• Published 22nd Jul 2012
  • 36,224 Views, 7,113 Comments

Rites of Ascension - CvBrony

Twilight makes a new spell and starts the gears of fate with her ascension to alicornhood. (Writing started before Season 3.)

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No Rest For the Weary

The canteen shook in Pulsar's sputtering magic as he brought it to his lips, downing the last of the metallic-tasting water. They'd have to make a run to the river for more, and the pain in his horn said that one of the other unicorns would have to be the one to purify it.

You should be getting sleep, little one.”

Pulsar's hair bristled as he looked up to Cardinal Stiletto, a tall, slender specimen of a unicorn if there ever was one. Genuine concern came through the Roan accent, but the very concept of sympathy was foreign to the mare's eyes. They only ever said one thing to anypony: I can kill you and enjoy it. Her horn was shaped to her namesake, and her purple mohawk mane had a subtle, burning glow.

Her patting him on the head would also have been far more comforting if he hadn't known how quickly she could break a pony's neck.

Pulsar put his ears back. “Luna's going to the front doors of Tartarus. I'll sleep when I know she's safe.”

“You should not be so worried. Luna is strong. She knows what she is doing.”

Pulsar looked up over the rocky, barren mountain landscape, wishing that the night's moon would tell him of Luna's safety. “We're going to run out of rations at this rate. There's no grass here.”

Stiletto chuckled and walked back to the campfire and the cadre of Night Guard nearby. “She will be fine. You'll see.”

Pulsar sighed, looking at the cave behind him. He had to strain to see them, but the walls were lined in blood-red runes. Luna had told him they were a warning written in a tongue long dead to even her. They didn't appear unless one walked close, and even then, a pony would only see them if they were unworthy of entering Tartarus. She'd entered two days ago, and there had been no sign of her since.

Shaking off the subtle terror emanating from the cave, he rummaged in his bag with his hooves, pulling out an enchanted blanket and wrapping it over his back. “If I can't sleep, I can at least be warm. Hopefully she'll be back soon…”

He let his thoughts drift along to the subtle shimmering of the river in the valley, soaking in the bright moonlight and the dancing of a flower in the gentle breeze. Left, right, left, right.


It was a voice. A nice voice. Not entirely warm, like Celestia, but fluid and clear. Still quite comforting.

“Pulsar, are you awake?”

A hoof touched his back, and he jolted up with a snort. His vision was blurry, and there was sleep gunk that was taking more than a little effort to get clear. “Wha? Hmm? I wasn't sleeping!”

The voice tittered, and the mare gave him a slight nuzzle behind his ear. “Stiletto tells me you stayed up late for me.”

“Yeah, I—” Pulsar blinked his sight clear, and found Luna standing over him. At least, he thought it was Luna.

Gone was her ethereal mane; in its place was a mess of light blue hair. She was shorter, and her wings were smaller, their feathers softer. She was walking with a limp, like she'd injured her fetlock. Her coat was beyond dishevelled, and her body twitched as if it was being struck, or bitten by insects.

“Luna, Princess, are you okay?!” Pulsar sprang up as if electricity had shot down his legs, then pulled out the little first aid kit in his bag. “Hang on, I'll get out a splint and—”

Luna stopped him with a gentle hoof to his lips. “You needn't worry. I assure you, despite my appearance, I'm perfectly fine.”

He glanced over at the other Night Guard, now keeping much more attentive watch over the area. “You are not! You're hurt! We can all tell! What's going on?”

“Nothing you need to c—”

“Donkey droppings!” Pulsar spat, earning him heated looks from the rest of the Guard. “You're hurt, and they deserve to know why and how! We need to know so we can better protect you, and—”

Luna silenced him with a raised eyebrow. “Pulsar, dear one, you should know better than anyone that I am the last pony in this world that needs protecting. I am Equestria’s sword, after a—”

“Again, donkey droppings! You're limping! And I am your seneschal! I need to know what's wrong to do my job, and… and… and you're being a huge hypocrite!”

Pulsar had never seen Stiletto shocked before. He never wanted to see it again, either, because he was surprised her eyes hadn't somehow popped out of her skull and cut his throat all on their own. Luna was shocked, too, but she didn't look angry. She merely looked hurt.

“Very well, then.” Luna gingerly sat down, something clearly aching her. “How am I a hypocrite, then?”

“Um, uhaaa…” Pulsar murmured, trying to find his tongue.

“If such is true, I want to hear it. My promise stands, Pulsar. You have nothing to fear from me. I am your protector, now and forever. Speak, child, that I might understand.”

Pulsar rubbed his mane, hoping to not shove his hoof farther down his throat. Just go for it, colt. In for a bit… “You constantly chide Celestia for not communicating. We're not alicorns, but we are supposed to work with you, right?”

Luna pursed her lips. “Oh. Oh, horse apples.” She walked to him, draped a wing over his back, and laid them both down in the dust. “You are correct, my little pony. I apologize.”

Pulsar kept his head down below hers, and shivered at her nuzzle on the back of his neck. “I just want to know why you're hurt. And what I can do to help.”

