• Published 22nd Aug 2012
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Pony POV Series Season Five: Mind Games - Alex Warlorn



Discord, beaten.World, saved.But emotionally damaged Diamond Tiara hears Discord's voice and listen

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Episode: 57: "Mind Games Part 2"

My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic
Pony POV Series Mind Games Part 2
By Alex Warlorn

You honestly find it a chore to get through these interviews with me don't you? Just ask the most minimalist questions and move on.

You really think I'm blind? Your body language, your eyes, you find me so categorically unlikable that you can't look at me for more than a little bit before you leave in a silent rage.

I can tell you're trying to write me off as sympathetic and I thank you for that. But for you I'm such an unlikable pony that you can't feel sympathy for and actually enjoy seeing me suffer. You, the pegasus mare with the broken nose, I heard you snicker every time I told you how the loss of my wife and child was killing me. You think I'm not watching you while we do these interviews?

I'm not even a beast like the tyrant or chaos monster. The first at least makes good tabloid material yes? And the second is so utterly evil that ponies are fascinated by it, they start to love to hate him. It's the same with every monster and tyrant throughout history. Ponies become enthralled by how deep their horridness goes trying to see how such creatures could exist from their comfort zone.

But I'm not even useful as raw material for Gabby Gums am I? I'm just so deplorable that I elicit disgust in me. No, you heard me correctly. What? I'm an honest business pony, did you expect me to lie about myself? Unlike you I don't have the option of walking out of the room and leaving me here.

After the dream day from Miss Fluttershy, I couldn't bear to look in the mirror. I had betrayed my wife. She was still somewhere in there after all, and I just hid away from her. I watched my princess disappear into the maze and I didn't even brave it to rescue her.

I'm just rotten. No grand awe inspiring scheme to turn the nar-, the unicorns and pegasi into Earth Ponies using some illegal forgotten magic that I offered up my child's blood for. No selling my soul to Dragon Queen Tiamat for power while laughing maniacally about it. I'm not even some corrupt business stallion with some nefarious scheme to scare ponies out of Ponyville so I can buy the land dirt cheap to build some expensive business the world doesn't need (I may be willing to wipe-out the competition, but I'm no cheater). No hidden white knight like Silver Tongue (bless his soul). I don't have the excuse of being traumatized like my wife did that day. I'm just rotten.

Yes, thank you little Earth filly. I have 'petted the pony' with my daughter and the Apples. But those all came down to self-interest didn't they?

I am the ultimate example of wanting things to stay the same, pony hell, I want things to go backwards so badly for my own, self-centered reasons. I suppose that makes me worse than how the tabloids have described Miss Fluttershy, she had an ancient evil enslaving her when she tried to reverse the flow of time and freeze it into her own personal perfect world. I have no excuse.

There is literally NOTHING about me that engenders even the slightest emotion other than disgust from you, and me. 'There is literally nothing in him that is likable,' you don't need to say it, your wings betray you and scream it with each twitch of your feathers. Reading a pegasus' wings was one of the tricks I've picked up in the business world.

Most of what I've talked about in our previous interviews referred to the past, how things used to be, and how much better something was than it is now, how things were. And what little I didn't speak that wasn't related to the past was my distaste for upsetting things as they are. That makes me a coward doesn't it? What else do you call a pony who doesn't want to face the day and just goes through it like an automaton? A pony who lives in the happy past because he's too afraid of the present without the courage to walk toward the future.

Nothing I do speaks highly of anything anypony else does, it's all about MY achievements and how things affect me.

I haven't wanted anything for anypony else, I've just wanted everything for myself. I am the ultimate Narcissist. Prince Blueblood has spent his entire life pampered like a pet, a bird in a gilded cage, what excuse do I have? It's always been about my wants and needs, never what anypony else wants.

The precious few interviews you've actually published show you've run into several other ponies with that trait, but I lack qualities that would earn sympathy or redemption.

I'm not worth your time, so why don't you just leave me to wallow in my own self-loathing? I believe your notes say, 'He deserves to fester alone and gray in a gray world as putrid as he is,' so would you kindly leave me in it. I'm just rotten, all the way through to my core.

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Bullpucky.)

What?

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): You poor black and white little pony. Now that you've gotten a taste of what it was like to be other pony-tribes with your wife for one day, you question the black of the other tribes, and so question your white. And instead of seeing shades of gray or the Rorschach that makes up all our souls, you declare yourself to be the black now that you see you are not white. Which is so much simpler, and easier.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Heh! Learning having wings doesn't make you evil or inferior must be a shocker eh?)

I've never considered Earth Ponies 'superior' to anypony! What my family has always wanted is to be treated equally! The narwhals in Canterlot have treated every member of my family like country bumpkins no matter how much we dress like them! Speak like them! Or act like them! What else could it be but the feathers and head pokers?!

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): But mister. There are lots of Earth Ponies who make up the biggies in Canterlot too! Don't you know that?)

I... I knew but... I always figured they acted better, or were just trying to fit in with the rest.

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): News flash boyo! They're all 'trying to fit in with the rest!' When Rarity went to Canterlot and made that wonderful dress, she, a unicorn mind you, made a big splash by not pretending she didn't know her 'country bumpkin' friends! Most of those snobs don't care what species you are! They care that your well-off family's beginnings haven't been lost to time yet like theirs! And more importantly, they've made the right friends to be big names there. Something you, and your father were too busy playing the 'tragic oppressed minority' to even try! Believe it or not, there are actually some bigwigs in Canterlot who would gladly be your friend and shut up most of those snobs in a heartbeat if you weren't stuck thinking they hate your guts! And I know the unicorn with the biggest push in Canterlot would've! It's not just your family's past you're stuck in, you can add three thousand years ago to the list! Unicorns and pegasi stopped treating Earth ponies like serfs eons ago!)

You are NOT going to tell me a doorknob that I need to use my mouth to turn and a toothbrush that I need to sandwich between my hooves doesn't favor unicorns!

