• Published 2nd Apr 2019
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Knight of Equestria III: Pizzicato and Changelings - scifipony

Vinyl Scratch lands a gig for DJ Flopsy Mopsy: the public party for the royal Canterlot Wedding—in a stadium-sized venue! Handling this taxes her fledgling abilities, but, when she thinks she owns all the hooves, all Tartarus beaks loose.

  • ...

Define "Evil"

Author's Note:

Music is part of Flopsy Mopsy’s soul. The lyric in this chapter was inspired by the following song, which you might want to listen to.

Rivers by Thomas Jack

To learn more about the history of Starlight Glimmer’s scientific discoveries, read The Enforcer and Her Blackmailers. For more about the therapeutic aspects, read Lesson Learned.

The sound that had startled me into full fight mode had been the front entrance slammed open.

I heard, "Sister!"

Princess Luna's voice could not be mistaken. She'd matured rapidly in the years since I'd first met her, rejuvenated by harmony magic into a filly about my age. The dark blue mare looked sinewy, beautiful, and incredibly regal. Her voice was now the same as Princess Nightmare Moon's. I'd forever remember that voice. It had rewritten my soul.

Princess Celestia fluttered forward, saying also, "Sister!"

Luna asked, "Did I miss anything?"

Giant Celestia, unable to fly in a building like a regular pegasus, teleported downstairs, leaving a wisp of frost curling in the air. The twin bangs were followed by the crinkle and shush of mashing feathers as the two embraced. I heard sobs and low words I did not work to eavesdrop on as I stood upright.

Twilight Sparkle, Princess Celestia's runty paladin, exited the doctor's office and trotted downstairs. If Riverdale could evoke chivalric legends that allowed I could be a knight, I could certainly think of the pony as a paladin. Intuition insisted she'd saved Equestria again. Her brother followed.

Riverdale said, "In here."

I shook myself to get my hackles and fluffed feathers to settle. A deep breath helped blunt the adrenaline surge that left my stomach queasy and my tail swishing nervously. He ushered me through a waiting room, past a perspiring white unicorn nurse digging through a medicine cabinet with brown and green potion bottles. I guessed everypony was a bit queasy after what had just ended. I walked into an examination room in which the husky white illusionist lay unconscious on a big metal table, breathing as if only asleep. His tongue lowed out. A unicorn stallion with grey-speckled brown fur, a tan mane, and bottle-bottom glasses stood behind the door, which he closed behind us.

"Will he be okay?"

The doctor said, "Oh, he most certainly will be. As good as new. I've anesthetized him for his procedure. It's you I'm wondering about."

I stopped, the opposite rear and forehoof midair, looking sharply into his magnified dark green eyes.

Riverdale said quickly, "Doctor Flowing Waters, meet Dame Flopsy Mopsy."

"Dame, again, is it?"

The doctor held out a hoof. I tapped it, only realizing afterwords it was a test of my social reflexes. I said, "Yes, I'm evil."

"Oh, I doubt that," the elderly doctor said, chuckling. "But you were touched by Nightmare Moon."

"Princess Nightmare Moon," I corrected, willing my hackles not to rise and failing.

"Well, from what the lieutenant here told me, working to save so many ponies, you're the opposite of evil. Still, he said distressing things about how Cadance's and Shining Armor's love spell affected you, and how distressed you seemed in general about your—" He glanced at my cutie mark and briefly shook his head. "—your special talent. I'd like to check to see if your encounter with 'the princess' physically harmed you."

"Shouldn't you be working on Ghost Zapper? I..." I began blinking as tears threatened.

He said, "Helped him maintain a spell beyond his endurance when he really needed to do so?"

I hadn't spotted Aurora Australis, but I flinched when she clacked a hoof hard against the floor in anger. Magenta eyes speared me when I found her near the window, partially behind a cabinet of bandages and steely medical devices.

I said, "Sorry. I had to."

Steam rose from her nostrils as she breathed out explosively.

The air in the room seemed suddenly stuffy, especially with the mixture of Ghost Zapper's dried sweat, Riverdale's licorice, and the smell of cinnamon, cloves, and blood that lingered around me— not to discount the smell of rubbing alcohol. "Can we open the window? It's a tad warm in here."

