to be for Mayor Mare’s office!

Rarity relaxed her back a little. “Pinkie Pie? You said you’re done?”

I think I just outlawed something nationwide and I don’t know what!

“Yeah! Wrapped it all up ten minutes ago. So, can I do something else? I’m bored!”

Rarity frowned. She put her glasses on, only to take them off and clean them with a handkerchief. [3] “Pinkie Pie,” she said. “We are hosting a public funeral, and seeing how this is our dear Twilight who died, this will be a huge event. Are you sure you are done with the preparations?”


[3] Totally worth the four hundred bits they’d cost.


And Pinkie just kept on grinning with absolute confidence. “Yeah!” she said.

“You’ve prepared enough food to feed over a thousand ponies.”

“I’m good at cooking!”

“In…” Rarity looked at the clock on the wall. “Less than two hours.”

“I’m really good at cooking!”

Rarity sighed. For some things, one simply learns to stop trying lest they do something they regret, and arguing with Pinkie Pie—or questioning Pinkie Pie, for all that encompassed—was one of them. If the Pink Thunderclap showed up at your house, handed you a baseball bat, and pointed out that there was a meteor rushing to town, you didn’t ask questions. You just put on a helmet and got to stretching.

So Rarity just shrugged, as one does, and accepted Pinkie’s words as a fact of life. “Well, I’m sure I can find something else for you to do, Pinkie Pie,” she mused as she looked back at Twilight’s list. She couldn’t help but ask one last question, however. “Out of curiosity,” she said. “Did you have enough ingredients or…?”

“Not really!”

“But you still managed.”

“Yep!”

Silence. Rarity looked at the list, then at Pinkie Pie. Pinkie was still grinning.

Rarity sighed. “Let me guess. You managed because you’re good at cooking.”

And Pinkie gave her a wink. “You’re learning!”

“I’m trying.” Rarity tapped the list. “Well, Pinkie, dear, I have some good news you’ll love to hear. Twilight left another task that I believe would be perfect for you.” She gave Pinkie a warm smile. “How would you feel about taking care of the decorations, darling?”

Pinkie Pie blinked at this. Her grin didn’t move in the slightest, but it still managed to somehow express confusion, now, instead of unadulterated glee. “The decorations?”

“Why, yes. For the funeral.” Rarity made a gesture with her hoof. “This is Twilight Sparkle herself who has died, we can’t just let the funeral come and go without leaving a bit of an impact, don’t you think?”

“Oooooh.” Pinkie nodded. “Oooh.”

“Indeed. ‘Oooh’.” Rarity took her glasses off once more. “That is the reaction we want everypony to have. I’m thinking something sober, something proper—nothing outlandish, but still memorable. Do you follow? This has to be everything but boring, Pinkie Pie. We want ponies to remember the day.”

And Pinkie saluted Rarity, with all the seriousness of a bright pink mare who’s also grinning. “Gotcha. Balloons.”

“…Well, actually, Pinkie Pie, this is a funeral. Balloons might be a little too cheery for—”

“Gotcha. Sad balloons.”

“Um.” At some point during Rarity’s conversation with Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy had sneaked her way into the room and ended up at the other side of the throne. “Rarity, I don’t want to interrupt, but I have a little problem, and…”

“Ah, Fluttershy!” Rarity flinched when the pegasus seemingly appeared out of thin air. [4] “Yes, yes, of course! I’m here to help in whatever you need.” She cleared her throat with a cough, and tried her best to regain composure. “What is the matter?”


[4] Fluttershy was naturally quiet, and her shyness had made her extremely adept at hiding her own presence. The only reason why she wasn’t the perfect assassin was because she always apologized before stabbing anyone.


“Well, um.” Fluttershy looked down, and hid behind her own mane. “I asked the birds to sing at the funeral, just as you said, but they only like to sing happy songs.” She fiddled with her hooves. “And I don’t think The Happy Sunshine Polka is appropriate for the funeral.”

Rarity made a face. “Hmm,” she said. “The title does not sound promising, I must admit, but maybe it will fit, if we try? What is the song about, anyway?”

“It’s about how happy the birds are because none of them are dead,” Fluttershy said.

“…Oh.” Rarity frowned. “Well, that’s… That’s no good. Is that the only song they can sing?”

Fluttershy shook her head. “They also know Ode to Joy. It’s about how the birds love being alive, and how horrible it is to be dying.”

“Somehow I feel like I’m starting to notice a pattern here, Fluttershy.” Rarity frowned. “Can’t they sing about something, I don’t know, miserable?”

“Well, they can only sing about happy things. Winter Wrap Up is tomorrow, and that always cheers them up, because they can stop dying.” Pause. “You know, because of the cold.”

“Oh.” Rarity frowned. “Wait, they didn’t fly south?”

“Not these. They wanted to practice their singing.” Fluttershy looked down, face grim. “There were a lot of casualties.”

“Dear me.”

“But tomorrow we wrap up winter. So they’re really happy!” Fluttershy said, looking back again, daring the tiniest of smiles. “Only, well, now they can only sing happy songs.”

“I can’t help but admire the degree to which their sacrifice achieved absolutely nothing, then,” Rarity muttered.

“I’m sorry.”

“No, no, dear, there’s no need to…”

“What if I bring a scarecrow?” Pinkie chimed, poking her head from behind Rarity’s throne—and startling Fluttershy ever-so-slightly. “Maybe that’ll spook them! Then they’ll sing different songs, right?”

Fluttershy looked at her. “Oh. That could work.”

“Pinkie Pie.” Rarity looked at the pink pony, stern face on. “We want them to be sad, not to be scared.”

“But I get sad when I’m scared,” Fluttershy said.

“Yeah! I also get sad when Fluttershy is scared! This is a great idea!”

“Yes. Yes, we all get sad when Fluttershy feels startled.” Rarity took a deep breath,“She’s a wonderful pony, and we all love her. You are still missing the point of this conversation.”

Fluttershy blinked, and for the first time since she’d entered the Map Room she stopped hiding behind her mane. “You think I’m wonderful?” she asked, looking at Rarity, blushing a little. “Wow. Thank you, Rarity.”

“Aaaaaw.” Pinkie pressed her chest with both hooves and looked at Fluttershy like a kid looks at a puppy. “Now she’s not sad anymore! Gasp! And neither am I!” She smiled. “Rarity, you’re really bad at funerals!”

“...Right. Sure. Pinkie Pie, honestly, I have to say…” Here Rarity looked at Fluttershy, seeing her face for the first time—and she shut up. Then she frowned, and she looked back at Pinkie. “Pinkie Pie?” she asked. “Mind doing me a favor?”

“Is it about sadness? Or Fluttershy? Or the decorations?”

“Yes, no, and yes.” Rarity flashed her horn, and Twilight’s list rolled itself back into a scroll, which she promptly put aside. “I just remembered we haven’t sorted out the wreaths yet, and that simply cannot be. I am far too busy to go out at the moment, so would you mind fetching Roseluck and company and bringing them here? I’d love to select the flowers myself.”

“Sure!” Pinkie nodded enthusiastically. “Is that all?”

“It is, yes.” A pause, and Rarity frowned. “Also… would you mind coming here with them? As much as I pride myself in my bargaining abilities, I’ll have to admit Roseluck always gets the best of me. I don’t know how she does it, but she does.”

“It’s the twinkle in her eye!” Pinkie said. “And the accent. And the way she looks like she could murder you!”

“Probably, yes. So I’d rather get it done as soon as possible, as you can surely understand?”

Pinkie just nodded a second time. “Sure! Again! I’m extra sure. Be right back, girls!”

And she left.

The moment Pinkie Pie went out the room, Rarity took off her glasses and looked at Fluttershy. “Well then, my dear,” she said, voice soft and gentle. “What is it?”

Fluttershy’s ears perked up as she looked at her. “Huh?”

