• Published 2nd Aug 2018
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Acolyte of the Lunar Court - Lets Do This



"The Night is not as forgiving as the Day." -- Twilight finds out the hard way what Luna's night is like.

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A Summoning of Shadow Elements

COFFEE, BLACK!

Twilight put her hoof to her mouth, horrified. She stared across the Sugarcube Corner countertop at Mrs. Cake's wide-eyed expression.

"Oh! I'm so sorry, Mrs. Cake!" Twilight said. "It's... the Royal Canterlot Voice. I keep forgetting I have it switched on!"

"Y-y-yeah!" Spike shivered nervously on her back. "T-t-tell me about it!"

"Oh! That's... quite all right, my dear! I think I'll just... go have a quiet sit-down for a moment!" Mrs. Cake tottered away uneasily.

Collecting the mug and plate of buttered scones Mrs. Cake had already put out for her, Twilight put a few extra bits on the counter by way of apology, then retreated to the table by the window, avoiding the stares of the other ponies in the store.

Before she shrugged out of her carryall and sat down, she drew a heavy tome from the left pocket of the carryall and dropped it on the table beside her.

She eyed it warily. None of the books in her Library needed straps and a padlock to keep them shut.

"Hey, Twi!" Pinkie Pie bounded over to the table and plunked down beside her. "How ya doin? I thought I heard your voice!"

Twilight winced. "How far away were you?"

"Oh, Manehattan! No wait, was it Van Hoover? One of those!" She beamed.

"Ugghhhh!" Twilight's forehead gently smacked the tabletop. "Now I know how Luna felt on Nightmare Night! I've been assisting her so often at the Lunar Court it's hard to remember to break out of character when I come back here! Plus I still haven't entirely gotten used to the nighttime hours, so I keep waking up too early in the afternoon and end up overtired! And now there's this!"

She whacked the book with a hoof -- but gently, in case it exploded.

"An' what's that?" Applejack said, walking in. She came over to join them.

"Oh, just one of the darkest tomes in the entire Canterlot Archives!" Twilight rolled her eyes. "How to Curse Entire Continents in Six Easy Lessons! Kidding!" she added, seeing Applejack's shocked look. "Though it's not far from the truth!"

"And... that there's part of your lesson plan?"

"Yep! The Princess wants me studying the darker magics so I'll be able to handle them if I ever encounter them in the wild, so to speak. And she wants me to do a demonstration at the Lunar Court! So the Night races can all see how impressively powerful and fearless her Acolyte is. Yeesh!" She sighed. "Where's the Great and Powerful Trixie when you need her? She'd be far better at this kind of performance than I am!"

"Trixie? That fake?" Rainbow Dash said as she flew in through the door. Seeing Twilight and the others, she banked around and smoothly dropped into a seat by the table. "She'd summon up some kind of tentacled horror and then run screaming out of town, leaving us to handle it! Oh, by the way, heard you yelling from up where I was practicing my loops. Figured I'd swing by and see what was up!"

Twilight groaned. "Is there anypony in town who didn't hear me?"

"Um, I didn't hear you!" Fluttershy peered in through the door. "I mean I heard you, but I didn't hear you! Um... what was it you said?"

"Never mind!"

"Well, I certainly heard you!" Rarity said, following along behind Fluttershy to sit down at the table. "And all I can say, dahling, is you sound like me when I've been overdoing it at the Boutique! You need to take a break, dear!"

"That's just it!" Twilight said. "I can't! Between studying the texts Luna assigns me, and training sessions with her in the Vault, and assisting at the Lunar Court, and occasional dreamwalking lessons, and trying to read ahead on my own time... urhhh! ... I haven't had time to even think about taking a break!"

"You always did have a problem with pushin' yourself too hard, gal!"

"Look who's talking!"

Applejack frowned, but then nodded sadly. "Point taken! Y'all think maybe it's time you called in the reserves?"

"Pardon?"

"Well, dahling," Rarity said, "you did ask us to lend a hoof, remember? And we've been waiting for you to call us in to help! If there's something we can do, we're all here for you!"

"Maybe like that there Doomsday Book," Applejack went on, waving a hoof at it, "or whatever it is you're studying! You said you wanted us as the Elements of Harmony in case somethin' went wrong. That sounds 'zactly like what you wanted us fur!"