Luna pulled him in tighter. “Child, Tartarus isn't just some prison where we toss bad ponies. And Cerberus isn't just some mutated dog. It is much, much more than that.

“Tartarus has a sentience, and Cerberus is its name. It is a warden, guard, and judge. But the condemned aren't all it judges.” Luna's body twitched again. “It demands proof of alicorns who send a pony into its realm. Proof that we are serious and committed in our judgement that a pony deserves such a severe punishment. Although it can — and does — make its own judgement as well, it likewise won't tolerate an alicorn weak in resolve.”

Pulsar nodded a little, and Luna rested her head on Pulsar's neck.

“You see, Pulsar, Cerberus binds us to the condemned. In a psychic way, I mean. Right now, I know what feelings are in Esteem’s mind. The hatred, the indignation, the terror. I feel it all. Moreover, I'm feeling the same torture he is.”

Pulsar's heart clenched tight. “No…”

“I'm afraid it's true. Some of it is filtered out, at least. The wisps like to borrow a page from the Elements, and invade a pony's mind, make them live through the deaths of their victims. That pain is not for me. Most everything else, though? I feel every little bit of it.”

“How?” Pulsar sniffed through the sudden onslaught of tears, barely able to fight his shaking. “Why would you do something like that to yourself? He's condemned forever! So that pain won't ever go away! I can't, I—”

Luna squeezed him tight under her wing. “It's not forever, child. I can extract Esteem whenever I so wish… But I will not do so until he is truly ready to leave and be reformed; to truly become a different pony than he was. Cerberus will let me know when he feels such is the case, as to pull him out at any other time would place him in truly eternal peril.”

Pulsar buried his muzzle between his hooves, mind lost in the enormity of it all. His world had exploded, and now felt far, far away.

“You see, Pulsar, the threads of fate that bind a soul to Tartarus will not break if I remove him. From that point forward, he will be watched by Cerberus. Should he stray from the path of Harmony again, Esteem would be dragged back through the gates. But that time, he would have no alicorn linked to him, and the threads will become invincible chains. Nothing and no one would be able to save him, for all eternity.”

“But why?” Pulsar coughed, reaching out with his magic for his tissues, despite the pain of his mana exhaustion. “Why hurt yourself for that… that…”

“I can think of any number of curses for that foul monster. But my reason? It's been ages since a pony so richly deserved it, and… Well, I cannot tell others what I’ve done directly. But we are good at spreading rumors. The mystery will, hopefully, put a kernel of fear into the Council.

“As for Esteem, I'll let him out when the time is right. Secretly put him someplace where he can do some good. After that? His fate will be up to him. Be a good pony, growing old and dying on his own terms. Or, eternal damnation. His choice.”

Pulsar blew his nose, careful not to get any on his Princess. “But… Don't you have those threads? Are you at risk of…”

“These?” Luna cast a spell, showering her shoulder with sparks. Blue threads, breaking off not far from her body, glittered into being, attached at her collarbone. “I was bound to Tartarus by a fiend, and against the will of Tartarus. As such, Cerberus led me to the Broken Blade of Thaumaturgus where I was able to sever the threads forever. Only those bound in such a way can find the blade, and once the threads are cut, Tartarus can never again have a hold on me or attempt to drag me into its bowels.

“So you see, child? You needn't worry. I'm safe.”

Pulsar wiped his eyes with a fresh tissue. “I still don't think he's worth it. You're hurt. You're hurting. How can you…” Pulsar paused on the selfishness of his heart, and cursed it.

“How can I protect you when I'm in such pain?” Luna spread her feathers, stroking Pulsar's side. “Dear one, my injuries are not from my link to Esteem.”

Pulsar blinked. “They… aren't?”

Luna shook her head. “No. Esteem is going through a hell greater than any in Equestria, it is true, but I can hold firm, even from this. After a thousand years fused with the moon, ‘tis but a trifle.”

Pulsar looked back on Luna's battered and beaten body, her lame hoof, and dishevelled mane. “Then… How?”

Luna blushed purple. “My current injuries are the result of a… disagreement I had with Cerberus after banishing Esteem. Seems he didn't like me swatting him on the nose and calling him a bad dog.”

Pulsar's jaw dropped open, and his train of thought plowed through a few concrete barriers before jumping the track and exploding. “Cerberus?! He… He hurt you?!”

Luna blushed even deeper, hiding her face. “You try fighting the invincible avatar of the will of an alternate dimension. It's not as easy as it looks. Especially in close quarters.”

Pulsar's train of thought exploded again. Twice. “You fought it? What did—Ow!”

Luna nipped his ear. “If you're able to yell, you're ready to go home. Come, everypony. It's time I returned and let Celestia know the deed is done.”

“But, but!” Pulsar rubbed his ear as Luna stood to gather her guards. “Your regeneration! Why didn't—”

“It did heal me. It healed me of all manner of injury in the past days, but even that has its limits. I'll be fine after a nap, I promise.” She clapped her hooves together. “And I think we could all use a meal. Tonight, you will all dine with me in the Royal Dining Hall. We shall feast, celebrate the vanquishing of an enemy, and mourn the loss of our ponies in Cloudsdale. For tomorrow, our work begins anew!”