“You look dreadfully anxious, darling. Like you wanted to ask me something.” Rarity smiled, and hopped off the throne. “It’s written all over your face. I figured, perhaps you didn’t want to talk in front of Pinkie Pie?”

“Oh.” Fluttershy blushed once more, this time a darker shade of pink, and then she looked to the side. “I, uh. I don’t want to be a bother. I know you’re busy, and…”

“I am busy, yes. Horribly so.” Rarity made a vague gesture towards her hooficure, which wasn’t completely perfect yet. In the distance, Spike let out an eldritch shriek. “Why, I’ve been forced to close Carousel Boutique this morning, doubtlessly ruining the day of many possible customers. But,” and her tone here was severe, “I’m never too busy for a friend. And you know that.”

Fluttershy gulped. “I’m sorry. I, it’s not like I don’t… I mean, you could have let Pinkie Pie stay, too. It’s just… It’s a little embarrassing how…”

She didn’t say anything else, but Rarity didn’t need to hear the rest of the question. “You don’t quite get all this, do you?” she asked.

Fluttershy shook her head. “No.”

And Rarity smiled harder. “Oh, dear, there’s no need to be so bashful. Really! I assumed you wouldn’t understand this entire business. Quite frankly, I’m surprised that you followed along like that, without ever asking any questions. I admire your loyalty to Twilight, yes I do.”

“It’s just…” Fluttershy took a deep breath, and looked back at Rarity. “Isn’t this… a little weird? Twilight comes to us one day and says she needs to die, and now she’s up there in her room acting as if she was dead, and—”

“Ah, ah, ah.” Rarity tapped Fluttershy’s forehead. “No, no, no, darling. Remember: she is dead. She’s not acting. You must think that she’s dead.”

“…Right.” Fluttershy frowned. “But… But she’s still alive. She’s breathing, and, and her heart is beating, so why are we doing this?” She looked down, and her frown became somewhat of a worried expression. “I don’t understand it. Is that bad?”

“Oh, not at all, dear. Not at all.” Rarity shook her head and let out a small chuckle. “In fact, I can assure you that Rainbow Dash is asking Applejack this very same question, as we speak.”

“Really?”

“I’m positive, yes.” Rarity then reached with a hoof and patted Fluttershy, softly, the same way one pets a cat. She didn’t necessarily need to do this to continue the conversation—it’s just that Fluttershy was eminently pettable. “You’re both equally inexperienced in the matters of death, aren’t you?”

“Um. I guess.” Fluttershy let herself be petted. She knew her place in life. “I mean, animals die all the time, but ponies are… not the same. Aren’t you the same?”

Rarity smiled. “Me? Oh, dear, I suppose it’s just that I’m an artist. All artists know about death. It’s what inspires art, is it not? The thrill to make something that will outlast you.” She looked into the horizon [5] dramatically, and even though there was no wind, her mane flapped behind her. “The act of doing something that defies death, that stands the test of time, that screams to the heavens: Rarity Once Lived!”


[5] Well, they were indoors, so she looked into the wall. But she was really dramatic about it.


Fluttershy looked at Rarity. Rather non-dramatically, to boot. “Rarity. You make dresses.”

“I make art!

“But you don’t think about death whenever you’re sewing, right?”

And Rarity made a face. Her mane went back to normal, and then she jumped back to her—Twilight’s—throne. “Well,” she said. “My needles are rather pointy, I suppose. One always, ah, wonders. Does she not?”

“…That’s a little creepy.”

“What I’m getting at, my dear,” Rarity said, waving a hoof, “is that I was bound to understand Twilight’s… predicament, let’s call it? But it is no surprise that you don’t. It is quite simple, really.”

“It is?”

“Hmm.” Rarity nodded, lost in thought. “Twilight Sparkle needs to die, Fluttershy. She’s doing this for her own sake. I think she’s been toying with this idea ever since she became an alicorn, and seeing how tomorrow Celestia is coming to Ponyville for Winter Wrap Up… Well, maybe she just wanted to start anew. Get this over with.”

“Oh.”

“As I said, it’s normal that you don’t understand it. Dash won’t, either. She’ll even admit it—I must confess, that mare is growing more and more self-aware by the day. It’s a little unnerving.” Rarity shivered. “But I digress! It is an important matter, Fluttershy.”

“Hmm.”

“Important enough, in fact…” And Rarity gave her a little smile here, one that could have been described as roguish if the need ever arose. “That I think you should understand it on your own, dear.”

Fluttershy frowned, and looked down. “I am not sure if I can.”

“Oh, just trust me on this. Death is a delicate matter, but it creeps up on you.” Rarity shrugged. “If I explained why Twilight needs to die, then part of that reason would be lost, you see? So just… go along for the ride. Help us with the funeral. And you’ll eventually get it.”

“You’re sure?”

“Oh, I’m positive! There’s nothing simpler in life than death, dear. You just need to wait for the end. Just ask Applejack about it.”


When it comes to the matter of death, experience is invaluable – and nopony was as experienced as Applejack. Running a farm alone was already an exercise in the cycle of life, but on top of that, she had buried so many members of her family [6] that Granny Smith was starting to feel threatened.


[6] Most of them after dying, but the Apple Family was so numerous there was bound to be at least one statistical deviation. AJ was getting better at checking twice before burying them lately, though.


She was, in short, a scholar in the mortuary arts; if you were dead, you wanted Applejack by your side. Nothing could faze her. Nothing could surprise her. Nothing could stop her.

“I’m sorry, ma’am,” the gentlecolt at the counter said. “As I said, dying is illegal today. There was a pulsating legal form that arrived earlier this morning and outlawed death.”

Enter bureaucracy.

Ponyville was a small town, with a small Town Hall – but a Town Hall nonetheless. Even the humblest of businesses needed to be made official, and Applejack walked into the old building expecting a pleasant chat with Mayor Mare, and maybe some condolences. It was exactly ten hours and thirty minutes to the funeral.

Applejack did not find Mayor Mare in the Town Hall. Instead, she found herself in front of a closed door and a stallion she’d never seen before. He sort of looked like the planks Applejack had used to build her barn: wooden, straight, and probably cathartic to hit with a hammer.

“…Beg your pardon?” she asked, resting her elbow on the counter between her and the plankwood stallion.

“Dying is currently considered illegal,” the plankwood pony repeated, “according to recent changes in Ponyville’s public pre-posthumous policy.”

Pause. “Pre-what?”

“Pre-posthumous.”

Applejack nodded, understanding dawning on her. “Mister.”

“Yes?”

“That is the dumbest thing Ah’ve heard in a long time.”

Pause.

“And Ah’m friends with Rainbow Dash.

Plankwood [7] tried to keep it cool, but it was clear just by his face that the comment had hurt him. “The law,” he said, irritation evident in his voice, “clearly states that any or all activities starting with, caused by, or fueled by one’s or a loved one’s death is completely and absolutely forbidden, and there are no exceptions allowed.”


[7] There was actually a small plaque on the pony’s desk that stated his name was Red Tape, but Applejack liked to be honest with herself in this kind of situation.


“Also,” AJ continued, as if Plankwood had never spoken, “Ah ain’t no expert on grammar, but Ah’m pretty sure pre-posthumous ain’t a word. Doesn’t sound right.”

“It predates the posthumous date, ma’am,” Plankwood said. “Hence…”

“Nah, nah. That ain’t how words work.” Applejack talked with utmost confidence. “What you mean is, uh. Is…”

There was a small pause, here.

It is a common thread among civilized societies that scientists laugh at writers, writers scoff at scientists, and they both think farmers are idiots. This, however, has no basis—farmers aren’t stupid. They’re just simple.

And simplicity, like anything that makes your life easier, is severely underrated. A simple pony won’t have an existential crisis; a simple pony won’t be haunted by crippling self-doubt. A simple pony sees a problem, looks for the most logical solution, applies it, and goes on with their business.

Applejack was a simple pony. And she was the best at most logical solutions.