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Yes. There are inconsiderate unicorn architects and carpenters who are so egocentric they don't bother to think that those without telekinesis have to end up 'tasting the doorknob.' That's carelessness and ignorance, not spite. The unicorns you're talking about are ghosts who don't know they're dead, not kings of society. And toothbrushes came into use in the forgotten Second Age, by Earth ponies, when in tribute to humans either through magic or genetics learned to grasp with their hooves. That talent or trait was lost when the world was killed.)

Huh-mons!? They're fiction! A fantasy!

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Only on this world. Trust the words of this old nag. I know it's very hard for you to accept, but I actually do know more about this than you do. It's so easy isn't it? To just declare everything black and white? When you're the white there's no need to question yourself. When you're the black, there's no point in trying to improve yourself. But that is merely the easy answer, and the easiest answer is rarely the best one. The world isn't meant to be black and white!)

My heart twists and turns. What's the point of trying to find out what's right, when you always turn out to be wrong?

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): The point is learning when you're proven wrong so you can BECOME right.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): By the way Mr. Woe-Is-Me, did you know that pony you hired to teach your daughter Equestria's 'real' history included in his lessons that mares are almost always evil nags?)

WHAT?! I never, I would never-I could never-that's-that's-!

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): That is the reality of conspiracy theorists my poor little pony. They rarely perfectly align with each other. Did you not think to look in on the lessons even once? Or did you assume that as an Earth Pony, he was automatically good?)

It was like all my insides emptied out at once. Diamond Tiara... forgive me. My baby girl I'm sorry, I'm so sorry.

(Interviewer's Personal Notes To Self (Unicorn): There has never been, or will be, anything quite as cruel as facing the mirror. Or as important.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Ummm. Maybe we should start again please?)

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): We made a promise to our friends never to do that.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Oh no no no! I don't mean like that! I mean we start the interview over! Ahem! Mr. Onyx Tiara. When did you start believing all those nasty things your father and grandmother said about Unicorns and Pegasi?)

When did I start believing everything my father and grandmother said? I didn't care at first. One way or the other. I didn't even get a chance to play with pegasi or unicorns as a foal. And all the business I did was with the Apples or Silvers, my hired hooves did most of the interaction with our customers. Everything my father and grandmother told me was just white noise. Then my little princess was born. And I was suddenly scared, I didn't know if it was true or not, but I couldn't risk that it wasn't, I had to, for her world. I was scared she'd wake one day without us there to protect her, and she'll have lost everything she had earned because of the whims of somepony with more power than her.

When did I then begin to actually loathe the other tribes? I can't remember anymore. It just happened. I don't think I ever decided to.

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth pony): That's really sad. You hate them and you can't even remember? Why does hate always end up having to do that? Make ponies forget?)

I suppose that's true, I can't even remember when my desire to protect my princess became utter hatred... Speaking of hatred, when I think about it, the more successful you get, the more others hate you for it. They've worked just as hard as you, maybe harder, so why aren't they as rich or richer than you? You have more than they do: therefore you must be a bad pony. You must be a bad pony who swindles your employees out of their pay and who overcharges for everything you sell. It doesn't matter how nice you try to be. It doesn't matter if you do acts of philanthropy or not. They've already made their decision in their minds what kind of pony you are, and anything you do they'll use any amount of backwards logic they need to justify their emotional state that they're disgusted by you.

They never stop to think that you might just be doing more successful work than they are or simply have a talent for it. That thought never crosses their minds.

The absolute worst part is, when they've already decided that you're a 'bad pony' not only do they see everything you do as proof you're a bad pony, they'll also believe any lie they're told about you because if you're a bad pony, you must be a completely awful pony. After all, they're disgusted by you, therefore, if you're even the tiniest bit sympathetic, those feelings might be wrong, and that of course is impossible. So no matter how big or ugly the lie, they'll believe it, because it helps justify their disgust towards you and thus can't be wrong.

What do you mean it's the same with the mares, tyrants, feathers dusters and narwhals-?! It's black and white thinking just like mine?!

...
...
...
...

And if I was king of the world, I'd be demonized for so much as breathing wrong too.

In modern times. A stallion who cares only about his family is seen as a throw back to when mares dominated all walks of life. But for me, even as I worked my family's business empire, I never wanted it to stop being about them. I suppose that makes me a throw back to stallion equality doesn't it? I didn't mind being hers. I didn't want to be anything but hers. Then she was gone. And the chaos monster teased me with a reminder of her. And she... I missed a chance to be with her.

Then I was reminded how truly wonderful it was to be with her, not just her image and voice, not just her manner and nuances, but her a creative and adventurous mare. We always meant to take a trip overseas, but we could never find the time. We were even going to go dragon watching but, never had the time. And one morning, there was suddenly no time left at all.

And yes, I was woken up to my betrayal. And the mares were surprised when I stopped bringing them to bed, and when I stopped trying to charm them, and when I rejected their advances. I am still a married stallion after all.

I suppose it's like you said...when I realized I wasn't as good as I believed I was, I let myself forget there was any good in me at all...

I think I need a lot of time to think. Wait, when did all the colors come back? Or maybe it was just me this whole time.

+++

I sat waist deep in water surrounded by a mountain of suds on all sides. The mare (not the one who had been with Fancy Pants) who washed me had to use the scrub brush to get the dirt and grime off me. She didn't seem to think it possible for dirt to be so deeply imbedded in somepony's fur. I didn't think it was possible.

"Hey! Watch it!" I said when I got soap in my eyes.

"Sorry." The housekeeper said politely. And that was it. No cowardly submissiveness, no looking in fear of me, but... she was still looking at me like I was a person.

Dad never treated the staff like they were furniture, nor did he ever really confide in them but he was always polite to them. Before... before she got sick, mom was maybe a little bit too friendly with the staff. I was the one who treated the servants like they were robots. After all, they were paid by my parents, that put them lower on the pecking order than me, so why shouldn't I? They weren't me so why should I care?

Just like those fancy ponies looked at me.

I stopped complaining.

I wondered what everypony else was doing.