"I'm not sure I want to get you girls involved in this." She glanced at the book. "I'm not even sure I want to have anything to do with it!"

"Oooh! Is it some kind of awesome, evil grimoire!" Rainbow asked excitedly. "Full of unspeakably dark spells from ancient times that could fracture the fabric of reality as we know it and unleash sanity-destroying horrors from the Dawn of Time?"

"Yes."

"Uh..." Rainbow scratched her mane uncomfortably. "I was kinda joking!"

"Well I'm not! This stuff is dangerous! There's a warning on the first page not to even think the words of a spell until you're ready to cast it! And the spells themselves are deliberately written with the words out of order, just to be safe! And for some of the worst, there's no way to un-say them once you've said them, because they alter reality itself to make undoing them impossible! You'd basically have to throw away the universe and start over!"

She looked around. "Where'd Fluttershy go?"

A trembling voice spoke from under the table. "...i'm still here... I hope..."

"Git back up here, gal!" Applejack chided her. "Okay, so it's laik dynamite in book form! We gotta be careful! All raight, then! So we put on the Elements and use our Friendship Magic to beat back the darkness if'n it gets out of hand, raight?"

"That's the part that really bothers me! To power this magic, we'd have to take on a different set of elements, ones that speak to our worst nature rather than our best!" Glancing around the table, she hauled over the book, undid the straps and lock, and carefully opened it to a page she'd marked.

"It's okay to look," she told them. "There are no spells on these pages. Here's the list. There are seven Shadow Elements, and seven of us, counting Spike."

"All right!" Spike said, leaning on the table and craning his neck to look. "Finally, I get an Element too! Which one's mine?"

Twilight looked at him. "Well, I think it's pretty obvious you're Sloth!"

"Huh?" Spike boggled.

Rarity suppressed a giggle. "Had your mid-morning nap yet, Spikey-Wikey?"

"Oh, that's just great!" Spike put his head in his hands.

"And Rarity," Twilight went on, "I'd say yours is Desire."

Rarity suddenly froze, staring at Twilight with a horrified expression. Twilight mentally kicked herself. Luna was right: it was so easy to accidentally cross the line. Quickly she recovered. "The way you dumped Prince Blueblood at the Gala? When you found he wasn't up to your standards?"

"Oh... of course, dahling!" Rarity relaxed a bit. "Ha ha!"

"And I'm obviously Gluttony!" said Pinkie Pie, tossing a double-sized cupcake in the air and scarfing it down in one quick chomp. "And I'm O-KAY with that!"

"Applejack," Twilight went on, "I'd say you're Pride, clearly!"

"No argument here! I am an Apple, after all. Cain't get away from it!"

"Oh, and I suppose you're going to say I'm Greed?" Rainbow said, crossing her arms and glaring at Twilight.

"Nope, you're Envy, no question!"

"What!"

"Rainbow, just how long have you been wanting to get into the Wonderbolts? And just how far would you go to get there?"

"Um... well, okay. Yeah, sure. I guess! But that doesn't mean I don't deserve to be in the Wonderbolts!"

"Never said you didn't, Rainbow!"

"And Fluttershy," Applejack said, "is clearly Wrath."

"Um... uh... me?"

"Gal, you once stared down a full-grown dragon and made it move house! And remember the Gala, when you busted into the room lookin' fit to eat the furniture? Don't tell me you ain't got it in ya, girl! Though I'm beat if I can see where you hide it most times!"

"Oh. Yeah... I guess so!"

"And that leaves me," Twilight said. "Greed! Hungry for knowledge! I live in a library. If I was on a desert island, and could only take ten things with me, nine of them would be books!"

"Yay!" Pinkie bounced up and down happily. "We're the Seven Elements of Shadow Darkness and Scary Stuff! Look out, Mr. Dark Night! Give it up, Ms. Spooky Closet! We're not 'fraid of YOU any more!"

"So okay, fine!" Rainbow grumbled, waving a hoof. "We know which Elements we are! So how do we help out with this sanity-destroying spell of arcane doom?"

"Yah! Deal us in, gal!" Applejack said, putting a hoof around Twilight's shoulders. "In for a penny, and such-like!"

Twilight smiled. It was hard being quite so worried with her friends so eager to pitch in. She looked across the table. "Rarity?"

"Oh! Uh, yes, Twi?"