“…Humous,” she eventually said, and she punctuated the word with a smile that could have outshined the sun. “Yeah! That’s the term. My friend’s humous.” Then, another pause—smaller, this time. “Wait, no. That doesn’t sound right.”

Plankwood, at this point, wasn’t as much staring as he was actively trying to strangle Applejack with the power of sight alone. “Ma’am.”

“Humous. Humoused. Humid?” Applejack smashed her hoof on the table, and Plankwood flinched away. “Humid! That sounds like a word. So, my friend’s humid!”

Plankwood took a really deep breath. “Your friend is humid,” he repeated.

“Yeah!”

“So she’s wet.”

“Yeah!” Not a moment of hesitation. Applejack tipped her hat up, in an exquisite show of southern charm. “‘Cause she’s dead!”

“…Well, ma’am. I’m glad your friend is, er.” Plankwood cleared his throat with a cough. “That she’s confident enough in her, uh, preferences that she can share them with the world like this, but quite frankly, I don’t know what to do with this information.”

“You can give me a grave,” Applejack said. “Ah need the cemetery for this evenin’. We’re havin’ a funeral.”

“No,” Plankwood said, with the kind of voice usually reserved for barking. “Due to recent and, I’ll admit, somewhat drastic changes in our policy, Mayor Mare has outlawed death and the act of dying. There is no mistake.”

“What?” Applejack frowned. “Mayor Mare can do that?”

“Yes. Apparently. I had my doubts too, ma’am, but the paperwork checks out. Somepony exercised absolute authority less than two hours ago, and the effects are immediate.” Plankwood crossed his legs. “I’m assuming it was Mayor Mare, because whoever signed the paperwork writes like someone trapped in a cathedral of dark ancient magic.”

“…And that describes Mayor Mare?”

“That describes most politicians, to be honest. And, as you can see,” and here Plankwood pointed at the door to Mayor Mare’s office—locked, of course, “Mayor Mare is now gone. This change was made from outside Town Hall. I’ve no idea where she’s disappeared to, but she’s the only one that can help you, so—”

“Hey, Applejack!”

Government workers don’t feel such terrestrial things as “hope” [8], but still, in that moment, Plankwood dared to dream. The voice that came from the main door was female and somewhat bossy—and if she was Mayor Mare, if his superior had finally crawled back from the hole she’d fell into, then he’d be free of this misery named Applejack.


[8] Some people wonder how is it possible for politicians to disappoint their voters like that and never feel guilty. The truth is, when you’re dead inside everything else becomes a walk in the park.


But as it always happens, daring dreams draw disappointment. The mare walking down the main hall towards Plankwood’s desk was not Mayor Mare. She was…

“Rainbow Dash.” Applejack looked at her with surprise. “Why’re you here?”

“The entire Weather Patrol is on guard making sure everything is ready for Celestia tomorrow, so I’ve nothing to do, weather’s great,” Dash replied, frowning slightly. She poked Applejack lightly on the side when she arrived to the desk. “So why are you still in here? You told me it would take you a couple minutes, tops!”

“Not my fault.” Applejack nodded towards Plankwood. “Apparently dyin’s illegal now.”

Dash arched an eyebrow. “What?”

Plankwood put on his best neutral face. It wasn’t really neutral. He was showing all of his teeth, despite the lack of a smile. “There’s a reason for this, ma’am. I’m afraid it’s just—”

“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” Rainbow Dash said. “And I’m friends with myself.

AJ blinked. “Hey, you’re growin’ self-aware.”

“Yeah, Rarity hates it. It’s hilarious.” Dash grinned. “So what are we doing?”

“Ah think Ah’ve got an idea.” Applejack rested her elbow on Plankwood’s desk, and looked at him. “You talked ‘bout authority, right?”

Plankwood squinted. “I’m sorry?”

“You said Mayor Mare can outlaw death—”

“Dumb,” Dash added. “Also, since when does Ponyville have laws? Aren’t we, like, a town? Town have laws now?”

“—‘Cause she’s got authority,” AJ finished. “That’s all you need to change the law, right?”

“Uh. Well.” Plankwood nodded, slowly. “Yes. That’s how… that’s how civilization works, yes.”

“Great! Then Princess Twilight can do that, right? She’s got authority.”

This one hurt Plankwood, because now the farmer was making sense, and the moment the government starts seeing eye to eye with the ponies who work the land is the moment something very fundamental in the universe stopped working.

Still, he was a professional. “Yes,” he said. “Princess Twilight is indeed, an authority. If she rules so, I suppose we can allow somepony to die after all.”

“Then everythin’s solved!” Applejack said, and she smiled so hard she actually closed her eyes. “’Cause Princess Twilight’s the one who’s dead. So obviously—”

“Wait.” Plankwood raised a hoof. “She can’t, then.”

Applejack blinked. Dash stared. “What?” they both asked.

“The Princess must be alive to change the law. Dead ponies tell no tales. So she can’t die.”

Applejack frowned. “But she’s dead!”

“No, she’s alive. Legally.”

Dash cocked her head to the side. “But if she’s alive she can rule that she’s dead, right?”

“Yes.”

“But she can’t!” Applejack said. “‘Cause she’s dead!”

“Then she can’t.”

“But if she can’t,” Dash said, “then she’s alive. Also, Applejack.” Dash poked her shoulder. “I mean. You know Twilight’s not really dead, right? So…”

“No.” And here, Applejack talked with finality. She looked at Dash, and her eyes were as serious as they’d ever been. “This is important, Dash. She is dead. You gotta remember that.”

Rainbow gulped, then nodded.

Plankwood was pressing both hooves against his face, by this point. “Okay,” he said. “Then, is Princess Twilight dead, or alive?”

Dash looked at Applejack. Applejack looked at Dash. They nodded. “She’s dead,” they both said at the same time.

“Then she can’t change the law,” Plankwood said. “She doesn’t have the authority. So she’s alive.

“But then she can change the law!” Dash said, frowning harder now. “I mean—”

“No. If she wants to be dead, she needs to be alive. Otherwise she’ll just be alive, because she’s dead.”

Pause.

“Because,” Plankwood explained, “she’s dead. So she can’t change the—”

“Okay.” Dash looked at Applejack. “Why are we arguing with this guy again, AJ?”

“Mayor Mare’s out.”

“No, like—why are we arguing with this guy?”

“Oh.” Applejack shrugged. “We gotta use the cemetery. Need permission to organize the funeral and whatnot. Twi needs a grave.”

Dash nodded. “Gotcha. Give me a couple hours.”

And then she flew away.

Applejack and Plankwood followed her with their eyes, all the way till she was out of sight. Then, they turned around and looked at each other.

And Plankwood talked with absolute honesty. “Please,” he said. “Please go away, too. Please make my day and get out of my life forever, ma’am.”

“No can do. Twi’s dead.” Applejack sighed, took her hat off, and pressed it against her chest. “Why’d you outlaw death anyway? Sounds like a mighty dumb thing to do. Say, can we start over again? Ah think Ah have an idea. You said dyin’s illegal, right? But what if Ah told you she’s already dead?”

Plankwood tasted copper on his tongue.


It’s a little over seven hours to the funeral now, seven hours and eight minutes to the explosion, and Spike’s Corner has done nothing but grow in size, grow in power, grow in paperwork.

Legends from another world talk of a Tower so tall it angered the gods, and caused thunder to come down and split the heavens. These are the Tales of Babel, so immeasurable its size defied understanding and brought chaos to the land. There is only so much a mortal mind can take.

Those stories were reduced to a joke after Spike’s Corner came to be.

Because it truly was a wonder in the worst sense of the word. It was a jungle in epistolary form, a thunderstorm made bureaucracy. The scrolls, the letters and documents, they moved up and down, in and out, like a million heartbeats at once. The words shone with red light, the ink smelled like the blood of kings.