Dad's still sleeping with those intruders. Mom's waiting patiently for me to visit her again. Those blanks, I bet they've blown up the town by now trying to get their cutie marks. Humph! I bet they held a 'good riddance' party when I left if... if they even noticed I was gone.

Silver Spoon... I don't know what she'd be doing right now. When we were together it was always about what I wanted to do and she was just... always there to support me. And I never even said thank you once.

Miss Rarity is... Miss Rarity is... she hates me now. What else would she?

'You don't have anypony to support you now dear, except me, my little pony. I guess that makes us family doesn't it? If father is really too much, then uncle can do instead.'

I shook a little.

"Are you cold?" The mare asked.

"It's nothing," I lied.

I think, 'Ponies will believe what they fear is real, or what they want to be real. And you said the right motivational lie will make somepony able to do almost anything. So how can I trust you?'

'You can't. There's no way you can possibly trust me. You're going along for the only reason anyone should: You don't have a choice. Or do you? And the fact I'm being honest about the fact that you can't trust me just goes to show that there's no loyalty between us to break. You want your mother cured, ugh, I mean sane. I want you to do something for me. Nothing else to it.

'We're both in this for our own selfish interests. We're not doing this out of kindness, we're not trying to make each other smile, and we certainly aren't best friends, we're simply doing this because it makes us both better off after. Sure, you can't be sure I'm not deceiving you, but I can't quite be sure it isn't the other way around, can I?

'Your family are business ponies. You know how such things work. And I'm being much more honest with you and more faithful than your father has ever been aren't I? Your mother doesn't deserve a rotten stallion like him. Does she? Or does she deserve to be with a stallion who obviously doesn't love her at all? Who'd abandon her? Betray her? Who'd replace her with a dozen fakes when he could have had the real deal? I'd say from pony standards such a stallion doesn't even deserve to be. '

I am really not used to crying, whenever I felt like it before, I just made someone else cry for me.

"Did you get soap in your eyes again Miss Diamonds?"

"N-no. It's okay."

The mare sighed as she continued to scrub. "It's not right for a filly to be alone."

'And whose fault is that my dear? Who made you all alone? Who was such a snot she could barely hold onto one friend? Oh wait, you're not alone, you have me! And I have you. So we still have each other. It works out in the end. Let uncle/papa take care of you.'

I didn't realize how dirty I was until I left a stain in the tub. I'd have noticed the water changing color, but there were way too many bubbles. The mare was surprised I was a pink. I'd almost forgotten I was pink!

'If you're going to get through Canterlot Castle, my dear. I think we best go over a few more lessons. I don't know which ones will be helpful, but that's the fun part isn't it? First, a powerful hidden secret that has eluded you your entire life. Your civilization has hardwired ponies to respond affirmatively to social niceties.'

Huh?

The voice sighed. 'Many ponies will get with the program if you simply ask nicely enough. Because it's how most ponies have been taught to respond, as long you don't phrase it as an order or command, they'll go along since their illusion of free will isn't being broken. Just make sure they think it was their choice. Also, if you slip a pony some salt-'

'-they get tipsy. They get more malleable. Some you can just tell there is salt in something and they'll act like idiots on their own. And the ones who don't know they're having salt aren't on guard and are easy to play. Oh and as a bonus, it's SO much fun to watch. Never try to out drink an Earth Pony.' I couldn't keep the pride out of my mind's voice, or my smirk.

'Erm. Yes. For a moment I forgot your raising environment.'

'So you're not perfect.'

'Moi? Not perfect? Perish the thought.'

The mare dried me off, I took my Tiara with me. The mare tried to take it. I'd sooner eat another timber wolf.

"Miss, with you being clean, it's not proper for it not to be clean too. Please?"

I reluctantly hand it over.

'You also need to learn my dear when these tricks are being used against you. For instance, as a bully I'm sure you know this one. But the best way to make a victim hurt more is to ask them why they made you hurt them. Make them feel responsible for their pain! Act like you're the one hurt when you do it! Ponies LOVE to feel in control of their own fate, but at the same time are terrified of choices. This little question plays on both. And any thoughts of retribution evaporate in their heads. Make them think you're their friend and thus wouldn't hurt them unless they'd done something wrong. You won't need strings.'

I was led into a dressing room with a walk-in closet. I found a small series of dresses already laid out for me. I wondered what this couple was even doing with these dresses. Did they have a filly of their own? With a body that frail, the mare didn't look capable of carrying a foal. I passed over the two that looked dated and focused on the three that were more appealing. The mare left me to make my choice and to clean my tiara.

'Another important detail my dear. If you accidentally trip someone, and they dislike you, they'll assume you did so on purpose. But if they're friendly or don't know you, and you 'accidentally' trip them, and you apologize nicely, they'll assume it was a accident. Use assumptions to your advantage my little pony!'

I shuddered almost at that last one.

"Are you sure you're not sick Diamonds?" The mare asked in a friendly tone.

"Just a bit chilly."

"Well, best you get decent then."

Decent? Ponies don't normally wear clothes.

'That's in Ponyville.'

Oh.

'That was an assumption right there. That all ponies act like they do in Ponyville. And above all remember, ponies judge the messenger! Not the message! A pony with enough charisma could convince a herd to jump over a cliff! Being a little girl, in a fresh environment like this, ponies will assume because you're a filly that you can't be lying out of hoof. And if someone asks if you're acting strangely, you can just say it's for a school project! I'd suggest carrying a clipboard but that would make you look more adorable than official. Ponies love it, but they aren't likely to reactively obey you.'

I eventually settled on a pink and violet dress that complimented my natural colors. It had a nice purple ribbon that went all the way around the collar. And had three pieces of blue diamond shaped costume jewelry along the flanks that reminded me of... The skirt had a good deal of ruffles and hid my cutie mark. It actually looked better than the matching pair I had worn to my Cute-Ceañera with... Why was everything reminding me of things I didn't want to think about-?!