"You know that robe you made me? How soon can you make us five more?"

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

After several further sessions with Luna, and one near-catastrophe in the Vault that Twilight decided it was best not to mention to the others, she asked them all to meet her just after Moon-rise on the path leading to the Everfree Forest.

They came wearing their robes as requested, and also wearing their Elements of Harmony regalia underneath them.

"I'm not sayin' these getups aren't awesomely cool," Rainbow grumbled, flapping the hem of hers with a forehoof. "But explain to me again why we need 'em?"

"Because a big part of shadow magic is deception," Twilight said. "You dress the part to help build up your confidence, to help you feel like you're capable of handling the forces you're summoning up."

"And probably so whatever it is you're summoning doesn't know it's you!" Applejack looked around warily. "Looks laik we're all here now. Let's get this show a-rollin'!"

With Twilight and Rarity providing light from their horns, Twilight led them into the forest and up the winding path to the bare stone clearing high atop Cold Hill. The moon hung in the sky above the clearing, providing more than adequate lighting for their dark-adapted eyes.

"Annnnd..." Rainbow asked, "why do we have to work the spell way out here in the middle of the Everfree Forest at night?"

"In part because there's a natural dark energy convergence atop this hill, which is why nothing grows here," Twilight replied. "Plus I want to be well away from Ponyville when we attempt this!"

"Great! That'll just make it so much easier for us to never be heard from again!" She quickly stomped her hoof down, catching Fluttershy's tail as the skittish pegasus tried to make a run for it.

With Spike's help Twilight double-checked the chalked circles and warding runes she'd prepared earlier. The others sat down in a loose circle around the chalked lines, chatting quietly and trying to pretend they weren't nervous.

"Okay," Twilight finally said. "I think we're ready."

"Oh, are you sure, Twi?" Fluttershy asked nervously. "Don't you think we should have Princess Luna here, just to supervise?"

Twilight shook her head. "I've already practiced with her. She says I'm ready to solo! So don't worry!"

"Um... I'll try not to."

Twilight carefully took out the book, unbuckled and unlocked it, and set it before her with the relevant page clearly in view, plus the sheet of paper on which she'd written the additional notes and spell components that Luna had recommended. She found a chunk of rock and settled it on the sheet to hold it in place. Then she took a deep breath, and raised her forehooves.

"Hi, gals! Whatcha doing?"

As one, their heads all turned to the path leading up to the hilltop. Derpy, the gray pegasus mailmare, was standing there smiling at them. She was wearing her postal carryall, but not her official hat. Her cross-eyed gaze swept around the group, each eye tracing out its own path.

"Hi, Derpy!" Pinkie called breezily. "We're summoning up a creature of ultimate darkness that's most likely going to eat our souls! You wanna help?"

"Can I?" Derpy asked excitedly. "Look, I brought my own robe!" Dumping off her carryall, she dug her snout into one of the flank pockets and hauled out a large piece of canvas sacking. She flipped it onto her back, then pulled it around her with her forehooves, finally flipping the loose end up over her blond mane. It was immediately clear that she'd simply taken an old mail sack and split it along one of the side seams, then used duct tape to attach a length of cord to tie around her neck.

Rainbow snorted loudly, then stifled a laugh. The rest of them looked at each other uncomfortably. Derpy simply looked around the circle, not understanding what the problem was.

Twilight frowned. If they held things up to walk Derpy back to town, the others might also lose what little confidence they had in the whole thing and decide to stay home as well. "Okay, Derpy!" she finally said. "But what we're doing is very advanced magic, and it's also pretty dangerous! So sit down here, right next to me, and for Celestia's sake stay quiet! Just watch, and don't interrupt or ask silly questions, okay?"

"'Kay, Twilight!" Derpy happily came around and thunked down beside her, hugging herself excitedly.

"All right. Now, just like we rehearsed it," Twilight told the others. "Each of you focus on your element. Get it clearly in your mind. And when everything's charged up, I'll trigger the spell."

"Zzzzzzzzz..."

"Heh! Looks laik Spike's way ahead of ya, Twi!" Then Applejack stared across the circle. "Rarity! What in corn sake are ya doing? And where'd ya get a couch from, way out here?"

"It's a divan, dahling!" Rarity was sprawled seductively on it. She tapped her horn, which was still glowing with magic. "From my boudoir, of course! If one is going to play at being a temptress one should look the part, hmmm?"