Dragons are ancient beasts—they live so long, they barely count as mortals—and that’s the only reason why the mere existence of Spike’s Corner wasn’t enough to drive Spike completely crazy. He stood in the middle of it all, quill in hand, not so much moving as twitching in specific directions. The air tasted purple.

Fluttershy hovered around the mess, averting her eyes from the most unholy points in the heretic hellscape that was all that paperwork. Ghostly voices muttered legal formalities as she walked by. She was reminded of the sins of past lives, of past universes.

And then she noticed Spike. “Uh,” she said. “Spike? Are you…”

Pause, here. The word “busy” had been dancing around her mouth, but that would have been like asking the sea if it feels wet today.

So she reworded the question. “Spike? Are you okay?

“Yes!” Spike didn’t reply as much as he jumped at the word, jerking his hand so hard he tore one of the letters in half. He noticed, threw it away, picked a blank scroll, and started scribbling in it. “What? Yes? Anything happ—oh.” A quick look at her, and then Spike went back to the letters. “Oh, it’s just you, Fluttershy.”

“Hi.”

“Hi! Sorry. It’s been a crazy afternoon!” Fluttershy noticed Spike wasn’t as much moving as he was twitching in specific directions. One letter finished—poof of green fire, sent away—and he picked up one more. “Did you hear Twilight died?”

“Yeah.” Fluttershy looked around. There was a small pile of scrolls right next to her that almost looked like a bunny, although the ears were wrong. She poked it. “I’ve been helping with the funeral. But then I ran into trouble and I came to see Rarity again, but she’s arguing with Roseluck outside and I didn’t want to interrupt them.”

“Right!”

“And Roseluck is scary when they’re negotiating. She looks like she could murder you. It’s that twinkle in her eye—”

“Cool! I’m writing letters!” One of the piles of scrolls by their right tumbled down. Spike looked at it with desperation, then his eye twitched, and went back to his work. “It’s crazy! Princess Celestia won’t stop sending letters, and then there are the invitations; half of Ponyville is writing back because Rarity added an RSVP and they want explanations!”

“That sounds like a lot of work.”

“It is! And I keep hearing voices in my head. They talk about democracy and referendums. About a State in which the three major powers are separated.” For a split second, Spike looked at Fluttershy dead in the eye, and the grin that made it to his face was that of a corpse. “They talk about the power of the law.

Pause.

Fluttershy squinted. “…Congratulations?”

“Thanks! Twilight is dead, Rarity is busy, and I’m the only one who can send letters! So there’s no other way!” And back to the letters he went.

Fluttershy’s ears perked up. By her right there was a scroll, still sealed, that looked perfect for that pile that looked like a bunny. She picked it up and put it in place, then looked at Spike. “Um. I see.”

“I think I’m going crazy!”

“Oh.” Now the Bunny Pile had one ear, but Fluttershy couldn’t find a good candidate for the second one. So she just looked at Spike and gathered some courage. “…Spike?”

“Yes?”

“Do you… understand this?”

“Understand what? Why the nobleponies keep asking me to describe the coffin so their clothes match with the theme of the funeral?” Spike signed three letters in a row, then sent them away with some fire. “Because I really don’t. Also, what is the theme of the funeral?”

“Uh, sad balloons. And I meant more like…” Fluttershy took flight and hovered above Spike, rubbing her forelegs and hiding behind her mane. “Like, the funeral. And Twilight dying. Do you know why we’re doing this?”

Spike shot her a look. “Wait, you don’t?” Then he grabbed five scrolls from his right, opened them, and glanced over them. “I thought you were helping with the whole thing!”

“Rarity told me to do that.” Fluttershy scratched the back of her head. “So I tried to get the birdies to sing at the wedding, and helped Pinkie Pie scare them with the scarecrow suit.”

Spike nodded. “Did it help?”

“They got intimidated and called on their eagle friends.”

“Oh.”

“And now the eagles are terrorizing the town. Pinkie Pie is out there trying to get them to go away, but they keep pecking at her eyeballs.” Fluttershy sighed. “So in the end I didn’t understand anything.”

Spike stopped reading, blinked, then looked at Fluttershy. “At her eyeballs?”

“At her eyeballs.”

“Wow. Is it painful?”

“It’s her eyeballs. I don’t know how that could not be painful.”

“Well. Good point! So you didn’t understand anything?”

“No. Not really.” Fluttershy grabbed one of the white scrolls and passed it over to Spike, just as she’d been commanded to do. She was good at this, she thought. She could make a living out of handling paperwork. She was so talented. “I know Rarity means well. And she’s really smart.” Fluttershy made a face. “Maybe I’m just not trying hard enough?”

“Oh, no, that’s probably not it.” Spike bared his teeth, in what was probably not a conscious gesture. “I mean, it’s not like Twilight told us why she wanted to do this anyway, right? I think she just expected us to know. Or to teach you and Rainbow Dash! This can be a learning experience.”

Fluttershy nodded. “So you get the funeral?”

“Yeah!”

“Um. How come?”

“I’m a dragon!” Spike showed off his claws at Fluttershy and stuck out his tongue, hissing like a snake. There was an almost manic quality to his movements. “Death is in my blood, right? Apex predator!”

“Oh. So you can tell me what is going on?”

“Geez. I guess?” Spike scratched the back of his neck. “I mean, Rarity told you you’d pick it up on your own, but I suppose giving you some help won’t hurt.” He shrugged. “Twilight just wants to die because… Well. It’s kind of pretty!”

“What? Dying?”

Spike nodded. “Yeah! Well, not dying, but more like… When you die, others get sad. Right? That’s kind of pretty, I think.”

Fluttershy landed just so she could take a step back in a more poignant way. Flying backwards lacked the punch she wanted to give to the gesture. “Pretty? I… I don’t think dying is pretty. That sounds…”

“No, no. I don’t mean it that way!” Spike shook his head, went back to his scrolls. “It’s just—wait.” He frowned, and looked up. “Fluttershy, can you see a scroll with a golden seal? I need it.”

“Um.” Fluttershy looked around. Soon enough, she found it—it was right behind Spike—and she went to grab it…

And then she gave it a better look. Hey, it had the perfect shape to become the Bunny Pile’s second ear.

So she grabbed the first random scroll that came to her and gave it to Spike. “Here,” she said.

“Thanks!” Spike didn’t even look at it, he just opened it and kept working. “Anyway—it’s not that Twilight likes dying. Nobody likes that, I think. Just that… have you ever thought of why ponies get sad when somepony dies?”

Fluttershy picked the scroll with the golden seal, but when Spike turned to her she just hid it behind her back. “Ah. Uh. Because they’re dead?”

“Yeah. But that doesn’t really mean anything.” Spike smiled at her, and looked back at his scrolls. “We get sad because they’re gone, right? Which is pretty cool! We think death is the saddest thing ever.”

A frown. Fluttershy placed the scroll on the Bunny Pile. Now, it was complete. “And… that is good?”

“Well, not good. I just said it’s sad.” Spike shrugged. “But I guess it’s kind of pretty. Because it’s the saddest thing we can think of! And it just means that… Well. You can’t see that somepony whenever you want anymore. It’s not death that’s sad. It’s goodbyes.”

“Oh.”

“So ponies being sad when others die is just… Well. It’s just because there’s a lot of love going around. So they miss each other!”

Fluttershy looked down. She turned to the Bunny Pile—it was perfect, beautiful, her masterpiece—and thought about Twilight.

Twilight, who was quite clearly alive as far as she was concerned.

“I don’t think I understand it,” she said, voice soft. “Is that why Twilight wants to die? Because she wants to know if she’ll be missed?”

“A little? I guess. But that’s not what really matters.” Spike sent some more scrolls, and picked up others. “It’s just that… well, the dead pony is never the one affected, right?” There was a pause, and then Spike spoke a little slower, a little more carefully. “It’s everypony else who gets sad. You only fear death when you’re left alive after it happens. And funerals help with that!”

“What? How?”