“Hurrah, my Sovereign!”

Pulsar covered his ears, grateful that these ponies, who could shake the ground with the yell of just a few members, were on his side.

"Wow. Ouch. Seriously, it feels like my back is trying to beat me up and take my lunch money." Spike rubbed his lumbar area, where his muscle spasms were playing his spine like a xylophone. One struck his nerve with an ice pick, and he leaned on the hallway wall. "You really have to be that rough, Rainbow?"

"I do if we wanna get better, Spike." Rainbow was stretching and rubbing random muscles as well, her wings hung slack at her sides. "Gilda was tougher than I thought. We aren't up to snuff yet if we wanna roll with Twilight. It's up to us to help her until she can steamroll things like Luna can."

"Yeah, no pain, no gain. I actually heard Twilight talking about a study that said that wasn't true, but either way…" He swallowed half the room's air in a yawn. "Bedtime. Screw brushing teeth. I have exactly enough steps left in me for getting to bed; no further. 'Night."

"I hear that. 'Night, Spike."

Odds were that Rainbow had gone to her room next door, but Spike was too tired to process anything beyond the pain in his back. He opened up his door and plodded inside, heading straight for his bed on the right wall. He didn't even turn on the lights. The dim outline of a stack of paperwork on his desk across the small room mocked him, and was dangerously close to being torched right in its stupid smug face.

He unclasped his chest piece and let it fall on the tile floor. The boots were the next to go, followed by the gauntlets. He reached over to the little chest of drawers and wound the clock on top of it, nearly knocking over Twilight's bell. If it had fallen, the bell in Twilight’s room would have rang in sympathy, and knowing her, she would've rushed down to check on him. That was just not something he had the energy to deal with.

He scooted back square over the bed, laid down in his belly, and was out.

If last night had Spike's muscles doing a rumba, this was heavy mining and construction. "Oooooowwww.... Uuuuuunnnnngggghhh....." Words weren't something to attempt at this point. They could wait. Moaning was far more important.

"Aaaargh!" He lifted up and arm and got a reward of the Diarchy State building smashed into his back, spire first. His heart started joining in on the fun, beating him up from a different angle as panic set in. "Twilight..."

Spike sucked in a breath, bracing himself as he reached for Twilight's bell. If he could just ring it, the other bell in her room would ring, too, letting her know something was wrong. The skyscraper in his back twisted around, getting faster as his fingers nearly made it to the handle. Then, the bell lifted on its own and rang and rang and rang.

"Twilight..." He flopped down on the bed. "Help..."

Twilight snorted something into her nose, and it wasn't fun, especially combined with her snoring. It was easily enough to wake her up, and normally she would have stood up, stretched, checked the clock, and likely have gone back to sleep. This time, however, standing wasn't quite an option. She pushed down on her cloud bed to stand up, but only yanked her tail. This should have meant that she had stood on it, but she was yanking her mane as well, which made things far more curious.

Hence, her mind formed a subcommittee that approved the opening of her eyes before her customary yawn and stretch and then sent the application up to the home office for review. Although it was a divisive topic, when the supplementary information arrived that she was also having difficulty breathing, the motion was at last approved, and Twilight opened her eyes.

She was surrounded by hair. Not hair clippings, but strands of hair an indeterminate number of meters long. Most of them were dark, but there were pink streaks scattered about. Every possible direction was covered in hair so dense, they blocked out nearly all light, and were finding ways into her mouth, nose, and ears. Worse, it was moving, or perhaps growing.

In fact, as she turned and twisted to bat the hair out of the way, she confirmed the latter. The hair was hers, from her mane, which was growing an inch a second. She had to work to part the mass of strands covering her rear, scraping and pulling with hooves since her own magic couldn't affect her hair, but her theory was correct. Her tail was growing just as fast.

The subcommittee on panic attacks rushed through the paperwork for her reaction, sending it up to the home office with a detailed four-thousand word argument on why now was the perfect time for a signature screaming freak-out.

It was approved without delay.

"Spike! Get your scaly butt up here this instant!" Twilight squirmed in her hair, twisting and pulling her mane from areas that it should not be possible to do so. "Hurry! I don't know what's happening!"

She pawed at the strands, parting bunch after bunch, burrowing her way out of the small mountain of hair. Such a statement was one she never thought she’d ever have to say, as it was just too ridiculous—and made no less so by the fact that it was actually happening. After a minute, she was actually making swimming motions to get out of her own mane, finally getting enough stray rays of light to see some of her floor. With it, she spotted the bell linked to Spike's room downstairs.

Twilight pushed her magic out through the nest, feeling it loosen and scatter like she was putting it through a strainer. When she finally got a hold of it, she shook it like she would the neck of whoever played this prank on her. "Spike! Get up here! Help!"

The bell rang nonstop, but Spike never came, and her own hair was again swallowing her whole. She half expected it to burp at some point. "Somepony, anypony, get me out of this!"

"Lady Sparkle, are you alright?!"

It was muffled and faint, but there was definitely somepony on the other side of the door. She reached out with her magic again, this time probing the lock on her chambers until it turned. "I am not okay! Whoever you are, get in here!"

