• 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 63: "Mind Games Part 6"

My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic
Pony POV Series
Mind Games Part 6

"Don't flap your wings! Don't flap your wings!"

"THAT'S CRAZY!"

"Scoots! Stop! Wait-!!!! Okay! I gotcha! Scootaloo don't do that again!"

"I'm sorry."

Rainbow Dash slowly lifted the filly back to the cloud they had been on and sat in front of her. She didn't look happy. "Scootaloo I told you, you have to start out low. And by low I mean lower than the top of Ponyville's tallest buildings. What were you thinking? Were you thinking?"

Scootaloo pinned her ears, looking down at her hooves. "I thought if...if I started out high enough, then I'd catch enough air underneath my wings to lift me up."

Rainbow sighed, giving a facehoof. The holes in Scootaloo's facts-of-life inventory were showing. "Scoots, that's not how your wings work. You're not getting lift from the thicker air below you, you're getting suction from the thinner air above you. You have to work with the air. And you have to use your legs if you're going for a cold start, your wings aren't going to be able to get your airborne on their own."

"I'm sorry Dash, I guess I'm as lousy as my wings."

"Oh no. You are not starting down that again Squirt. You're just learning. There's nothing wrong with you."

"What about Roid Rage?"

"Clop-off Roid Rage! He flies like a bumblebee, not a pegasus! He has a lot of muscle but those tiny wings of his have nothing to do with it! There's nothing stopping you from flying Scoots I promise."

"Then why can't I?"

"Because I haven't finished teaching you." 'And your parents forgot to teach you anything.' "No pony learns to fly on their own, even foals who can fly at Pound Cake's age have to relearn how to fly when they get older."

Scootaloo didn't want to say Fluttershy had told her the same after Scoots had set her off by calling 'Shy a traitor to pegasi while having a breakdown over seeing Pound Cake flying.

"Your wings are more than strong enough, you just haven't learned how to use them yet. You're far from the only Pegasus to hit cloud blocks. Why do you think that stupid Rainbow Factory ghost story got started? Twilight did some thesis or something she made us listen to on urban legends and said it started out as parents trying to scare foals who were slow learners into shaping up. It was a rotten thing to do, but it shows you're not alone." Rainbow then looked up at the moon's place in the sky and gave a sigh. "Now I know I ran late with weather duty today, and I know I promised to give you lessons today, but a lot of ponies called in sick with the Feather Flu again, and there'd be a lot more unhappy ponies including Applejack if they didn't get the rain Cloudsdale owed them. I had to make a choice Scoots. I don't like it either, your life is going to be full of choices Scoots, and you're not going to like all of them. And the best choice and the right choice aren't going to always be the same! But I know you're a tough girl and I know you can understand that."

Scootaloo sulked.

"Look kiddo. I love your 'take life by the jugular' attitude. But take it from me that doing things that are going to get you killed are something you should save until you're older. I broke my wing doing some dangerous stunts, and I'm a lot more experienced, and durable, than you. Now come on, it's late and I don't want to explain to Cheerilee you being late for school."

"I'm not-" And there was the yawn, "Tired."

"Uh-huh." Rainbow Dash said flatly.

"Can I have coffee?"

"Nope. Sorry. No way. There are things I'll do Scoots, but giving a filly coffee isn't one of them. You're-" RD said the word that didn't taste so bad in her mouth anymore, "-my responsibility."

"Dangit. Can I sleep in your bed again tonight?"

Rainbow Dash rubbed her head awkwardly. "Scoots, I'm not legally your guardian, ponies are gonna draw weird conclusions if-"

"Please?"

Rainbow Dash accepted a lot more readily than she normally would have:

both had had the same nightmare, only once, but once was enough.

++++

The gray-blue and bright orange pegasi struck like lightning as they rammed into each other again and again. Jagged lines of light across the irrational sky.

Being one of few ponies not discorded, Scootaloo was a symbol among Master Discord's favorite playthings against the tyrant.

"Just give up Kid! You can't win this! Please! There's just no way you can!" Traitor Dash cried out. She had insisted to Master Discord she could handle this alone, it was going to be boring, no way Master needed to crush these ponies personally, it wouldn't provide him any entertainment Traitor Dash feverishly insisted.

Scootaloo snarled. "I loved you! I lived for you! All ever wanted was to be you!"

"Every bond you make in life gets broken in the end!" Traitor Dash snapped back as the two broke apart for a moment.

"That isn't what you taught me!"

"No it's what I learned!"

The adult orange mare was covered in battle scars, a double purple thunder bolt adorned her flank.

Slivers of gray were in her purple mane now, she had been fighting for so long, she looked older than Traitor Dash now, who hadn't aged since that terrible day.

"Well then you're not the pony I knew! Not any more!"

"Please, Master enjoys toys that play along-"

"NO! He likes to see his toys squirm! You're not a plaything! You're a PET he sends to do his dirty work! You're a traitor!"

Scootaloo caught Dash off guards and slashed her torso at high speed with a blade hidden in her wing.