"Oh, all raight! I better get started on my bit too!" Applejack shut her eyes, set her shoulders, lifted her head, and began humming "Apples, we're Apples..." under her breath.

Rainbow had shut her eyes and was whispering the names and achievements of each member of the Wonderbolts team to herself, over and over, working herself up to a fit of pique over not being a member yet.

Fluttershy had a mirror out and was giving herself the Stare. "You will be angry," she told herself. "You will be angry! And I don't want to hear any backtalk, missy!" Then she quailed in the face of her own assertiveness. "Ummm... okay..."

Pinky had armed herself with a double-frosted, triple-layer chocolate cake on a plate, and was staring at it, eyes gleaming and mouth watering. She glanced at Twilight. "Just lemme know when, Twi, and I'll CHOW DOWN!"

Twilight smiled in return. Then she focused her own thoughts. She thought to herself about her Library. And the Canterlot Royal Archives. And the bookstore. And every other library and bookstore she had ever visited. She let herself wallow in the sheer joy of having an endless supply of books, an endless bounty of ideas to consume, never running out of new things to learn, understand, and master. Endless facts to squirrel away in the back of her mind like shiny trinkets, a dragon's hoard of linguistic and nomothetic coin of the realm...

... and as she did so, she began reeling off the first stages of the spell. After the first few lines she saw the protective runes around the circles begin to glow. And from each of her friends tenuous streams of darkness began to form, linking them all together and flowing into a small whirlpool in the center of the chalked circles. As they focused, their shadow Elements fed more and more dark energy into the spell.

And at the right moment, Twilight dropped her eyes to the page in the book, and read off the final, triggering phrase.

Poof. A near-soundless flash, a small puff of roiling smoke...

And a colt pony stood in the circle. It was a stylish flame red, a pair of nub-like horns on its head, hooves like polished obsidian, a pitchfork cutie-mark, and a mane and tail that glowed sultrily like a field of lava.

It was also about six inches high.

The demon took one look around at the circle of ponies, then immediately collapsed to the ground, covered his face with its forehooves, and burst into tears.

"Uh... is that supposed to happen?" Rainbow asked.

"I don't ruddy BELIEVE it!" the pony sobbed. "It's not fair! I finally hits the big time, finally gets me big break, FINALLY I'm summoned! And this -- this is what I get? A bunch of ponies?"

The demon stood up, and his head swept left and right as he looked himself over in disgust. "I mean... I ask you! How in Tartarus do you inspire blood-curdling horror looking like this?"

He ended up staring at Derpy, who apparently thought some response was required of her. She jumped to her hind legs, grabbed the edges of her makeshift cloak and lofted her forehooves threateningly.

With her most cross-eyed stare, she bellowed:

"OOGHA BOOGHA!"

The demon pony stared at her wordlessly. And then face-hoofed.

"Oogha boogha? I struggles all the way up here -- and believe you me the traffic crossing the Phlegethon was murder at this hour -- and this is what I get? Oogha boogha?"

He thumped down on his hindquarters, face in his hooves, completely dispirited. "Just banish me now, quick like! Get it over with!"

"Awww..." Fluttershy soothed, "don't be like that! It's not so bad! We're pretty new at this, too. And I think you did a wonderful job, appearing out of nowhere like that!"

"Yeah! That was pretty cool!" Rainbow crossed her forehooves and looked smug. "And just think! We got the spell right on our very first try!"

The demon goggled at her. "You're telling me... you dragged me all the way up here... as a flamin' tutorial? Oh, that just puts the Iron Maiden on it, really it does! Just think what I'll be able to tell all me friends downstairs about me very first summoning! Eeuugh!"

"Hold on there, sugarcube!" Applejack said. "It's not jus' fer practice! We actually do need ya'll to put in an appearance at a big shin-dig with us, help impress the locals and such!"

The demon looked up at her sorrowfully. "You really mean that? You're not just havin' me on?"

"I am the Element of Honesty, hon! I'm jes' moonlightin' as Pride tonight to help everypony out!"

The demon sighed. Then he squared what little shoulders he had.

"What the 'eck... could be worse, I 'spose!"

"That's the spirit, sugah! Whadda they call ya, anyhow?"