The doors cracked open as a blue unicorn mare plowed her way in, then stopped to gasp in shock. This, of course, was just rude to do to somepony being eaten by their own hair.

"Trixie is... I mean, I am..."

"Now is not the time to worry about pronouns! …Not something I ever thought I'd say." Twilight fell backwards and deeper into the nest as it shifted. The world was growing dim, though there was the faint ringing of a lockdown bell in the background. "Circle in the floor to your left! Stomp on it, go downstairs! There's scissors in the first aid kit in the medicine cabinet! Hurry!"

The ground vibrated as (Twilight presumed) the stairs descended to the bathroom level, and there were two instances of hooves running on them.

"Twilight, where are you?! I don't know where to cut, and if Trixie misses–"

"Less worrying, more cutting!" Twilight shoved and compressed a particularly large wad of hair against the tile floor. "Hurry, before my mane eats me!"

After a few seconds, she finally heard the sound of scissors making their way towards her. Light returned to the world, and a pair of blue hooves reached in and yanked her out of the pile. She landed on her belly, legs splayed outward, and her mane and tail were now growing several centimeters each second.

"Twilight, what in Equus happened?!" Trixie snipped off the hair at what would have been a normal spot, but it just kept growing. "Trixie has travelled all over Equestria, but I've never seen anything like this!"

"I have no freaking idea!" Twilight stood, careful to keep the insanity from swallowing her again. "I woke up and I was in the center of that… that mass! It has to weigh more than I do! This isn't physically possible!"

"I... I think we should get Celestia." Trixie snipped away another couple meters. "She might know what to do. Maybe."

"Good idea. Maybe she can—"

A mare skidded to a landing outside her door. "Twilight! Spike is in… What the heck…?"

"Huh. Still no sign of him." Since Rainbow had been assigned to Twilight, she had gotten used to waking up a bit before her. She'd head down to the cafeteria for some fruit and a latte, and Spike would be there to join her before they had to wake Twilight up. Normally, this involved disturbing her sleep, getting yelled at because she had been up late studying, then letting her sleep another ninety minutes.

This time, however, there was no Spike to be found. "Welp, time to go wake up some sleepy heads." She slammed the last of her coffee and trotted up the winding maze that was Canterlot Castle, first heading back to the wing where she and Spike slept. They didn't rate special custom quarters like Twilight's, but they did get their own private rooms, which in itself was rather special given the premium in space the city struggled with.

She stopped outside Spike's room. "Okay, they say never mess with sleeping dragons, but I'm about to go and break that rule, since you went and forgot to set your alarm. Ready or not, here I come!"

Rainbow slapped open the door knob-handle-thingy and kicked it open, making as much noise as she could. "Rise and shine, pussywillow, we got a lot of training to– ancestors help us..."

Spike winced as he struggled to open his eyes, barely breathing and laying in bed on his stomach. His wind up alarm clock had rang itself out and stopped. On his back were two cysts—or perhaps blisters—the size of grapefruits, where the scales had swollen and turned translucent.

"Rainbow," he croaked out, barely above a whisper. "Help me..."

"Ohcrapohcrapohcrapohcrap... Just, stay there, don't move! I'm getting help!" Rainbow spread her wings and took off down the hall, passing a dozen "No Flying" signs in the halls as she went. She didn't land until she found a guard standing at his post.

"You there! No flying in the–"

"Shut it!" she yelled in his face, it almost passing her notice that she'd always wanted to do that. "Medical emergency, Spike is hurt! We need Celestia in his room to help him, stat!"

The guard didn't even say anything; he just took off running down the hall in the direction of the throne room. Seconds later, bells started ringing in the hall, signalling a lockdown for the palace. It was standard procedure for a medical emergency to trigger a lockdown in case it was subterfuge, and to clear the halls to allow first responders easy access.

Shutters started rolling down the windows, sealing them off from the outside. The only way for them to open without cancelling the lockdown was to trigger a confirmed fire alarm. Ponies rushed every which way through the castle, ducking into rooms and locking them.

"Okay, step one done. Now I gotta get Twilight." She took off again, flying over stairs and making her way up the towers and into the highest part of the palace. Ahead was Princess Celestia's chambers, and to the right, Twilight's. She banked hard right, coming to a skidding stop as she slid inside the already open doors.

"Twilight! Spike is in..." Rainbow blinked. "What the heck...?"

In her room, where Twilight's bed should be, was a small mountain of hair; Twilight's hair. It probably weighed more than several ponies put together, and it was still growing. Trixie was standing next to Twilight, cutting her friend's mane and tail every few seconds, lopping off a leg’s length of hair each time.

"Uh, Twi?" Rainbow's face had locked into an expression she wasn't quite sure was appropriate for the situation. Then again, she wasn't entirely sure there was an appropriate expression for the situation. "Did you try experimenting with potions without Zecora's help again? You know you can't cook, right? And that potion making is basically cooking?"

"Hardy har har, Rainbow." Twilight grimaced. "I'm kind of busy here, in case you can't tell. And for the record, I have no idea what is going on. I thought it might’ve been one of your pranks. If so, you are so dead, by the way."