Spike shrugged. “You get sad all of a sudden, and then you say goodbye, and then you’re not that sad. You get it off your chest. Twilight wants that.”

Fluttershy sat down, right next to the Bunny Pile. “You seem to have thought a lot about this.”

“Told you. I’m a dragon!”

“Apex predator?”

“Yeah.” Pause. “Yeah! Apex predator. It’s because of that.”

Dragons are ancient beasts. They live so long, they barely count as mortals.

Both Fluttershy and Spike knew this. He was probably going to outlive them all, sans maybe Twilight. If he was lucky.

None of them said another word for a while.


“Hi, Mayor Mare!”

Mayor Mare turned around, her face deepened in a frown. “Pinkie Pie.” she said. “Good afternoon. You’re just the mare I wanted to see, this is highly unprof—uh. Pinkie Pie?”

“Yes?”

“What…? What happened to your eyeballs?”

“Eagles!”

Pause.

Mayor Mare frowned. “Eagles happened?”

“Eagles happened!”

“Can you… elaborate, or…?”

“Fluttershy asked me to make her sad!” Pinkie said, and the smile in her face could have brought a puppy back to life [9]. “Because we need the birds to sing. But that annoyed the eagles, so now they’re pecking at me whenever I come close to Town Hall!”


[9] This was not an exaggeration. Pinkie Pie’s puppy pre-posthumous powers were both a proven fact and the main reason why the Apples hadn’t buried Winona yet.


“Oh.” Mayor Mare was still frowning; a perfect reflection of Pinkie Pie’s smile. Put together, they looked like theater masks for a classical drama. “Well, at least you sound like you’re okay. I take it it’s not as bad as it looks?”

“Hahah. You’re mistaken!” Pinkie Pie blinked at her, her smile never faltering. “I’m in agony!”

“I see.”

“So, why are you all frowny, Mayor Mare? It doesn’t look good on you! Today’s a great day! You should smile in days like these.” Pinkie pointed at her own face, here, and somehow managed to smile even harder. “See?”

“Hmph.” Mayor Mare, in contrast, pouted even more. Then she blew upwards, to get a flock of hair out of her face, and snorted. “Well, you’d be the first to think that, Pinkie Pie. So far, today has been terrible.

“Aaaaw. What?” Pinkie bopped closer to Mayor Mare and cocked her head to the side, sitting on the ground. “Why? What happened?”

“Well.” Mayor Mare sighed. “This and that, I suppose. Where to even start, really…?”

Five hours to the funeral. Five hours and five minutes to the explosion.

This conversation—and everything that followed—was, of course, taking place in Ponyville. But Ponyville, small as it is, is not specific enough: Mayor Mare and Pinkie Pie were talking right in front of Carousel Boutique.

Rarity’s store.

Which was completely and absolutely closed, a sign reading I’ll be back in five minutes! hanging from its door.

“My schedule is terribly busy, and the one day I take an afternoon off, this happens! I worked terribly hard to get some free day today, specifically for this. And the store is closed!” Mayor Mare half-knocked half-kicked the door. “For no reason!”

Pinkie Pie looked at the door, then at Mayor Mare. “Actually, there is a reason!” she chirped.

“Oh, I am so angry at Rarity right now,” Mayor Mare went on. She wasn’t even looking at Pinkie, she was just gazing into the horizon. “She knew I was coming today! We scheduled it so she could fit me for a dress, and she just disappeared without notice! I need that dress, Pinkie Pie, and that’s a matter of utmost importance!”

Pinkie cocked her head to the other side, now. Her big eyes were full of questions. She voiced one of them. “And what is that dress for?”

“Why, Winter Wrap Up, of course!” Mayor Mare said. “Princess Celestia herself is coming to Ponyville this year. It’s a great honor, I must look presentable! I was assured that Carousel Boutique had just what I needed, and I trusted Rarity to help me with this. But now she’s gone!”

“Oh.”

“And Princess Celestia comes tomorrow! She won’t have any time to make my dress if she doesn’t appear immediately!” Pause. “And she’s not appearing immediately! I’ve been waiting in here for three hours, Pinkie Pie. Rarity assured me that she’ll dedicate her entire afternoon to me, and only to me. And now she’s gone!”

Pinkie nodded. She looked at the sign on the door. She looked at Mayor Mare. “She is!” she eventually said. “Gone, I mean. From the store!”

“Yes. Yes, Pinkie, I know. I just told you.” Mayor Mare sighed, here, but it wasn’t a tired sigh, or a dishearten sigh. It was the sigh of a pony who’s ready to chew on some eyeballs. “Rarity better have an excuse for this. It better be the most urgent of emergencies, something that nopony could have seen coming, or else…

And here, Mayor Mare shut up, and she never actually got to finish the sentence. But the silence that followed wasn’t just threatening. It was the silence of somepony who’s been trapped in otherworldly hellscapes of bureaucracy before. The silence of somepony who has dealt with magic too dark to speak of.

The silence of a politician.

It is a testament to Pinkie Pie’s intelligence that she didn’t actually go on a flashback after hearing these words. She merely remembered, which wasn’t as visually interesting from a purely storytelling standpoint, but it was more efficient and saved a lot of time.

Here are the two things she remembered, in no particular order:

A) Mayor Mare was the mayor of Ponyville, and as such, the second most powerful pony around. Only now that Twilight was dead she had actually become the first.

B) Twilight Sparkle had scheduled her own death heavily, and they all had known this was coming with more than a week in advance.

Now, because Pinkie Pie was a party pony, she understood that sometimes things just catch you off guard, and you forget some important things, and so nopony could blame Rarity for forgetting all about Mayor Mare, seeing how she was the one planning Twilight’s funeral.

But, because Pinkie Pie was a party planner, she also understood that Rarity had known about the funeral with more than enough time to think about Mayor Mare, and she was totally the one to blame for this.

So Rarity was guilty but also completely innocent, Pinkie figured. At the same time [10]. This caused a surprisingly complicated moral dilemma regarding what to do and who was going to take responsibility.


[10] When your entire personality can be defined as “mature childishness,” you’re sort of forced to become an expert on doublethink. This only went on to cement Rarity’s theory: if Pinkie Pie had chosen to become a cult leader, Equestria would’ve been doomed long ago.


But fortunately for everypony, Pinkie loved Rarity a lot, so she just up and lied.

“Well. I have no idea where Rarity is!” she said, and the honesty in her voice would have offended Applejack to her very core. “But I’m sure there was an emergency. An unexpected one. A really unexpected one!” She got up, now, and waved both front legs in the air, eyes the size of plates. “Like, something huge! Gigantic! Equestria is probably in danger!”

Mayor Mare blinked at this, and took a step back. “Oh. Geez, really?”

“Yeah! Why else would Rarity leave the store? This is probably something she would have never seen coming. She could have never prevented this, oh no.” Pinkie nodded, sorta getting convinced by the strength of her own argument. “She’s far too smart for this!”

“Hm.” Mayor Mare rubbed her chin and looked down. “You might have a point, Pinkie Pie.”

“Right? I totally do. I’m so good at this!”

“Indeed, you are,” Mayor Mare said. “Of course, I’m still going to wait for Rarity. I’m sure her excuses will live up to my expectations.”

“Yeah! They probably will.”

And after this incredibly deep chat both mares simply stood there in silence, enjoying each other’s company and reveling on the beauty of Ponyville and its inhabitants. Such is the charm of small towns—they let you enjoy the silence, the company of your neighbors, for they are also your friends.

It was a pleasant silence, the one they shared.

Until Mayor Mare went and ruined it all.

“So, Pinkie Pie,” she said, in the tone of someone who’s not completely sure if she should be talking but won’t let that simple fact get in their way. “I can’t help but notice you’re dressed as a scarecrow.”

“I am!” She was. Pinkie Pie could out-lie a politician if she had to, but here she was saying the absolute truth. She was, indeed, dressed as a scarecrow. “It was Applejack’s costume, but she gave it to me. It’s really comfy!”