The demon gave her a look. "Uh, you really don't wanna know my name. You'd never be able to pronounce it for a start! So just... call me Fred!"

"Fred." Applejack raised an eyebrow doubtfully.

"Hi, Fred!" Pinkie shouted, holding up her plate. "We've got cake left over! You want some?"

Fred stared at her. "Tell me this is some kinda hazing thing?" he moaned. "The Ancient Ones downstairs put you up to this, right? Hey, have some fun with the new guy! Yank his tail, he loves it!"

"Let's... try to get back on track here!" Twilight said. "Now, having summoned you, we're permitted to bind you to our service. But there's no need for that! We're all friends here. We won't force you!"

Fred looked sour. Then he shrugged. "Righty-o. Let's do it by the book, then!"

Standing up, the demon took a steadying breath. Then he knelt deeply before her. "Summoned I come, to serve those as hath called upon me! What is thy bidding, O Mistress?" He glanced around. "Er... Mistresses!"

Twilight nodded, and adopted an appropriately lofty tone. "We require of you -- er, thee -- only that thou permit us to summon thee again at midnight during a royal convocation of the Lunar Court of Canterlot!"

The demon looked up, wide-eyed. "The Lunar Court? Seriously? Oi! That's like, the big time and no mistake! Hah! Maybe this wasn't a total loss after all!" For the first time that evening, he smiled happily.

"There ya go!" Pinkie Pie crowed. "There's my smile! Yay! I'm a happy party pony!"

"So..." Applejack asked cautiously. "ya'll are willin' to do it?"

"You kidding?" Fred looked at her. "I'm chuffed to me horns! You got a deal, ponies! In fact, I'm feelin' so good right now, I'd love me some of that cake!" His face fell. "Oh, right... I forgot!"

He put out a hoof, and gently tapped the barrier that held him within the circle. It crackled and sizzled, sparks arcing away from the impact point.

"Look, I'm hardly a threat, right? And I said I'd do it, which makes it binding on me! So would you mind? Just for one slice of cake? Hey, if you don't tell anyone, I won't!"

"He seems really nice..." Fluttershy said.

"Ai dunno," Applejack objected, still suspicious. But then she shrugged. "Oh, well! Worst comes to worst, we use the Elements on him, raight?"

The others nodded. Twilight glanced at the book, found the relevant line of the spell. And cancelled it.

<<< F O O M! >>>

It was like a full-throated volcano of blazing flame and raging winds had suddenly erupted from the center of the circle. And within, something gazed down at them, something with blazing, sickle-shaped eyes and vast, tree-like horns. It had far too many claws, far too many teeth, and far too many heads.

"HUH-HUH-HUH-HUH-HAH-HAH-HAH!" The demon's massive cackling thumped the air like a drum. "I never tires of that! The cute little demon act, can't hurt a fly! Gets 'em every time!"

Pinkie Pie stared in horror. Then she reflexively scarfed down her cake.

"Quick, ya'll!" Applejack called out. "The Elements!"

They all concentrated, but the tornado of force was draining even more dark energy from them. Its hungry corruption setted deep in their thoughts, making it difficult to focus on anything else.

"It's no good!" Rainbow Dash cried. "It's too strong! We can't flip the Elements back the other way again!"

Twilight stared in horror, as powerless as the rest. The swirling vortex fed on the shadow energy it drew from them, growing stronger by the second. The demon's leering gaze swept around the circle, as if trying to decide which of them to devour first.

Its many eyes fell on Derpy. Alone of all of them she simply sat where she was, staring upward cross-eyed and unperturbed in the face of certain doom.

Run, Derpy! Twilight thought madly. Get away! Warn everypony!

"HUH! Think we'll just start with you!"

The demon reared up, a vision of rage and vicious, merciless hatred. It leaned forward, ready to smash its heavy claws down onto the ground where Derpy was sitting.

It leaned just a hair too far.

There was a blinding eruption of white light. Overhead, the moon suddenly blazed. A searchlight beam of moonlight blasted into the circle, pinning the demon in place. And suddenly there was a solid wall of cold, swirling force enclosing the demon, cutting it off from the dark energy it was feeding on. Released, Twilight and the others stared in amazement as the wall closed in, forcing the demon back into the original circle. And then further, relentlessly shrinking in upon it from all sides. The massive creature stared upward into the beam of moonlight in shock and rising terror, as it rapidly shrank in size and stature, collapsing in upon itself.