"I had nothing to do with this!" Rainbow froze for a second. "Even if it would've been an awesome prank. But no, I need your help! Spike is in trouble, he's got some kind of cysts on his back!"

"What?!" Twilight fell to her haunches. "Is he okay? Is that what the lockdown is about?"

"Yeah, I told a guard before I came here. Celestia should be on her way. I think she's the only pony really qualified for this."

"Okay, no choice." Twilight stood up and swished her tail out of her way. "Gotta get down there and help my little brother!" She took one step forward, and ten meters of hair flew out of her head and tail in about two seconds.

"Empty night!" Trixie snipped through the hair after it calmed down. "Is it going to do that every time?!"

"Uuuuuhhhhhh....” Twilight stammered, taking another step. Yet another mass wave of hair flew out, threatening to engulf the entire room and burying her back half.

"Damn it." Twilight sucked in a breath and let it out slowly. "Okay. Delegation time. Rainbow, you're going to Spike in my stead. If I try to walk, I might drown in my own hair, and that is not a way I'm willing to go out. Explosion that saves Equestria, fine, but suffocating in my own mane, not a chance. Report back to me when you know what's going on, and keep Spike as calm and comfortable as you can. If it gets really bad, let me know and I'll try to figure something out. Otherwise, let Celestia treat Spike, and only then tell her that I might need help too. Got it?"

"Got it!" Rainbow saluted and flew back down the stairs, heading for Spike's room. She descended two large staircases via the air, then banked hard left onto the special, high-security guest quarters where they had their rooms. An EMT pegasus team was already in station, and when Rainbow barged in, they were giving him some kind of gas through a mask.

"Is he all right?" Rainbow asked. "What's going on?"

"Heck if I know," the EMT stallion replied. "I've never seen anything like this. I've never even responded to a call to help a dragon, so I'm extra lost. But we're giving him nitrous oxide, or 'laughing gas.' It can help a lot with pain."

"That is a good start, but I need access to find out what to do to administer treatment." Celestia stepped into the room with a nurse and a cart full of medicines and medical equipment. "Please, clear the way so that I might help my son."

The two EMTs stared in shock, but backed away and left the room to stand outside when Celestia took a step forward. She towered over the dragon, lighting her horn and casting a spell Rainbow couldn't even pretend to understand. A gold-white magic circle appeared, spouting off arcane symbols way too fast for her to read.

"As I suspected." She lowered her head next to Spike's. "I know it hurts, child. Don’t be afraid; you will be fine. Keep breathing the nitrous oxide, it will help. I will prepare a medicine to take away the pain."

Spike nodded, taking in deep breaths of the gas. "It hurts... so bad... Am I dying?"

"Not at all, little one." Celestia pulled over the cart with her magic and popped the lids on a few of the pill bottles. "Nurse, watch closely. He will need a custom dosage."

Rainbow snuck around the Princess to get a look as pills were put into a mortar and ground into dust. First was some kind of heavily-regulated painkiller she’d never learned to pronounce correctly, along with caffeine and aspirin. Then came one she didn't recognize and couldn't pronounce, but the description on the bottle was "anti-spasm" medication.

The Wonderbolt knew some things about medicine and first aid. She wasn't a registered EMT like some in her old group, but they all had to have some ability to stabilize a patient because they could be called on for search and rescue any time, day or night, every day of the year. From that knowledge, she could find something wrong enough to make her say something.

"Princess, I don't mean to be rude..." Rainbow winced as Celestia stopped and trained an eye on her.


Rainbow swallowed some of her nerves, but not enough to stop shaking under Celestia's gaze. "Oh, Um, I... I mean, isn't that a lethal dose of painkiller? You put four pills in that."

"Ah, you are observant, Captain." Celestia went back to grinding up the pills. "This would be a lethal dose for a pony. However, dragon physiology is quite a bit different from our own. I have to increase the amount for Spike, or it won't have a noticeable effect. They're resistant to most painkillers, but this should still be strong enough to be a therapeutic dose.

"I know what's happening to Spike, and he is in severe pain. The intensity is likely only rivalled by foaling, which means a powerful medicine is called for. This is doubly true since this condition will last much longer than labour would for a mare."

"What's happening..." Spike groaned. "It hurts..."

"Hush. It shall be okay; I promise you." Celestia swirled the crushed pills in her magic, crushing and compressing them into a new, larger pill.

The nurse grabbed a paper cup from the cart and filled it with water from Spike's sink, then gave it to Celestia.

The Princess floated both to Spike's mouth. "Swallow this, my child. There will be side effects, but it will take away your pain."

Spike nodded ever so slightly, and opened his mouth as Celestia placed the pill on his tongue. A drink of water later, and it was done.

"What are the side effects?" Rainbow asked. "Anything I need to watch for?"

Celestia sighed, a visible weight lifting off her shoulders. "Well, in the modern vernacular, he'll be ‘high as a kite.’ It's probable he will also experience drowsiness and lightheadedness. But the pain should be gone in an hour or so, and he'll be able to walk again.