'Pink elephants my dear. The more you try NOT to think of something, the more you will think about it. A simple trick of the brain that houses your soul. There are certain things I sincerely wish I could forget. Unfortunately, you can't just sell memories on ebray, I've tried.'

I looked at myself in the mirror. I had always looked pretty. No pony dared deny that. But it felt strangely relieving to see my pretty face in the mirror looking back at me than some ugly urchin who had no business uglying up a mirror.

I look beautiful again. Looking right out of the fairytale I belonged in. Just like my last birthday. My birthday. I had missed my birthday. I was a year older, and I had missed the day that was always my day. No cake. No presents. No party. No weird feeling from the random visit by Pinkie Pie. It was gone.

I always invited everypony in my class. I didn't care they were there for the party and not me. Me and Sil-Silver Spoon, we were princesses and we had our royal subjects. That's what mattered, right?

Something else floated to the surface: I wasn't there to visit mom on my birthday like I promised.

'Mom I promise, my birthday will be when I make you well again.'

"Here's your tiara Diamonds." The mare said coming back in.

I startled. She hadn't stolen it? It would have been worth more bits than she made in two months!

She gently placed it on top of my head and I looked back. Of course I looked pretty in it, wearing jewelry was all was I good for. I looked it over closely to make sure it was my real one and not a fake. It was real...she really hadn't stolen it?

"There! Now you look civil if I dare say so myself! It wasn't proper for a poor filly to go around half-naked through Canterlot."

I merely nodded.

"Uh, Miss?"

"Yes dear?"

"What's your name?"

The mare curtsied. "Straight Lace dear."

"T-thank you miss, Miss Straight Lace."

'Now listen closely my dear.' The voice said almost in a whispering tone. 'This is the most important lesson I can give you. And it's also the reason that soldiers who guard gates are technically given rank above a general. If you make yourself look, act, and sound official enough the average pony will do whatever you tell them. But far more importantly, if you LOOK LIKE you belong where you are then almost no pony is going to question what you're doing. They're too polite to! And they don't want to risk humiliating themselves if they're wrong. It also works if you pretend to know someone important who 'ordered' you to be there, and if they question it, pretend you're too important to wait and add they may get in trouble if they do. Most ponies will crumble before you can trot a few paces.'

I nodded as Straight Lace led me from the dressing room down the hallway. Everything was so clean. And the portraits on the walls showed Fancy Pants at different places around the world. There wasn't any of the garish modern art I normally saw in elitist ponies' houses. Everything was painted white with a soft wooden floor that likely had to be polished daily to keep the dents out of it. It still felt a lot better on my hooves than Canterlot's streets.

"I'm sorry for you not being able to be shoed miss, but you know that sort of thing should be left to the professionals."

I almost tripped at those words. I was reminded of when mom had tried to fix some of the plumbing in the kitchen rather than call a plumber. Dad politely called one to 'help her through it' before we ended up with an indoor swimming pool. And once when I was over at Silver Spoon's, when their shower exploded, Silver Platter used her umbrella as a shield for her face and yelled at the servants "DO SOMETHING!" as if they'd magically earn plumbing cutie marks by her shouting.

Elitist ponies tended to waste money where they could, and were uptight with bits where they shouldn't, it was the way things worked. But these servants actually left professional work to the professionals-?! It was unheard of.

'So the common sense, becomes nonsense! And the nonsense common sense! It's wonderful! You know I'm starting to like this city! I've given you every real weapon in my arsenal dear. Now let's see if you can put them to good use and enter the Alicorn's den. Unless you're scared of course.'

'I'm not scared!' I thought at the voice. 'But how can I get into Canterlot Castle?'

'Remember what I said about looking like you belong there? Let me tell you a story my dear. Once upon a time, a powerful magician unicorn created a collection of powerful defensive spells around his library, confident that his preparation made it impervious to any form of magical assault. The magician then challenged a friend of his to test these defenses. The friend took up the challenge: he dressed up as a janitor, bluffed his way past the guards, and walked out with the most important books from the library.'

I giggled at that one.

"Nice to see you in good spirits Diamonds," Straight Lace said with a smile.

I nodded without thinking, it felt good to laugh.

+++++

"So how have you been Silver Axe, er, Silver Tongue? It's been too long since we chatted, hasn't it?"

"Richy you don't talk to me in months and suddenly you call me over for a chit-chat just stallion to stallion over cider? You've got to admit that is rather strange, er, surprising."

"... I'll admit after Diamond vanished and nopony was able to find her, I, I shut myself in. No trace of her. Anywhere. She had just fell through a crack and disappeared... I just couldn't face the world anymore... "

"And all you had left was the random mare of the week who happened to bare a passing resemblance to your wife?... Richy, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that!"

"It's okay Silver. I deserve it."

I could tell he wanted to say 'yes you did' but didn't want to say it out loud.

The silence is like a bad taste in the air. We used to love to talk. We chatted so much some foals as colts asked if we were fillies. Heh. we were called 'those two colts' by just about everypony.

As colts he was too skinny and I was too pudgy for athletics. For me that changed when Golden Skates taught me to care about myself. I know my fellow stallions would hate me for saying this, but I'd rather not think of how my life would have been if I had never met her. I don't know if this life would have been worth living without her. The way I'd been heading, I may not have lived this long if she hadn't taught me to take better care of my body.

"I've stopped seeing them," I said finally after the long uncomfortable silence.

"Hm?" Silver Tongue looked at me.

"Those ponies who can't hold a candle to the most beautiful mare in the world? I've stopped seeing them. Any of them. All of them." The worst part still was, when she found me, surrounded by replicas of her, on the day of the chaos monster, she didn't hesitate to ask to join in. She didn't even ask me to dismiss the others, she just wanted to be with me and I dismissed her. "I'm done with them."

Silver Tongue pushed up on his glasses. Sweeping that ghostly white mane out of his eyes.
"Heh. So you've finally dragged yourself out of the muck eh?"

"I won't be that until I'm hugging Diamond again. I only just realized I was drowning in a sea of Smooze."