Scootaloo was surprised it got through, that attack was meant to be a distraction, it was so obvious, Dash had blocked them before...

The blade had cut far and deep...and inside where a heart should be revealed an black crystal shaped like an upside down lightning bolt.

Small sparks of red electricity, the same color that Dash's Element of Harmony had been, crackled along the wound and sealed it shut.

"Dash..." Scootaloo gasped in horror, "What's, what's happened to you? You're a monster!"

"I know." Traitor Dash answered, her voice dripping with shame.

"You're not Dash anymore! You're just Discord's dog!"

"I'm sorry."

A rainbow color shockwave blasted around Scootaloo a moment later.

Less than a moment later a spectrum of grays burst around Traitor Dash.

"SONIC-RAINBOOM!"
"SONIC-DARKBOOM!"

The ponies collided, their bones shattered at the impact and both fell to the ground helpless. The Element of Chaos wouldn't let Dash find death. She crawled out of her crater, and sobbed as she cradled the cooling body of her, apprentice? Fan? Little sister? Traitor Dash realized to her dismay, she had no idea what she had even felt for the little pony. She had never stopped to figure out what she felt. "Scootaloo..." TD broke down in tears.

And at the palace, "It's...it's done Master, with their hero gone I'm absolutely sure no pegasi will give you trouble. They've seen their heroes will let them down. There's no need to, no need to be strict with them!"

Master giggled, petting Traitor Dash's head. "Very good my little widdle Dashie, how very, very -loyal- of you."

Traitor Dash looked down. "T-Thank you...Master..."

"In fact. Maybe I should have the Seaponies of Sky Ocean conduct an entire OPERA to you defeating the orderlists' hero. And you can sit on, every single show. Doesn't that sound lovely? Or maybe their sea above all those pointy rocks is a waste of space?"

"No-no! It's, it's an honor Master."

++++

"Dash," Scootaloo whispered along side Rainbow Dash in the bed sheets.

"Yeah Scoots?"

"I...I think you're the greatest. I know you'd never do anything without a good reason. I know you'd never hurt me without a good reason. I know that even if the whole world tells me you're the bad guy, I'm not gonna believe a word of it. I'll stay at your side no matter what."

Dash had something in her eye. "You're the loyalist filly in the world Scootaloo."

"Only cause you're the best teacher in the world Dash," Scootaloo yawned back. And they conquered the nightmares together. Teacher and student's loyalty overcoming the dreams from a world of darkness.

"And Scootaloo?"

"Yes, Rainbow Dash?"

"If there's one thing in that nightmare I know is true, that I'm happy is true, is someday I just know you'll be as good as I am. Who knows, maybe you'll be the second Pegasus to do a Sonic Rainboom."

It was Scootaloo's turn to have something in her eye.

A little bit later, Scootaloo got up.

"Hey! Wanna play Marevel Verses Neighpon Studios?"

Dash turned over. "Heard that they're coming out with Clopcom Verses Pony Rangers next month?"

Scoots shook her head, "They must be running out of crossovers, but it sounds fun. Come on, let's play!"

"Scoots it's too early."

"I call Techno-Pony Blade!"

"Hey! Only I play as Techno-Pony Blade!"

A minute later the game's intro song blared out,

'Fly high through the sky!'

'And you can pierce the rainbow's edge!'


"Sorry to Princess Luna, but this is boring ," Silver Spoon moaned looking up at the sky, try as she might, she couldn't get any of the stars to connect into constellations like they were supposed to.

"Hey it's not what you do but who you do it with," Spike said next to her. "Just let your imagination go a little."

"Whatever...Next time I decide what we do dragon-boy."

"Alright fair pony-girl. But yeah, it's getting late, and I don't want Owlowiscious ratting me out to Twilight."

"No skin off my nose, my parents are used to me being out late. It's kinda...expected."

Spike looked at her, even in Ponyville there was something wrong with a filly whose parents were used to her coming home late.

Maybe if she had seen more of him before they met at Rarity's she wouldn't have freaked out at the sight of him. For a filly who didn't spend much time at home, she didn't seem to get outside much. Which was too bad given how her coat gleamed in the moonlight.

"Hey Silver Spoon...thanks for hanging out tonight."

"Don't make it sound so noble. We're only hanging out because Applebloom and the others were all busy, and Miss Twilight didn't have any work for you to do."

"No," Spike said. He wasn't used to being stern but Silver needed this, "We'd have hung out -anyway- with Sweetie Belle and the others if they could come. Friends aren't replacements. If-" He took in a deep breath, "-If Diamond Tiara was found, would you stop hanging out with us?"

Silver Spoon nearly fell off the hill they were on (Rainbow Dash had banned all Crusaders from using roof tops to stargaze, Silver didn't want to know the details). Her brain looked like it was trying to eat its cake and have it too. "I-I don't know. I mean, I don't hate any of you. And I thought I was done with her...and I know she's done with me."

Spike had never talked with Silver's friend, but everything he heard wasn't good, but that had gone ditto for Silver.