Twilight thought fast. Before any of the others could speak she put every ounce of strength she had left into making her voice sound coolly confident. She put a hoof on Derpy's shoulder.

"Very nicely handled, Derpy! Just keep doing exactly what you're doing!"

"Okay, Twi!" Derpy sat stock still, staring up unconcernedly at the cowering demon.

Bless you, Derpy! As Luna had said, she accepted what was in front of her, and she didn't ask foolish and possibly fatal questions.

The demon, now clearly panicked, stared in amazement at Derpy. "Who... who in Tartarus are you?"

"Her name is Derpy Doo of Ponyville," Twilight answered, in as chilly a tone as she could manage. "And she's my apprentice!"

Recognizing her cue, Derpy rose up and again lofted her forehooves dramatically.

"OOGHA BOOGHA! FEAR IT!"

The demon had shrunk to the size of a large bear, and was crouched down pitiably, trying to escape the constricting cloud of shimmering light that enclosed it. It turned to stare in shock at Twilight.

"Then..." it squeaked, "... who are you?"

Twilight decided to risk the Voice:

WE ARE ACOLYTE TWILIGHT SPARKLE OF THE LUNAR COURT, PERSONAL PROTÉGÉ OF LUNA, PRINCESS OF THE NIGHT, THE MOON, AND THE STARS!

"Name dropper," Rainbow muttered.

Twilight rubbed her throat. She was getting better at the Voice, but it still hurt like blazes.

The effect on the demon was astonishing. It abandoned any attempt at struggling. It sank back into its original tiny colt form, and then it prostrated itself before her, wailing pitiably.

"Mistress! I didn't realize! Please don't send me back like this! Bind me if thou will! Punish me if it be thy will! But then banish me, please! If I'm forced back down there in disgrace, they'll never give me another chance up here! Never!"

It was weeping, sobbing, its face planted firmly in the ground, not looking up at her, not trying to wheedle her or win her over.

Yet Twilight had been fooled once. She wasn't going to make that mistake again.

"We have tried it the friendly way!" she said, trying to emulate Luna at her most coldly formal. "And that wasn't to thy liking. So here's the stick: we will bind thee to our service. Thou will come at our beckoning, and serve us as we require, without question or hesitation! And then -- only then -- will we consider banishing thou whence thou camest!"

She worried she might be laying it on too thick. But the demon only grovelled more abjectly.

"It shall be as thou commands, O Mistress of the Lunar Court!"

With a glance at the book to refresh her memory, Twilight curtly spoke the words that bound the demon to its task and then dismissed it to earthly limbo, to await re-summoning.

And then she relievedly unwound the rest of the spell. The beam of light from the moon snapped off, the wall of energy faded away. And while she was doing all this, Twilight had another look at the spell elements Luna had added. And rolled her eyes in relief.

"What... just... happened?" Applejack said slowly.

"Um, if we're not really safe and alive," Fluttershy whispered, "please don't anyone tell me!"

"How did you do that, Twi?" Rainbow demanded. "None of us could lift a hoof to stop it!"

Twilight smiled. "I couldn't either! I was just as trapped as you all were! That demon fooled us all... but luckily it didn't fool Luna! She buried an extra component in the spell, a fall-back line of defense in case the first one failed... or was shut down."

She patted Derpy's shoulder. "I told you shadow magic was rooted in deception. I just let the demon think it was Derpy who had trapped it, and that made it very much afraid of what I might do to it if I chose!"

"Very nice, dahling!" Rarity said, climing off her couch and teleporting it away again. "Remind me never to play poker against you! Now, if we're all done here, I really think we ought to be getting back! It's getting quite chilly!"

"And we're all out of cake!" Pinkie wailed. "And Fred didn't get any!"

"Don't you worry 'bout Fred, hon," Applejack said, smiling at Twilight. "I imagine he got pretty much what he deserved!"

"Thanks to you, Derpy," Twilight whispered to her. "I'm really glad you followed us up here tonight!"

"No problem, Twi! I had a blast!"

She got up, stowed her mailsack robe in the carryall and reshouldered it, and then trotted merrily away down the path leading back to town.

Twilight trotted over to nudge Spike. He sat up, yawned and stretched, and then looked around at all of them.

"Is it over already? Awwww! What'd I miss?"