“I see.” Pause. Mayor Mare tapped a hoof on the ground. “And… I’m sorry to ask, but—is there any reason why you’re wearing this?”

“Yeah! To scare off the birds!”

“Oh.”

Pinkie Pie saw this explanation was not enough, and so she made an effort to clarify her situation. “Because I need to make Fluttershy sad,” she said. “That’s why the eagles attacked me!”

“Right! Right, of course. Of course.” Mayor Mare nodded. “It explains everything.”

“Yeah!”

Pause.

“Pinkie Pie?”

“Mayor Mare!”

“That doesn’t actually explain anything.”

“I know! I was testing you.” Pinkie Pie punched Mayor Mare’s shoulder and gave her a giggle. Mayor Mare didn’t giggle back, but Pinkie knew she was laughing in her heart. “Fluttershy asked me to make her birds sad, because otherwise they can’t sing sad songs. They can’t sing polka at a funeral!” Here Pinkie Pie looked to her left and right, to make sure nopony was near, and then she got closer to Mayor Mare and whispered. “It would be improper!” Then she went back to her normal voice. “So I dressed up as a scarecrow. That’s scary to birds!”

“A funeral?”

“Yeah!” Pinkie said. “Twilight’s dead, and we’re taking care of everything. It’ll be fun! In a sad way.” She thought about this. “Well, actually, it will just be sad. But in a fun way!”

“Well, y—wait.” Mayor Mare’s ears perked up. “Twilight? Twilight died?”

“Yeah!”

“You mean Princess Twilight Sparkle?”

“Yeah!”

“But…” Mayor Mare took off her glasses, if only because she couldn’t really show as much confusion as she wanted to with them on. One really needed to show the entire face to pull off the kind of expression she was making. “But—she’s a princess!”

“I know!” Pinkie replied. “She can’t die. That’s why she’s dying!”

“I mean, she can’t die! It’s impossible! There’s no way to…!”

And here, Mayor Mare stopped talking, and she closed her mouth.

Then, she looked at Pinkie Pie. Really looked at Pinkie Pie, scarecrow costume and all. She tried not to look at her eyeballs too much—that couldn’t be healthy, no matter how you looked at it—but still, she took in the full picture.

The thing about Pinkie Pie is, she’s sort of like a professional boxer two weight categories above you. There are many ways to face her. Some fools will say you can stand a chance, if you really try. But in the end, there are really only two options—either you roll with the punches, or you die.

Mayor Mare, while an acquaintance of the pink revolution herself, wasn’t quite used to her yet. Still, in that moment, she caught a glimpse of Pinkie’s true personality. Of the terrible, terrifying thing hiding behind that big bright smile.

It was a bigger, brighter smile.

So she just squinted ever so slightly, and asked: “Is she… dead?”

“Yeah!”

“Like, really dead? Forever?”

“Yeah! At least for today.” Pinkie shrugged. “She’ll be fine tomorrow, though. Just in time for Winter Wrap Up! Twilight is really good with details like this. If she dies now, she’s got her schedule all cleared up for when Celestia comes, see?”

“…Of course.” Mayor Mare nodded. “So she’s dead.”

“Yep!”

“But tomorrow she’ll be alive.”

“Yep!”

“So she’s not really dead.”

“Nope!” Pause. “Wait. Yep? Uh, she’s dead.” Pinkie made a face. “I don’t know how to answer that question! But she’s totally dead.”

“Rrrright.”

“And we’re organizing the funeral! We knew it was coming, but it’s still a lot of work!” Pinkie pointed at her clothes. “Right now I’m scaring the birds away—and failing! Hahah. Horribly!—but I’m supposed to be decorating Town Hall!”

Mayor Mare arched an eyebrow. “Decorating?”

“Yeah! This is going to be a huge funeral. So, like a party, but with a dead pony.” Pinkie winked at Mayor Mare. “And everypony knows I’m the best at parties! And decorating. Mostly parties! Everypony else is helping. Applejack is getting a grave, Spike is writing invitations...”

“Well.” Mayor Mare frowned. Dying was illegal, but she supposed nothing had been said about funerals. “I suppose that does sound like a lot of work, yes. Funerals are hardly easy to go through.”

“But we’re managing. Twilight planned it all in advance!” Pinkie grinned. “She’s the best at organizing things.”

“I’m sorry. Wasn’t Princess Twilight dead?”

“She is! But she left instructions for Raaaaaaaaa—”

Mayor Mare arched an eyebrow.

Pinkie Pie’s pupils turned into two tiny dots.

“—aaaaaaaaaa—”

Both mares locked eyes, Pinkie’s mouth still moving, her brain racing.

“—aaaaaaaaaa—”

Mayor Mare coughed. “Um. Pinkie?”

“—aame!” Pinkie yelled, springing back into reality, her ears suddenly twitching up. Mayor Mare flinched. “Me!” Pinkie repeated. “I’m the one organizing everything. Yes! Because I’m good at planning parties! I mean, it’s pretty much the same, right?”

And then, just like a wave cleans of the shore of the beach, the shadow of suspicion abandoned Mayor Mare’s face. “Oh, of course, of course. You’re more than capable for the job, I’m sure of it, Pinkie Pie.” Pause. “Although I find it strange that you didn’t ask Applejack to do this, seeing how she’s so knowledgeable about the matters of death.”

Pinkie’s smile became strained. “Yes! That. Would have made a lot of sense!”

“But she’s not the organizer.”

“Apparently not!”

“Well, I am sure Princess Twilight knew exactly what she was doing when she selected you as her stand-in for this matter, Pinkie Pie. You’ll do a great job.” Then Mayor Mare looked at the door of Carousel Boutique—her face darkened for a second there—and then back at Pinkie. “Do you need any help?”

Pinkie didn’t move. “What?”

“With the funeral? I have nothing to do, and today is my day off, after all. Seeing how your friend left me hanging...” Another death glare at the Boutique. “I figure I might be of assistance with the funeral.”

“Oh.”

“Surely Princess Twilight would appreciate my participation. After all, I am the mayor.” Mayor Mare stuck out her chest here, with maybe a little bit of pride. “I can always get more ponies to help, or—ah! Of course! I could give a speech!”

“A… speech?”

“Indeed! Oh, that would be just perfect, yes. A speech at the ceremony—as a friend, and a fellow governor, I’m sure I can give some interesting insight on the burial of Princess Twilight Sparkle.” She smiled at Pinkie Pie. “Don’t you think?”

“Uuuuuh…”

“Of course, of course. I don’t mind taking that weight off your shoulders, Pinkie Pie. After all, with Rarity gone, you need as much help as you can get. I’m already bursting with ideas! Something forgettable. This is a somber occasion, and it needs to be boring. Everything to do with death has to be boring, that’s why politicians exist. Oh, and what if…?”

And then Mayor Mare went on and on, making suggestions, offering advice, and sort of kind of taking over Pinkie’s role as the organizer of the funeral. Because this wasn’t exactly a party as much as it was a formal event with political undertones, and that was Mayor Mare’s field of expertise after all.

And as this happened, Pinkie just kept smiling and nodding, although her mind was somewhere else. Boy, she was musing. That had been some quick thinking. She had really saved Rarity’s life back there!

Hahah.

Rarity was totally going to kill her.


“Now, Rarity. Before you kill me.” Applejack raised a hoof. “Ah’ve got an explanation for this all.”

“Darling.”

Less than three hours to the funeral (plus eight minutes to the explosion), and Rarity’s “darling” sounded like a knife being sharpened.

But let it never be said that the Apples can’t compete with the Flower Trio when it comes to bravery, now and then. Applejack took a deep breath, and gave her excuses.

“So, dyin’s illegal now.”

Darling.

That one hadn’t been the sharpening of a knife. That had been the cock of a gun.

Applejack swallowed. “And, uh. Um. Well, Ah couldn’t find Mayor Mare to ask her to change this. So Ah told the stallion that was guardin’ her door—have you met him, by the way?”