"I still say you've gotten a hoof out at least." Silver downed the rest of his cup of cider in one gulp. "You know it's funny, my wife was, is, the most cultured and intelligent mare I know. It was only after we married did I learn she thought I had married her for her looks. And after she gave birth to Spoon she thought I'd leave her for her looks. She was worried after we had Little Spoon that I'd try to find a nicer younger trophy wife."

"You've told me before."

"Yes I have. And no matter how many times I tell her that I love her for her grace and her mind there's still that tiny black bug in the back of her brain whispering to her that I'm lying and just being polite and that sooner or later I'll leave her when a prettier mare catches my eye. And I always wondered, how can she not know that I love her? Didn't I show it enough?

"Then the chaos monster happened. And I realized what was worse. Silver Spoon had no idea we loved her! It was always just an accepted fact to me. The most I had spoken to her, the longest I had spent with her, was when I was trying to kill her and stuff her when that chimera-thing got its claws in me. Never getting in trouble, best friends with my best friend's daughter, a beautiful cutie mark, intelligent, and polite, I never had a need to talk to her, she did perfectly well on her own.

"Silver Platter. Silver Spoon. I had never bothered to tell them that I loved them. I thought it was obvious. I thought it went without saying. I was dead wrong. The only time she had proof I felt anything for her was... was when I was that thing's puppet and made her a bleeding, battered mess on the living room floor. It was only by some miracle that one of my staff had training as a nurse that my poor baby didn't bleed to death before the doctors got to her! And suddenly not only was my wife scared I'd leave her, -something that monster made even worse- my own daughter was terrified of me! As for my best friend, he holds a dinner party to try and restore a sense of sanity, and he throws a guest out a second-story window when a guest casually chats how my best friend's wife was a creation of the chaos monster."

"I am not sorry for that."

"And I don't blame you, what they said was worse than Gabby Gums. The point is after that I've barely seen you. I know you were still seeing the Apples and that you were still going out. But you didn't visit once or send one invite, I guess it's my fault too for not coming right to see you, but I had my own problems to worry about. My wife's fear of old age hitting pathological levels, and my daughter thinking I was just waiting for the right chance to kill her.

"And I could barely even be in the same room as my own namesake. Just my own name made me sick to my stomach. And honestly, I was scared of myself." Silver's lip quivered. "It was my own foal Richy! I should have been able to stop myself! I should have been able to resist it. But I was it! I wanted to murder my own baby! I did it with a smile! She was so scared! Me? I was happy. 'A real father would have been able to fight back!' I thought. 'What kind of monster am I?' I asked.

"... The psychologists were able to help Silver Platter realize she wasn't elderly and that she was still beautiful with some self confidence lessons ... And they helped me realize that I wasn't a danger to anypony, and I wasn't it. A monster might feel regret, but it wouldn't act on it. And the real me would never hurt Silver Spoon or mindlessly ignore Silver Platter." I was happy to see him calm down.

"But Silver Spoon wouldn't even listen to the doctors we had group therapy with. And she ignored the school councilor. I didn't change my name for myself Richy. I changed it for her. THEN, I found your child had hurt my baby girl's feelings!"

I was surprised at myself when I didn't startle at his change in tone. "I remember when you came over. I had just found out that my little princess was acting at school like the elitist monsters I had spent my entire life loathing.

"Right after Gabby Gums ended that mail Pegasus with the strange eyes came and wanted to chew out Diamond for bullying her daughter. I let her.

"Turned out she had overreacted because Diamond's reputation as a bully preceded her, so she assumed Diamond had been the one bullying her filly from the beginning after a one-sided scuffle. Turned out the real little thugs don't go to her school. She sent an apology letter with a muffin, too late for Diamond to ever see it.

"But Silver, was Diamond so bad that she had that kind of reputation even among the other parents? Was I the only pony in Ponyville that was just finding out what my own daughter was like at school?"

"You might have known before that if you had gone to her Cute-Ceañera."

"Golden Tiara's breakdown had hit critical by that point. And Diamond wanted her party at Sugar Cube Corner. No if's, and's, or buts."

"And you just let her have it."

"It was her day. She had a right to want it. I thought she'd want to be the star of the show."

"Without the two most important members of the audience there?"

"I was worried what Golden Tiara might do in a place that . . chaotic, at a party she couldn't have complete control over. Do you have any idea how much it hurt that I wasn't there with her? And looking back, I'm fairly certain it hurt Golden Tiara worse. We actually threw a family party for her after she had the one with her friends, but Diamond was sullen through the whole thing."

"And if you had been there, you might have seen the little monster your daughter was-"

"DIAMOND IS NOT A MONSTER!"

"... Okay, that was out of line. I apologize Richy... but I never got an apology from you about what your child did to Silver Spoon."

"I wasn't the pony who needed to apologize. And... I was distracted."

"You mean seeing mares who bore a passing resemblance to your wife, mounting them, and then them leaving when you found out they weren't perfect copies."

"Yes."

"Tell me. Were you worried I'd call you out on it? That I'd tell you to stop? That I'd say that there was no way a friend of mine could do this to his wife?"

"... I honestly don't know."

"Richy, to be honest, let me share something with you. There was a wall of fogged glass between Spoon and me. Platter kept dotting on her, telling her how to be a lady, how to be pretty, even telling her not to judge me for what I did. I think she barely heard her. I melted down our ancestral spoon-axe into silver spoons as gifts for her and she still looked at me like a deer in the torch lights."

"Then she had to go and make friends with three random fillies at school. Silver Platter figured she was just trying to create a replacement for Diamond Tiara. And to be frank, I was worried about the same. But you know what? She spent the entire Gaia Festival with them, and she honestly seemed to be in better spirits when we brought her home. One of them even had the common sense to shut-up her friends before they could get on Platter's bad side.