"The condition can last up to a month, given his age, and he'll need to be on the medicine for the duration. I don't like giving patients strong painkillers for such a long time, but nothing less will stop his agony. If this happened when he was older, I would have had to lock him in a cave to wait it out. We're fortunate it’s happening while he’s still small."

"Um..." Rainbow scratched her head. "What is wrong with him? Is it, like, a cancer or something? Or a parasite?"

Celestia let out a light but genuine laugh. "You mean you haven't figured it out yet, Captain? I thought it would have been obvious for you by now, but if you must know..." She leaned down to Rainbow with a cheeky smile on her lips. "We're going to have a student this spring! Spike is getting his wings!"

Rainbow blinked. "That. Is. So. Awesome!"

"So, any thoughts yet on why you're producing enough hair to supply half of Equestria's wig factories?" Trixie snipped off another length of mane. "Or why we get a half ton more whenever you take a step?"

"Not a freaking clue." Twilight facehooved. "And this was going to be a nice, relaxing reading day. Honestly, I should just never expect a day off ever again. I need to invent a spell that can let me read a book at hyper speed or something."

"Mind magic, dangerous stuff. I'd stick to delegation. Much more reliable. Not that I have much experience with it, mind you. For much of my adult life, I’ve lived in my little wagon." Trixie sighed wistfully. "I miss it. The travel, the adventure. Just me, my cart, some maps, and a compass. Yeah, it was roughing it most of the time, but it was... liberating!

"Out in the middle of nowhere with nothing but your own thoughts, I could plan show after show. Then, reach a town, get supplies, and knock 'em dead."

"You know, I could send somepony out to find your cart. Or even have a new one built for you. It's no trouble, really. I have plenty of space in my personal storage unit here in the castle."

Trixie held a hoof to her chest. "You'd do that? A whole new cart?"

Twilight nodded. "Of course! Thanks to your spell, we were able to deal a major blow to the Illusionists, and knocked the Gryphons out of commission for at least a couple years. I also make more money than I know what to do with, honestly. I'm giving most of it to Cadence's charity network. I've probably bought, like, three brand-new orphanages by now."

Trixie laughed and ran a hoof through her mane. "Even when you're being humble, you're making me look bad. Okay, then, Sparkle, I'll take you up on your offer. My old cart is seventeen hundred meters northeast of Hoofington's clock tower, and if it’s there, it’s probably still covered in snow. I did weatherproof it, though, and its spot is well camouflaged. I spent a lot of exciting nights under wild weather in that little thing."

"Sounds fun!" Twilight pulled a notebook out of her open closet and jotted down the location. "I'll see if they can find it. Care to join me at the spa after we get my mane under control?"

The scissors snipped again. "Spa? Here in Canterlot?"

"There are a few public ones in Canterlot, yes, but I was thinking of the Royal Spa."

The scissors slipped out of the magic and clattered on the tile. "The Princesses have their own spa?! That rumour is true?!"

Twilight opened her mouth to say "yes," but rewound back to Trixie's mention of a rumour. "Why? What did you hear?"

Trixie blushed beet red. "That, um, well... Trixie heard that it was full of stallions and, er, mares, too. For the Sisters'... recreational, ah, pleasure."

Twilight couldn't hold it in. Not in a million years. She broke out laughing, falling to the floor and rolling around on her back, which only covered her in more hair. She pushed the new piles off of her and spat some strands out of her mouth, then sucked in a breath so that she could speak again. "Ponies actually think that?!"

Trixie blushed even deeper. "Yes, that is what Trixie... I mean, I heard."

"Oh, nonononononono. Doesn't work that way." Twilight sighed away the giggles, though a few lingered. "Celestia I know has a few ponies she turns to for intimacy, but they aren't a harem. I'm not a hundred percent sure who they are, though. She won't give me a straight answer, but I don't really pry very much, either.

"I'm not as sure about Luna. She claims that she is the alicorn of passion, and all things with it, but Celestia says she's only had one short-term partner since her return. Apparently it's pretty rare for her to find a pony to her liking.

"Really, the Royal Spa is just that: a seriously opulent spa. There's staff there twenty-four-seven even though only a dozen or so ponies have regular access. I've been able to go since I've been Celestia's student, but it's honestly a bit too opulent for me. I feel self-conscious when I'm there. But there's an on-staff mane stylist, which I'll probably need, and I could really go for a massage and a dip in the hot tu…well, it's called a hot tub, but it's really more of a pool with abnormally warm water."

Trixie ducked her head down much like Twilight would do when nervous, her blush still in effect. "I've... never been to a spa.."

Twilight clapped her hooves together. "Well, that settles it, then. You should join me! I'm allowed to bring guests, so as long as you're with me, they can't say no. Beats waiting a month for an appointment elsewhere in the city."

"You win again, Sparkle." Trixie tried to sound indignant, but whatever kernel of jealousy that was there was quickly eroded by laughs and smiles. "I'd be glad to go."

They shared a hoof bump just in time for the doorbell to sound.

"Enter!" Twilight yelled. "It's already unlocked!"

The door opened, and Celestia stepped through with a medical cart and some kind of haphazard gizmo with a couple of lights on it. "Now then, what seems to be the prob– Oh, bugger."