Rarity thought about this. “Boring guy?” she asked. “Feels like he’s got flour instead of blood?”

“That one! Ah call him Plankwood. ‘Cause Ah feel like hittin’ him with a hammer. Anyway—Ah was outta options!”

“Out of options.”

“Outta options!” Applejack tipped her hat. “So. He told me that dyin’s illegal, and Twilight ain’t dead. And Ah said she was. And he said she wasn’t.” And here Applejack made the kind of face one usually reserved for talking with Pinkie Pie. “And there was a really long argument ‘bout it. But then Ah thought, hey! Ah’m the Element of Honesty!”

“Hmm-hmm.”

“And if you can’t trust my word, then what can you do? So Ah went to that Plankwood stallion, right? And Ah looked him dead in the eye.” Applejack got closer to Rarity, here, and she locked gazes with her. “And Ah said, you can trust my word here: Princess Twilight is dead. Never mind the law, there ain’t a pony around who’s as sure as me of Twilight’s passin’!”

Rarity did not take a step back. Instead, she just looked at Applejack right back. Then, she sighed. “Well, I presume that’s true,” she said. “You do know about death. And?”

“And that’s why police’s after me!” Applejack said, bright smile on her face. “Ah’m bein’ persecuted for murder.”

FOR THE LAST TIME!” came the booming voice from outside the palace. It made the windows rattle. “COME OUT WITH YOUR HOOVES IN THE AIR, AND NOPONY ELSE WILL GET HURT!

“So we can all call this a really silly misunderstandin’, Ah reckon. Do you mind if Ah tell them you’re my hostage? Makes things way easier.”

Rarity’s eye twitched.

Applejack took it as a ‘no’.

There was death in the air.

Surprisingly, this was not due to Rarity—while she was indeed considering murder, Applejack would not die that day. It wasn’t due to the thousand soldiers outside, either. They were out for blood, but they were professionals.

There was death in the air, but the source was much, much worse. For the third and final time, we must address the abomination in the room.

We must look at Spike’s Corner.

It is almost impossible to explain to what lengths the Horror had grown. It deserved a capital letter now, for it was not just a mountain of scrolls and letters anymore—it was a sentient, living being, made entirely of formal greetings and the blood of a young dragon.

Fluttershy had long gone away. No mortal could stand the pressure of Spike’s Corner. Colors that didn’t exist shone across the million clauses and legal forms. A legalese apocalypse of burning minutiae. In the midst of it, Spike, getting lost in time, lost in space, lost in the labyrinth of his own madness.

The Horror had been born out of mere paper, out of the need to declare the extinction of an immortal. Nothing but words in paper, piled on top of each other, saying a million things at once.

Because there is magic in words, that’s why it’s called spelling, but there is also death. That’s why it’s called a sentence.

“Huh.” Applejack looked at Spike’s Corner after the dragon shrieked in terror and finally collapsed, and arched an exquisite eyebrow at it. “Rarity? What’s up with that?”

Rarity didn’t even bother a glance. She was sitting at the table, massaging her temples. “You mean Spike?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh, let him be. He’s just feeling a bit overdramatic, is all.”

“Is that a bunny statue he’s made with scrolls?”

Rarity hmm-ed. “Seems so.”

“Doesn’t quite fit the whole ‘heretic dimension’ theme he’s goin’ for, Ah think.” Applejack shook her head. “Kids these days don’t appreciate thematic consistency. So, what are we gonna do with the guards? Do you have any plans?”

Rarity massaged her temples even harder. “No. Not yet. I wasn’t really expecting you to become a wanted criminal in the middle of the funeral, Applejack, dear, so you’ll have to excuse me.”

“Aw, shucks.” Applejack chuckled at this and trotted to Rarity, big smile on her face. “Now, there’s no reason to apologize! This ain’t your fault, is it?”

Rarity glared daggers. “I,” she said, speaking slowly, “was being sarcastic.”

“Well, no need to apologize for that either. We’re all friends in here!” Applejack just smiled a little more, and then patted Rarity’s head with the kind of affection that feels like mockery. “There, there.” Then, she looked around. “Also, why are there so many roses in here?”

And Rarity made a face, and she let herself be patted, just like Fluttershy had done before. For it is the fate of the hunter to some day become the hunted. “Ugh,” she said. “You don’t want to know. I asked Pinkie Pie to bring them here and discuss the decorations together, but then Pinkie never arrived, and I was left alone with Roseluck, and—”

Applejack smirked at this. The Map [11] was barely visible—its entire surface was covered by bouquets and bouquets of roses. AJ estimated at least a hundred flowers in there, if not more. “And she got you to buy all her flowers. Again.”


[11] The table. The Table? Map Table? Table Map. Applejack wasn’t sure what to call it. The table that sometimes was a Map. The Map that became a table when you weren’t looking. The Maple with a ta—The thing between the thrones.


And Rarity just groaned. “I have no idea how she does it! It feels like she could murder you! It’s the accent, I’m positive it’s the accent, or maybe something in her eye that—”

WE CAN RESOLVE THIS PEACEFULLY!” The voice came from outside again—once more, the windows rattled. Spike’s Corner wavered, but didn’t fall. For you can’t kill what is eternal. There is no end to the horrors of hell. “JUST COME OUT AND EVERYTHING WILL TURN OUT RIGHT!

Applejack winced at the sound, but once she saw Rarity made no comment, she relaxed her shoulders and picked up one of the roses. “…They’re really pretty, though. You’ve got good taste!”

“Well. Thank you, I suppose.” Rarity sighed and grabbed one of the roses with her magic. “I must admit, they are beautiful,” she muttered as she inspected the flower. “And I do have a wonderful taste. I just wish I’d had more of a voice in the matter of which flowers to pick. I was thinking perhaps chrysanthemums would look good…”

A flick of the wrist, and the rose went straight to Applejack’s mouth. She chewed it, enjoying the flavor, and then went on patting Rarity’s head. “Chrysanthewhat?”

“Mums.” Rarity kept twirling the rose in place with her magic, kept massaging her temples, kept being patted. She was a natural-born multitasker. “Chrysanthemums.”

Applejack frowned. “That ain’t right.”

THERE’S NO NEED TO BE VIOLENT!” Windows rattling. The voice was louder than ever. “THIS IS WHAT PRINCESS TWILIGHT WOULD HAVE WANTED!

“Oh. You think so?” Rarity blinked at this, and looked at Applejack. “Well, then maybe Roseluck was right after all. Twilight will look wonderful surrounded by these, that’s for sure.”

“Yeah! And Twilight ain’t a mum. She ain’t pregnant. She’s just really wet.”

Pause.

“Applejack?”

“Rarity?”

“Sometimes I can’t tell if you have no idea what I’m talking about, or if you understand me perfectly. And I don’t know which idea is more terrifying.”

Heeeey!” Suddenly, a scream from above. Rarity jerked up from her chair, eyes wide. Applejack looked around and held her hat. “Watch out down theeereee!

Then there was a crash, and a loud noise.

Being friends with Pinkie Pie makes you afraid of the dark; being friends with Rainbow Dash makes you look up when you get scared. There was a whirlpool of color and a blur of light blue, and suddenly broken glass was raining in the room and Applejack and Rarity were darting to the side to avoid being cut.

Then a thump! and Rainbow Dash landed in the space between them, mane covered in shards of glass, cocky grin in her face.

She took a second to look at her friends, to make sure they were okay—and then she winked at them. “Hi there!” she said. “Sorry for the window. Door was locked. Did you know you’re being sieged?”

A pause. Rarity and Applejack looked at Dash. Then, at the broken glass. Then, again at Dash.

Then Rarity spoke. “Did you just burst through a window?

“Door was locked.”

“Second question,” Applejack said, walking towards Dash and brushing some of the glass out of her mane. “Did you burst through a closed window?”