"Then, just a couple days later, she called to me when she came home! It was evening, and sadly, I was getting used to her not being at home, but Richy, she actually called out to me when she got home! Normally, she looked at me uneasily when I went to her at the front door! But she now looked... almost ashamed, and she hugged me! I didn't ask her to! She wasn't expecting me to want it! She hugged me by her own choice! I was startled but I managed to hug her back somehow! And she told me she was sorry Richy! After how much I had hurt her! After I almost killed her! She told me she was the one who was sorry! I was shocked at first! But then I was so happy! I finally had her back! Of course I asked her what happened! She told me her new friends had made her realize how important I and Silver Platter are to her. And she... she confessed some of the things she had done to them with Tiara before they broke up. That these were fillies she had tried to hurt. She didn't try to make up excuses. She was willing to accept her punishment. My... my Silver Spoon had the courage to face what she did.

"Richy what are those fillies? No cutie marks. Half the town knows they just cause trouble! Yes those fillies. But they go and do in a few days what paid professionals weren't able to do in months with an enemy! They are impossible!"

"Those fillies? You mean little Applebloom and her friends?"

"Yes those fillies. They never do anything constructive together and they made a miracle happen! Maybe friendship is magic after all."

"Incredible. I wish they could have worked their magic on Diamond Tiara then."

"So do I Richy."

"You think they'd have figured out what their special traits were by now with the passion they put into things... " I actually laugh. "Before they blow up the town."

"Don't judge them too harshly Richy. Remember how long it took me to realize my cutie mark. First I figured my special talent might have been archery. My dad's behind was never the same again and I wasn't allowed within ten hooves of a bow again. Then I wanted to be a doctor, but I didn't have the hooves or mouth for it. And don't get me started when I tried to be a monster hunter. I think my dad loathed it when I did such a stereotypical stallion thing like having a stint as one of the royal guards."

I was now happy his tour of service had run its course by the time Diamond was born. Still, that reminded me of something... of my conversation with you all before...

"You know, I'd almost forgotten that you'd been able to get into the Royal Guards, I kept convincing myself the unicorns wouldn't allow an Earth Pony into it for fear of giving one too much power."

"You'd be surprised how many there actually were, Richy, I was far from the only one. It's just you see the pegasi the most, since they're also the ones who pull the Princesses' chariots. The Earth Ponies and Unicorns mainly have other roles in the palace. Earth Ponies are actually given important bodyguard positions thanks to our strength. I even guarded her bedroom door once."

And then I just couldn't keep it to myself any longer.

"... Axe, uge, I'm sorry Silvery. But all those times I've talked about the Unicorns and the Pegasi looking down on us like we were serfs... I've... begun to think... that maybe... "

"Maybe what?"

"Maybe... they, we... "

"Richy just say it."

"That they're... they're... we're... I think maybe I was wrong."

"Oh? Wrong about what?" I could tell he was barely containing a grin.

"That feather dusters and narwhals aren't automatically part of the elites who treat the less fortunate ponies like dirt. And that there are Earth Ponies who are ."

"Oh? What about the Tyrant?"

"Maybe I have been too harsh. If I can be demonized for simply being a successful business pony, maybe I'm guilty of doing the same to the Princesses. If Princess Luna gave Golden peaceful dreams I'm in her debt. But I still haven't forgiven them for not healing Golden."

Silver Tongue poured himself another glass of cider and this time just took a gulp then clapped at me. "Well at least that's a start!"

"Silver?"

"It's about time you woke up, Richy, I was getting scared."

"But you, we, all those time I talked about it-"

"What was I supposed to say? I didn't want to lose our friendship Richy. Because I knew no matter what you thought you did, you were a good pony. I just smiled and nodded, and told Silver Spoon to do the same and just pretend to be listening. Now I'd be lying if I said Silver Platter wasn't into the whole 'Earth Pony Pride' thing, but I don't think she believes in Unicorn overlords. I hope. I really need to get to know my own family better."

I was flabbergasted. "But why? If you didn't believe it, then why would you pretend you did?"

"Because we're friends Richy. We don't have to perfectly agree with everything. You didn't want to have Unicorn's horns chopped off or Pegasi's wings clipped or the hundred other horror stories I've been told about ponies who adopt ideas like yours. I'm happy you never fell that far and I thank Princess Luna for that."

"And you didn't say anything all this time?"

"Would you have listened? Or would you just have thought I'd been fooled by lies? Even though I'd been in the Royal Guard and stayed in private areas with the Princess, would you believe me if I'd told you I'd never seen her send one pony to the moon? I saw her each night looking repentant at the Mare In the Moon. Would you think I was a puppet if I told you Princess Celestia gave me a fraction of her essence that she took back when my tour of duty ended? Even if I showed you how much of the booklet was dedicated to just making sure I knew what I was accepting?"

"I don't know. I thought that the white fur was just the uniform."

"And I was scared what you'd do if you found out differently ... And I'm happy by the way."

"Eh?"

"You asked how I was. I'm happy. My daughter loves me again. I'm finally telling her that I love her too. My wife doesn't think she needs plastic surgery anymore. I'm free of my devils. And my best friend has woke up from a nightmare. Yes I'm happy."

"The nightmare isn't over until I've found both my princesses." Who knew what Pony Hell my daughter was in.

++++

I was in Pony Heaven. No using leaves and grass as toilet paper. No wild grass for food. No shivering to sleep under the indifferent stars. No being scared to pieces by every random noise with the voice telling me I was being a scaredy-pony. No having to hide from other ponies. And the ponies paid attention to me!

Sitting at a table with four forks and two knives and three spoons. A perfectly folded napkin. Dressed up fancy. This is where I belonged. The background music was a nice touch too.

I had never noticed how absolutely wonderful tasting real food could be. Personally I found a lot of high class food tasted so awful I wondered why high class ponies even ate it. But now, but now I felt like I was eating cupcakes (and I had one of those too!)! I almost ate like a pig, but I kept my manners. It was a lot better than having to eat a Timber Wolf.

The voices were strangely silent during the whole thing. That scared me a little bit, but I don't know why.

So did I feel good? I felt wonderful!

I felt like I was back home.