Twilight and Trixie both shared a laugh at seeing Celestia's reaction to the several truckloads of accumulated hair.

"Hi, Tia. Look at me, I don't have an ethereal mane yet, but I have an infinite one! Telegraph the wig factories, I think we have a record-setting donation here."

"Yeah!" Trixie struck a silly catwalk pose. "The Twilight Sparkle look will be so hot this year!"

Celestia looked down at her odd device and then tossed it behind her. "Well, that's going to be useless. Three thousand years, Twilight. That's how long it's been since a medical malady truly stumped me. Then, you and Trixie manage it twice in less than a season."

"So, no idea what is going on with my mane?" Twilight put her ears down. "That's not what I was hoping to hear. It shoots out like crazy everytime I take a step."

"I'm afraid I don't have the faintest idea, my student. I do have a few ideas on where to start looking, though, and who to start talking to."

"That's something, at least." Twilight looked back at the pile behind her. "Any news on Spike?"

"Ah, yes. He'll be fine, Twilight. He's getting his wings!"

Twilight lit up like a firework. "Really?! I thought most purple dragons don't get them?"

"Some do, some don't. He's not a purebred, so there was always a chance. He's going to be in a lot of pain this next month, though, so I gave him some medicine and put him on medical leave. He's not going to be in any condition to travel with you for now."

"No argument here."

Trixie sighed. "You're getting wings, he's getting wings; I bet they'll be selling them on a street corner sooner or later."

"Well..." Twilight folded her forelegs and rubbed her lip with a hoof. "Starswirl the Bearded actually did develop a spell to give anypony a set of real, permanent pegasus wings. The only problem, other than being incredibly difficult to cast with a huge risk of serious injury if something goes wrong, was that without pegasus magic, they're useless. Decorative only; you can't even glide with them. All you could do with them is flap futilely. And don't even try to get me started on the idea for me to use that to get my wings now. I've no idea how that'll interact with the magics involved with the summits, or if the leylines would form right. I could wind up permanently disfigured. Even if–"

"Twilight," Trixie interrupted. "I was being sarcastic."

"Hmm? Oh. Oh! Right, sorry, sometimes my mind takes an idea and runs with it like that." Twilight rubbed the back of her head. "Sorry, I–" Tingles waged a surprise war all over her body, poking ticklish, cold pinpricks at every follicle they came across.

"Twilight?" Celestia asked. "Is something wrong?"


Twilight's coat of hair grew several inches in the span of a house fly's wingbeat. She was now a giant, round, purple puff of pony.

"Celestia," Twilight said through a haze of hair. "Start getting a hold of your contacts. This has officially gotten ridiculous."

"Hey." Rainbow gave Spike a nudge on his hand. "Are you feeling better yet?"

Spike, still lying on his belly, nodded and sucked in more nitrous. "Still hurts, but I can feel the medicine helping."

"Good. How much did you hear Celestia say about what's going on? You were really out of it, there."

"That I'm getting wings. Not much more than that."

"Well..." Rainbow laid down next to the bed, folding her forelegs and putting her ears down. "She said you should avoid putting pressure on the wings as they develop. So you wanna avoid chair backs and lying on your back. She also said you need to keep using the medicine she's made for you, and be patient, 'cause it's gonna take a while for them to be ready. Probably a whole month."

Spike groaned and clutched his pillow. "A whole month?! This hurts, Rainbow!"

"Yeah, true, but you got the best doctor in the world helping you." She gently, carefully rubbed the top of his head. "And I'll be there, too. Don't even worry about training until the wings are ready. I'll help you with whatever you need, and you've basically got an entire castle at your beck and call!"

Spike deflated, though Rainbow couldn't tell if it was from relief or worry. "Thanks, Dash. Anything else I should know?"

Rainbow winced and sucked in a breath through her teeth. "Yeah, some bad news. The Princess says you're not going to be able to fly fly right away. Your wings and magic won't be strong enough 'cause you got them so young."

"But..." Spike's eyes started to water. "Then what am I going through this for?!"

"Easy, easy there." Rainbow nudged him again in lieu of a hug. "You'll still be able to use them to glide. She says that once you learn how to take advantage of thermals, you could glide as well as Princess Cadence! Maybe you won't be as fast as a pegasus, but that's still really cool, and faster than walking, trust me.

"I had to learn gliding in school, and the pegasi that are really good at it can glide for an insanely long time without even flapping their wings once! I knew this one guy, he started at around fifteen thousand feet and pulled off something like twice the distance between here and Ponyville. Again, not near as fast as if I had raced it, but the difference is that he wasn't even the slightest bit winded. Not a bad upgrade to get, if you ask me. And you should, cause I know things about flying."

"I suppose that's not so bad..." He took in another breath of nitrous. "Still hurts. Getting better, though. Was Twilight here?"

"Uuuuuhhhhhh..." Rainbow pursed her lips while her brain dusted off old protocols on breaking things gently. "She kinda had her own medical issue this morning..."

"What?! Is she oka–Ow!" Spike belly flopped back onto the bed after an attempt to push himself off failed miserably. "What happened?"