Dash thought about it. “Short answer or long answer?”

“Short.”

“Yes.”

“Okay.” Rarity frowned. “Long answer?”

“Yes, and also it was pretty sweet.”

A sigh, and Applejack, who had finished cleaning up Rainbow, tipped her hat. “You know what, Dash? Whenever Ah think Ah know you like the back of my hoof, you still manage to surprise me. Never change.”

“No. No, no, no.” Rarity stepped up, now, and she proceeded to fix Dash’s mane. “By all means, you are perfectly free to change forever, and as soon as possible. It would be a great thing, and we would all be happy.”

“Right.” Dash tried to move away from Rarity, but a flash of the horn and a good yank kept her in place, so she just made a grumpy face. “Well. I have good news and bad news. Also, you’re being super sieged. There’s, like, an entire army out there.”

PLEASE! WE’RE HERE TO HELP YOU! YOU DON’T NEED TO DO THIS!

Rarity finished up Dash’s mane, but then she just kept going. “Yes, dear,” she said. “Somehow, we managed to notice.”

“You’ve got bad news?” AJ asked, arching an eyebrow. “‘Cause Ah doubt things can get worse.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.” Then Applejack stuck out her chest and pointed at herself with pride. “Ah’ve killed Twilight, for example.”

“Woah!” Dash tried to rush to Applejack—and then Rarity yanked again. She stood in place, glaring with huge eyes. “No way! Really? Why?”

“Needed her to die.”

“That is so cool!”

And Applejack just smiled. “Yeah. Ah get things done. Ah’m ice cold.”

Rarity puckered her lips as she gave Rainbow’s mane the final touches. “Applejack, darling, I don’t think you should be having this much fun, seeing how you just committed murder. Seems rather, ah, tasteless?”

“Aw, Rares. It’s the little things that make life worthwhile.”

“Tell Twilight that.”

“Gagh!” Dash jerked, and finally managed to get away from Rarity’s grasp. She immediately took flight and hovered away from her friends reach, her mane now a pompous froufrou mountain of non-aerodynamic elegance. She tried to fiddle with it, failed, grumped, then looked at her friends. “Well, murder aside,” she said. “So, good news. We’ve got a grave!”

“Woah!” Applejack beamed at this. “We do?”

“Yeah, I just dug a hole right next to that shed your brother uses to store his shovel. I’m sure it’s what Twilight would have wanted.”

“…Woah.” Applejack beamed slightly less at this. “You… did?”

“I know. I’m great.”

“Well, this is just perfect,” Rarity muttered, squinting. “We’re going to bring the crème de la crème of Canterlot so they can witness us throw the Princess of Friendship into a ditch right next to a shed.”

“Yes. Exactly.” Dash nodded hard at this. Her mane almost toppled. “Now, uh. For the bad news. So, remember how Winter Wrap Up is tomorrow? With Celestia as a special guest?”

“Yes.”

“Yeah.”

“And remember how the weather is supposed to be perfect all week? And we have the entire Weather Patrol on guard to make sure of that?”

“…Yes.”

“Ah don’t like where this is goin’.”

“Right.” Dash nodded. The mountain that was her mane almost toppled. “So. About that.


Fifteen minutes to the funeral. Twenty minutes to the explosion.

“The birds aren’t singing,” Fluttershy said.

“Mayor Mare just took over the funeral!” Pinkie Pie added, accentuating every major beat in her sentence with a jump. “She said my decorations were too good, and that everything should be a little more formal. And she’s prepared a speech! It’s two hours long!”

“I tried to talk to the birds, but they’re too busy trying to attack everypony’s eyeballs. They, um. They talked with the eagles, and I think they are not a good influence.”

“And the town is full of Royal Guards. And they’re all looking for you, Applejack! And for you too, Rarity. Because they think you’ve disappeared! I had to tell them, because otherwise Mayor Mare was going to kill you. You forgot about her dress!”

“So I tried to look for some substitute, but, um. Well, the Ponytones aren’t available, because you and me are here.” Fluttershy rubbed her forearm. “So I asked the TrebleMakers, but they only do doo-wop or yodeling. One of them has a bagpipe.”

“And it’s super raining. And we still don’t have a grave, because Mayor Mare thinks this is some kind of party. Which it is! Also dying is illegal now.”

“I don’t understand why one of them has a bagpipe, when they sing acapella.” Fluttershy was frowning. “But, um. That’s good for funerals. Right? Bagpipes are traditional.”

“And Spike has collapsed in the middle of what is probably a compressed Armageddon!” Pinkie said. “Also, there’s a compressed Armageddon, like, right there!”

“Oh.” Fluttershy looked at Pinkie, who nodded, and then looked at Rarity once more. “And the guests have arrived.”

“Yeah! There are, like, a million ponies out there. Most of them are super important. And they’re all looking forward to see you!”

It was around this time that Rarity started screaming, more or less.

Spike’s Corner had grown in size once more—it stood tall and black, like a tumor festering Ponyville’s Castle. The Royal Guards were still screaming at the doors. The Map Room was full of roses and yet nopony was being currently ravished.

Everything was doomed

And then Applejack brought peace.

“Okay,” she said, and she put on her Serious Voice, the one she reserved for important matters, the one she used when burying a member of her family. “Girls. Calm down.”

“I’m calm!” Pinkie chirped.

“Oh.” Pause. “Then good work, Pinkie. You’re ahead of schedule.”

“Hah!”

“Now, to the rest of you.” Applejack gave them a stern look. Rarity was still screaming. “Don’t worry. We can manage. We just have to think about it.”

“Are you sure?” Dash was the first one to rebel against AJ’s authority. “Because this sounds like a total screw-up so far. I mean, you can’t even get out of the Castle!”

“Well. We can fix that, Ah think.” Applejack frowned. “We just need somepony with enough authority to call the Royal Guards off, Ah guess. See? Every problem has a solution!”

“And, um. What about the eagles?” Fluttershy looked around. “I can’t really talk to them. They won’t listen.”

Dash scoffed. “Can’t we push them away or something?”

“I don’t think so!” Pinkie said. “They will eat your eyeballs!”

“Oh. Ew.”

“Well, you can always move them around with magic, I suppose. They don’t like magic, so they wouldn’t get near you.” Fluttershy frowned. “But you would need a lot of magic. There are a lot of eagles.”

“And Spike’s collapsed in there!” Pinkie pointed at Spike’s Corner. Even she had to look away eventually. “We need somepony to take him out, but you need to be really powerful to do that! Or immortal. We need somepony who’s immortal and powerful!”

“And then there’s the guests,” Fluttershy continued. “And, um, Mayor Mare. I guess, if you’ve got enough charisma…”

“Right. See?” Applejack sounded way less confident now, but she still pushed through. “Ah mean, sure. It’s complicated. But we just—Ah mean, we just need a lot of authority, a lot of magic, and a lot of charisma.”

“And immortality!” Pinkie said.

“And immortality,” Applejack added.

“A lot of immortality!”

“A lot of immortality. Whatever.” Applejack looked at Rarity. “That can be done, right?”

Rarity’s eye twitched. “Applejack, dear,” she said. “I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but everything is ruined!” Her voice got louder. “There’s no time, there are a thousand problems, we don’t have a single solution available, and even if we had them it’s impossible to micromanage so many things at once!

The yell was followed by silence, and an utter sense of defeat.

Then, Fluttershy spoke.

“We need Twilight.”

And that’s all it took.

In the end, you only fear death if you’re left alive afterwards. Death is scary, and mysterious, and painful—but death is also inevitable, and another part of life.

They understood this, in a sense. Some more than others, but they understood this.

Twilight was going to have a funeral, come rain, hail, or snow. She was going to die today, and rise tomorrow, just as planned. If there were problems, then Rarity and the rest would wing it—but Twilight herself would do nothing but lay dead.

Fifteen minutes later, the funeral started. The explosion was yet to come.

All according to schedule.

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