As Fancy Pants kept putting food in me I had a brief image of the story of two ponies lost in the woods who were fattened up by an old witch mare who wanted to eat them. But at this point I was too hungry to care. Besides, if those two dumb foals could turn the tables on her, I'm sure me and my... partner could do the same. As I imagined the image of the witch stuffed in her own oven, I think I heard the voice chuckle, but I'm not sure.

I looked at Fancy Pants and his wife whenever they took their attention from me on to each other. The way they looked at each other...It was like how mom and dad used to look at each other...I shake the thought from my mind and get back to the food.

The texture, the flavors, it made me feel safe somehow.

Straight Lace had stopped serving and removing plates and Fancy Pants had dismissed her. I felt an emotion when she left the dining room. It felt like a mild version of the sickness.

Finally stuffed, my host asked, "I take the food was to your full delight?"

"Yes," My mouth said before I could think of some tiny negative to slip in. "Thank you very much." I hear myself say next.

Since when did I say thank you to anypony?

'Did you do that?' I asked the voice.

'Huh? Do what?' It asked, it honestly sounded bored to tears.

'Make me say 'thanks?''

'Filly, if I could make you do anything, do you think I'd be wasting my time giving you instructions? I certainly wouldn't be wasting my time with deals.'

Fleur-de-Lis said, "Well you were certainly hungry. How long has it been since you had a decent meal?"

"A really long time," I didn't give details that they wouldn't believe.

"Did you love your mother?" Fleur-de-Lis asked politely.

"Of course I love my mother," I said without thinking.

"so how long has it been since you ran away from home?" Fancy Pants asked politely putting his chin to his hooves on the table.

"I didn't run away. I don't have anypony to run away from. I'm alone. I don't have anypony." Dangit a wave of the sickness again!

Fancy Pants sighed, shaking his head, "My dear Diamonds, I have never been so impressed, or so sad to see a filly so young so good at lying."

I startled.

"I am not blind. You used the proper forks and knives for the meal. You didn't once hesitate. Your mannerism betrayed you, they were hammered into you, not given as a crash course. You're clearly upper class.

"That you didn't react to me introducing myself or seeing my face, even though I'm called 'the most important pony in Canterlot,' equals you're not from here.

"Your dialect is also local, meaning you didn't come here from that far away. And I've personally met several ponies trying to copy it, for various reasons, and you lack the accent such a pony would possess.

"You've lived a sheltered life. You weren't suspicious of two adults offering you free things. Though that could have just meant in your condition you were desperate enough to accept any help.

"Your tiara is not exactly beggar material your reaction to having it taken from you for a bit Straight Lace said -I ordered her to tell me- by the way, wasn't the reaction a thief would give in a house full of trinkets she could steal to replace something she stole.

"And you didn't act overwhelmed at the inside of my home meaning you've been in places like this before but you weren't focused on the potential value of small items.

"So your tiara was something you were given by somepony. And I'd guess you haven't been without a caretaker long enough to hunger and desperation to override emotional attachment. Or you would have sold it. Either that or its sentimental value to you is beyond measure, meaning it was given to you by someone very close to you.

"Your family or legal guardians are still alive or you would have been found and taken into state care by now. Celestia made it illegal for families to give up their children centuries ago when she found out some were selling their foals into servitude. And you weren't hesitant to eat what was in front of you, but you weren't eating like a pig at the trough, meaning you didn't come from a family with too many mouths to feed.

"You have your cutie mark, and if you're not a thief then it's unlikely it's for being a jewel thief which implies you've been in an environment where you've had a chance to discover yourself rather than focus on surviving day to day, implying it wasn't completely horrible whatever it was.

"In other words, you're a high class filly who ran away a relatively short time ago from somewhere other than Canterlot and it wasn't a completely destructive environment. And you said 'love your mother' present tense. Meaning she's still alive and likely worried about you."

"Mom never worries anymore since she got sick." I gasped and covered my mouth.

'Little filly. You have all the cunning of a timber wolf, that slip up does have its uses, but you love hearing yourself talk way too much!'

Fleur-de-Lis looked at Fancy Pants and left the table.

"So your mother is ill. Did you come all this way thinking Princess Celestia's magic can cure any illness and your father said it didn't work that way?"

"No dad already tried that with both Princesses... "

'Filly! Watch what you're saying! You're handing all the pieces to a master puzzle solver! If you say too much you'll be in a chariot back to Ponyville before you know it! And don't bet on ever being able to get this close to your goal again! And you can sit back, and watch while your mother continues to rot in that mental ward, all because of you! '

"No!"

"No what?"

"No. My parents don't want me anymore."

"Is that so?"

"Dad just sees mare after mare after mare who looks like mom. I bet it won't be long before he starts to think I'd make a good replacement."

Fancy Pants startled at that last one.

'Very good my little pony. You're actually learning. Say a horrid enough lie about someone, and watch ponies' reason evaporate. Try letting the waterworks go, that'll really sell it!'

"I see... If your father is that bad. Maybe you should tell me who he is. In case he begins to do that to other fillies."

I gritted my teeth. The wave of sickness came again and when I began to think 'they're not me, they don't matter.' But-but why did that filly who handed me the card and Silver Spoon keep popping up my head?!

'Rule of a good liar filly. Don't get too caught up in your own lie. Only get into character enough to not ruin the act.'

"N-no no. He's only interested in ponies who look like my mother."

"And what does she look like?"

"She looks like, like me a lot. T-that's why I'm scared."

'Filly. You need to get out of here and fast. But not in a way that'll compromise you any more than you just did! Stupid pony! Use your head! Use your head! You must bloody WANT your mother to stay crazy AND your father to just keep seeing fakes of her AND I guess you never really did love anyone but yourself. Then again, isn't that what your mother taught you? Love yourself? Love only yourself? Look out only for yourself?'

MY head spun. It had been so long since mother had said those words to me that shaped everything. That felt distant now, foggy, incomplete. Like I was missing important parts.

'Filly. I believe it's about time you woke up to reality.'

++++

I stood among the adults, as they spoke to each other like I wasn't even there, like I wasn't a pony. Why did they all have blue eyes?