"You know how crazy, improbable things keep happening to us? Well, this might take the cake for crazy and improbable away from Discord. I mean, she's not in any huge danger or anything, but... Yeah, this is weird."

"Can't be any worse than what I have then. One second..." Slowly, inch by inch, he pushed himself up. One hand on the bedpost, one on the mattress, each minor movement a carefully deliberated process. Finally, he was sitting on his bed instead of lying down. "There, I'm starting to feel better. Lightheaded, but better. Now, what's going on with Twilight?"

Rainbow sat up as well. "You know how manes need to be cut every so often? Well, Twilight's needs to be cut several times a minute right now."

Spike looked like his mind was as broken as his back was at the moment. "Wait, you're telling me that her mane is shooting out of her like a roll of toilet paper hooked up to an industrial fan?"

"That's not... Actually, that is a pretty good way of putting it, yeah."

Spike guffawed and then immediately rubbed his back. "Ouch, oh, don't tell me funny stuff like that right now."

"Gonna be hard not to. According to Celestia, you're going to be 'high as a kite' in a few more minutes. Her words."

Spike reached over for the bedpost again. "I think I'm going to lie down and take a nap before that happens. It'll hurt less. Tell Twilight not to worry, and that I'll be sleeping."

"Good call. I'm going to go steal Twilight's bell. You need anything, ring it."

"If this keeps up, we're going to have to find a new place to store the hair. My room can't handle all this." Twilight tossed another pile of her mane onto the much larger pile already taking over her chambers. "And I'm going to need to use the restroom at some point..."

"Twilight? It's Luna." A voice from behind the door yelled. "I bring good news!"

Twilight pulled open the door while Trixie kept working on her coat.

"Huzzah, I say, huzzah!" Luna pranced into the room bearing a bulbous bottle of bubbling botanical fluid. "On my Sister's hunch, I went to visit our friend Zecora, and behold, a solution!"

"That's great, Luna! So Zecora had heard of, of..." Twilight pointed at her absurd pile of hair. "This?"

"Indeed. She says it is the result of a rare, but not unheard of, delayed allergic reaction to the coat-growing potion that you took after your trip to Zebrica. According to her, this concoction is the cure!"

Twilight took the bottle in her magic, examining the dark liquid with a cautious eye. It doesn't look like it's moving. She popped off the cork and prepared to take a swig. "What's the base of this stuff? Seems familiar..."

"Pomegranate juice!"

A spray of potion splattered on the floor as Twilight, with her tongue's enthusiastic permission, rejected the vile potion out of her mouth. "Ugh! Uhn Uhn!" Her hooves scraped off what bits of the juice that she could, though eventually she resorted to licking the floor instead.

"Um, are you allergic to pomegranate juice?" Trixie asked. "Seems like an extreme reaction..."

"'Tis true, Twilight." Luna stepped forward, trying to keep pace with Twilight's futile efforts to remove as much liquid as possible from her mouth. "Should I get an epinephrine injection?"

"I'm not allergic, it's just foul!" Twilight stomped on the circle for her bathroom stairs and rushed down them, then plunged her head into the sink’s stream like her mane was on fire instead of trailing behind her in a giant mass. "Argh, I can still taste it! Out, out, out! Why is pomegranate juice even legal?!"

"That's... new. Is not such a position illogical for a pony such as yourself?" Luna asked, still behind Twilight while Trixie struggled to get down the mane-covered stairs. "Celestia often calls me such."

"Drink pomegranate juice with my taste buds and then tell me that!" Twilight gurgled under the water. "Discord can see the future. I'm sure of it. He must have created pomegranates and left them here just to mess with me!"

Luna sighed. “Really?”

“Okay, I’m being ridiculous.” Twilight swished her mouth with water once more. “Just, give me a few to mentally prepare myself and I’ll–”

Suddenly, Twilight found herself leaving the sweet, mostly tasteless embrace of the waterfall sink and getting a good view of her ceiling. Luna’s magic around her nose closed her nostrils up like wax, and the same also pried open her mouth with machine force.

A bottle fit into her open mouth like a hose to a spigot, and the most foul, obnoxious, disgusting, unholy of liquids that must never be consumed poured down her throat. After the longest time anypony had ever experienced something foul in the history of history, the bottle was removed.

"There," Luna said, a smile borne of Tartarus on her face. "That's how my mother dealt with me when I didn't take my medicine. And–" Crack!

Twilight's hoof connected with Luna's muzzle, knocking the other mare over and on her back. "You are not my mom!"

"Twilight!" Trixie gasped.

Twilight looked over to Luna's possible co-conspirator. "What?"

"You just punched Princess Luna!"

Twilight's heart skipped a beat, and she slowly looked back to the Princess. She was stunned, had a mark on her chin, and was upside down with her legs and wings splayed.

"Oh, bugger."

Author's Note:

Chapter dedicated to Gabby, one of my early fans, a long time friend, and wife to my best friend. RIP.

Here's hoping this chapter goes over better than the last, and eases some of the concerns from it.

And no, sorry, no summit is coming soon. I just like trolling you guys ;)


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