Flowing Waters said, "I'd rather you didn't leave."

"Yeah, I might have left, but I could just walk out."

"The princess has taken an interest in you."

It had felt warm and stuffy before. Now my entire body cooled. Still, Princess Celestia was my liege. Did I have a choice?

No, the strong part inside decided. No, I had to stand for this, finally. Find the truth. Accept judgement.

I asked, "What are you going to do?"

"I backtracked some of the research once done by the would-have-been third protégé of Princess Celestia. The name she used was Starlight Glimmer, but we think she was born Aurora Midnight in Sire's Hallow. She discovered how to look into a cutie mark. Thanks to her, we now know that it's an organ of the body, only magical instead of biological."

"I got mine on the 1000th Summer Sun Celebration, after I met Princess Nightmare Moon."

"I see."

I dissembled. "I'd spent the night before DJing the official party in Ponyville. It was my first professional gig. The experience made me incredibly happy."

He blinked as he evaluated the iconography of the puppet hearts that dangled from a cloud on my cutie mark.

I waited for him to finish and, on impulse, added, "And I blocked the entrance to Town Hall and shouted, 'Stop!', when Mayor Mare stupidly caused everypony inside to panic. Everypony outside was on edge. They'd seen Twilight Sparkle and the five that would become the bearers of Elements of Harmony fight Princess Nightmare Moon, and the alicorn had just fled. It was very tense."

"You stopped a stampede?" Flowing Waters asked.

I could not find my voice. I choked up. Instead, I nodded.

"That was you?" a voice behind me asked.

I turned and looked at the lime-green mare. "You were there?"

"Outside. I had heard of Zapper's talent and had figured the celebration was the perfect excuse to scout him out." She gasped. "So, not your first time saving —" she stated, blinking, tilting her head, reevaluating everything. "There was this incredibly calm filly flying around—even after a royal guard was shot out of a window. I remember him smoldering on the lawn, but it was hard not to stare at you, even after that dreadful black alicorn flew over you and over us—" she shuddered "—and you just looked at her like she was nothing. Sweet Celestia! What are you?"

Tears streamed down my cheeks to drip from my jaw.

Riverdale murmured, "In the building and then outside. A stampede would have—"

"—maimed or killed I don't know how many," I completed, sniffling and wiping my eyes with my wings. "Please. I'd rather not have ponies know about all this. This is not who I am."

The doctor shook his head at my stupidity.

"What do you want me to do?" I asked.

'Watch quietly," he said and pulled up a rolling stool to the table.

He touched his horn to the base of Ghost Zapper's horn, around which the illusionist's magic had burnt a five point star. He closed his eyes as his forest-green aura bloomed and expanded into his patient's head like the mists of a curling fog bank rolling gently along, pulsing languidly, and disappearing around the edge of a hill. This went on long enough that I sat, watching the light show. I began to think that unicorn magic may have inspired the chill sounds of some ambient songs. Certainly those that included a dulcimer or a harp. Amid the sparkles, I sensed the barely perceptible tinkle like a percussionist gently sliding a brush back and forth on the little gold keys suspended above most drum sets. Wind chimes.

Flowing waters murmured, his voice sounding distant, "The damage is all superficial. Just a few burnt neurons and a scorch in the lower hyperbaric process of the anterior horn chamber. It's the inflammation that made him pass out."

I'd never heard of a doctor that healed by going inside to fix things, except for maybe knitting together bones. Of course, that might explain why he was the royal physician.

Ghost Zapper began to complain with slurred sleep-walker words. He seemed to be fighting the intrusion, but though his drugged state lessened, he couldn't do more than jerk or tremble. The show lasted another ten minutes, then stopped.

The doctor got off the stool, stretched until multiple bones popped and he smiled. "He'll be good as new, though I suspect he'll have a whopper of a headache." Flowing Waters grinned at me, pointed his horn at my midsection, and said, "Your turn."

I froze.

If I could fight changelings, I could stand for this.

I didn't flinch as he walked around me, his aura disappearing into my flesh as he went, examining my chest, my neck, and finally my face. All I felt was a slight effervescent tingle, except now as he examined my head the wind chimes sound grew loud. His horn touched my lip and the flesh ticked and seemed to boil for about a minute after which the puffy overstretched feeling subsided. The cut had healed. As he passed by my left side, he said, "Three ribs are sprained. I recommend ice." As he continued rearward, he added, "Please don't interpret this as rude. I'm going to examine your cutie mark; strange emotions may bubble up. Please relate what you feel."