They were all so tall. The room was so big. Why was everything so confusing?

"What an incompetent and slow foal! In the days of the wandering herds she'd have been taken away from the herd and put out of her misery!"

"Her mother was clearly bad news. And that makes her a bad seed. If you ask me you should go and find a new mate, then drown this one."

~~

The mansion was boarded up. The gardens were dying. The servants had all left. All our furniture had already been sold off or taken away. It was snowing, and snowing hard, like the pegasi wanted to dump an extra bunch on us.

Dad stood like a statue or a zombie, just staring at the house like it was a big painting or something. Snow was getting on him. Like he was broken inside, it reminded me of when they took mom away.

Silver Spoon looked at me. She looked through me. Her eyes were blue, just like mine. That wasn't right. But... the cold bit at me, and I felt like there was an invisible chasm between us.

"Silver Spoon?"

"Sorry Tiara. Rich ponies can't be seen with dirt poor ponies. Sorry. That's the way things are. I can't be around you anymore."

"But-but we're friends!"

"We were friends because both our parents were rich. It's why we became friends, it's why we stayed friends. Now that that isn't true anymore, we can't be friends anymore. That simple. Bye." She turned around and trotted away.

"SILVER!" I put a hoof to her shoulder. She shrugged it off. She didn't look back.

+++

I was back at the table, and I realized it hadn't been real... there were still tears in my eyes.

None of that ever happened!

'But it COULD have happened, it WOULD have happened.'

No it wouldn't!

'Oh tell me what was WRONG with those memories. Did anypony act out of character, did they NOT act like the ponies you know? Search your feelings you know it to be true. What detail was wrong? What action was wrong? How could they have not acted that way?'

'But they didn't!' Why did I sound so pathetic? So . . whinny?

There was something wrong with Silver's eyes... something was missing. That WASN'T Silver Spoon!

The voice stopped, like a dragon taking in breath before it melted your face off. The voice's tone reminded me of the snow storm.

'My little pony. Those scenarios, those ponies, everything you heard, they came from you. They were fashioned by you. I simply sponsored the production. If there was anything off, it's because you don't understand something about your friends and family.

B-but how would I know something was missing if I-

'Just because you don't comprehend something doesn't mean you can't tell it's missing, you can't understand it enough to know what's missing to fill in the hole. Believe me, my little pony, I know how you feel, we're alike that way, we see something in everypony else's eyes that we just can't seem to understand, trying to grasp smoke as it taunts us and waves itself in our faces. Something invisible like a ghost in the fog we keep running towards but just laughs and vanishes when we try to touch it. Trust me, my little pony, you're better off without it, I know I am. Learn to ignore it, and it'll eventually stop baiting you and you can move on. I know I did.'

I wilted inside at that.

'I reiterate, those scenarios were born from your memories and experiences my dear, not mine. The only way those scenes could exist in the first place is because you believed they could. How about a real memory this time?'

++++

I was home from school early. Miss Cheerilee told us what chapters to read and what chapters the next test would be on. I wanted to surprise dad.

That's when I heard a pony's voice. I recognized it as one of mom's doctors. Was mom well again? I snuck to the edge of living room door and listened in. I may not be a narwhal with a fancy eavesdropping spell, but I still knew a thing or two about it.

"If you ask me, perhaps your wife's condition is genetic. If such is the case, then I suggest you be prepared for when her child begins to suffer such, episodes."

What?

"I see." I heard my father say calmly.

I ran to my room and locked the door, took my pillow, hid under the bed, and cried myself to sleep.

"Wake up-up-up filly it's time for the morning bath! Have to do it quick or the orderlies will-will-will do it for you!"

"Mom?!"

"Yes-yes-yes dear. Who else would it be-be-be?"

"What's going on?!"

"Well, it's morning-morning-morning, and the doctors might not give us breakfast if we're not good-good-goood ponies."

I looked around, this wasn't my ceiling, this wasn't my room. "What am I doing here!?"

"What? My prince said we-we-we get to spend as much time together as we want-want-want now! Isn't that greeeeeat-?!"

I tried to trot away but I fell on my back, my legs were tied up! I saw letters and numbers on a calendar on the wall jump around.

The buttons on the walls moved like bugs. Everything was twisted about wrong...!

"What's wrong with everything!"

Nothing made sense!

Mom shoved her muzzle in my eye grinning. "Wrong? Nothing's wrong-wrong-wrong dear. Maybe it's just you-you-you. This IS a loooony bin after all. Just the place for yoooou."

"Stop!"

I gasped awake! Awake! All a dream. I looked around.

My forelegs were in a straight jacket! It wasn't a nightmare! No no no no! No please! Please no! Anything but this please! Being with Silver Spoon, being with dad, it was all a dream-?! No-oh-oh!

I bumped my head under my bed and yelped out, scared the orderlies would come in and hurt me for making noise! I blinked away tears and noticed my 'straight jacket' was only as big as my, my pillow. I had ended up with my front hooves inside my pillow case.

I looked around. Dark, but my nightlight showed this was my room. My room!

I scurried out from under my bed to my hill of stuffed animals and placed them around me in circles facing outward. I hugged a silvery pony rag doll as my body guard, she'd protect me. "All of you guys, please, guard your princess tonight, please?" I whispered to my soft toys as I curled in a ball in the center of their defending rings. "I'm, I'm not crazy, I'm not crazy, I'm not crazy. I'm not, right Silver Spoon?"

++++

'W-What was the point of that?!'

'Sadly I must concede there was a point, boring isn't it? To remind you that in your heart of hearts you know you're alone. Friends are fair weather creatures and most adults see their foals just as a way to cheat death. You knew all this already, but you were in need of a refresher. You were beginning to forget who you were, and we can't have that, now can we? Not yet anyway, I still need your help after all, and so does your mother.'

Forget who I was? Who was I anyway? I had memories and a name, but was I a good filly? A bad filly? A nice filly? A mean filly? None of the answers felt right anymore. Nothing made sense. Everything kept getting so confusing.

To Be Continued...