I followed his actions, keeping my eyes on him. The soft touch on my flank wanted to ring alarm bells, but only his aura actually made contact. The whirring magic threatened to tickle, but I clamped my muscles to stifle that, though my heart beat faster and faster. I felt a gentle tug and a wave of warmth flooded through me. I swished my tail involuntarily, barely missing the doctor's face.

His magic tugged again, and this time it felt like my cutie mark actually jerked slightly higher, but that could have been a nervous tick on my flank. The dizzy feeling of everything warping around me came on like when I had tried on somepony's thick glasses. On its hooves came a sense of all that was good in life fading away. With an elastic snap, the cold sensation left, leaving a jumbled sense of normalcy that felt upside down as I tried to figure out—

My heart leapt into my throat and I gasped. I wobbled, feeling like I might fall over as my sense of a flight horizon tilted. I stopped seeing properly. Everything went bright misty blue.

Music, like reflected light, took definitive shape. Where the doctor had stood, I saw a glowing harpsichord concerto; black notes spun out and flooded into my flank.

Looking at Riverdale, I saw red marching beat of drums and crackling synthesizers.

Beside me, Ghost Zapper manifested an even stronger vibe, a pulse of silvery guitar clouds plucked with the beat of the stomping hooves of a crowd of dancers. His breathing was a song that I knew, but couldn't find all the words even as they sloshed inside me as a flood of music. Overwhelmed, I sang:

"Take my broken lonely heart / find it hope and find it love / take it apart and make it new a-gain..."

I stopped with a loud whinny. Memories struck me broadside, musically pummeling my consciousness, transforming what I had seen today into a cacophony that blared into my ears.

I was flying, rising to join the flight of black insect ponies. Green-faceted eyes turned to regard me. Suddenly weighty, ominously liturgical music—that rumbled with timpani colored with dark horns and double bass—shattered into folk dance and merry polkas.

I stumbled, blinked, and reached out for the table that I knew had to be on my right, the one upon which Ghost Zapper lay. I felt the cool metal but saw red waves emanating from a struck bell.

More noise rumbled up. The hallucination dug back to my earliest impressions. To how all my craziness had started...

To the dark midnight blue lake upon which shined Princess Nightmare Moon.

To her standing over me in the predawn, after her ambush of her sister...

To a wave of emotion washed into a purple and black clashing-of-cymbals that punctuated a rolling ethereal funeral dirge, a sound that mourned what had once been...

With a furious appetite to ensure it never existed again.




Deep within the dark princess rose sounds very much like light waltzes and dances muffled by a wall into the next room. It was a very different music than her ambient orchestra. Maybe it was not from behind a wall, but from behind a closed door. Suppressed, the violins and recorders had been right well strangled out of existence.

I reached for the door I sensed, every black, angry sound from before now faded. I stopped, hoof on the door lever that rang like a C# on a xylophone, ears swiveling every which way.

In the mix. In the intermezzo that intervened...

...all burnt and crying...

...hid Princess Luna—

Bang, like that, I was back. I found myself hyperventilating, a hoof up on the table where Ghost Zapper lay, stabilizing me. Flowing Waters had got out of my way and now watched me from near the medical cabinet.

"You tensed up and you sang. Do you want to relate what you felt?"

I felt my ears pivot toward the closed door, toward the direction of the waiting room. I asked, "Did you see anything wrong when you, um, looked?"

"Other than your intense reaction, I saw nothing worrisome."

"Everything became music—" I started, but turned to stare at the door when somepony knocked.

The nurse came in carrying a white cylinder with a puffy exterior that made the canister look like it wore a parka. It floated in yellow magic along with a scroll tied with a red ribbon and a wax seal. She left it beside the doctor and exited into the hall, leaving the door open. He broke the wax to read the letter. He began nodding.

He said to me, "Hopefully, you'll be more verbal about this."

The top of the cylinder made the same vacuum pop a thermos made as he took it off. Inside, I saw a black quartz crystal.

The rest happened in instants.