"But?"

"But I...after everything Miss Rarity keeps telling me: that I should try to patch things up with her. And...Diamond was fun to be around. But she hates you, I mean, the Crusaders. She'd probably find something to hate you for."

"Silver Spoon, if she's really your friend, then you should be able to help her see how dumb her reasons for hating them are."

"I don't know. I was always just there, supporting her."

Spike looked at her, the moonlight making her fur shine like her namesake. "You and I are two of a kind."

"Yeah, right. A boy dragon-assistant, a school filly pony, we have sooo much in common."

"I mean it's like you said, you supported Diamond Tiara, I support Twilight. We both focus our lives on supporting others."

"Okay. I guess we are both just a couple of accessories."

"I am not an accessory! And neither are you!"

"When I fell out of orbit with Diamond Tiara, I felt lost. Like I had lost direction. I was a moon without a planet."

"I actually know how you feel. When Twilight first brought in the owl for the night shift, I didn't make things pretty. I thought I was the only assistant Twilight needed. Learning to share didn't come easy."

Silver smirked, "You like her?"

"Blagh! Not that way. She's like, well, more than a friend, she's my family."

"How does that even work?"

"Twilight hatched me as her magic entrance exam for The Princess' magic school."

Silver Spoon looked at him in surprise, "And The Princess didn't keep you for herself?"

"Well, Celestia taught me magic too, that's how I can send letters and stuff, but the ruler of Equestria was too busy to feed me and change my diapers."

"Blah! Too much information!"

"Sorry. Celestia told me I was to keep Twilight from becoming a stuck-up snob being the most important filly in Equestria. She said it was the same trick she used to keep Princess Cadence from getting a swelled head, and wished she'd done it with Prince Blueblood."

Sounded like Princess Celestia had a sneakiness to her that Diamond would have appreciated. But, Celestia was nice. Well, was nice.

It made Silver Spoon wonder. 'If me and Diamond Tiara had any little siblings to take care of, would we have been different? Or a big sibling to feel that way about us?'

"Spike."

"Yeah?"

"Thank you."

"You're welcome...and you know something?"

"What?"

"You ever notice how Applebloom and the others...we're not just supporting them? We're actually having lots of fun with them." Spike leaned against her, she didn't resist.

"...Yeah, I kind of did...It's kinda nice." She leaned against him.

Maybe the stars weren't so bad after all.


Maybe visiting the mental ward was a mistake, but I had to try. Oh! I don't think we've ever been properly introduced. I'm Fluttershy. You've talked to Fluttercruel a lot, but I think the only time we talked was when, when I wasn't well... It's, erm, nice to talk to you all.

OH! Ep, that is, thank you for the hug.

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Think-think nothing of it. You're just, just the kindest, gentlest pony who's ever lived. And the world would be a lot darker without you. Your friends are really really lucky to have you.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): After getting to talk to Nice Fluttercruel, it's nice to talk to Nice Fluttershy too.)

I-I-I think you're making me blush! Your nuzzles are very soft dear.

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Thanks Fluttershy.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): I believe we are getting off topic. Please continue Fluttershy.)

Oh, well, it was really really nice to have ponies just calling me by my name instead of, instead of calling me 'Princess' or...or 'Monster.' Ever since the tornado, it felt so wonderful that so many ponies were just calling me Fluttershy again. I mean...it's nice I at least managed to help some ponies and it's nice to be just be called plain old Fluttershy again...

Dr. Freudian Excuse is a lot more accepting of my visit than Dr. Head-Scratcher. Dr. Head-Scratcher slammed the door in my face saying that I had hurt his patients enough ...And he's right, I did hurt them trying to pry my way into their sick minds...And that's why I want to help them!

I was shocked to hear of Screwball's escape. I mean, she's escaped before, but she was always back the next day. Nurse Redheart said Dr. Head-Scratcher should walk again, eventually.

When I met with Dr. Freudian Excuse to ask if I could visit some of the patients, he was very understanding. But when I began saying how I understood how some ponies would never forgive me for what I did, he told me not to pretend that it was for them I was coming here to apologize for, and I was just dealing with my own grief.

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): He told you to shut up about the 'never forgive' speech already didn't he?)

Yes.

It reminded me a lot of what Coffee Swirl had told me. They were right. If this was really for them, I had to start doing instead of just asking for punishment. I was saved from making some very ugly mistakes.

It's wonderful seeing a injured bird fly again, their wings are so delicate, we're so delicate, that's what makes it a miracle when you see somepony put their life back together.

"Princess Gaia please, let me be your knight again," Said the pink wingless pegasus lowly. She didn't even look at me. I hadn't even said anything as I went by her with the orderly. She just knew it was me.

"I-I'm sorry, I-I can't anymore. I-I'm so sorry."

And that hurt worse than the rock, my fight with Fluttercruel, and more than the ponies who tried to copy New Fluttershy.

If I start, I won't be able to stop. The moment I use It, the power will make the decisions, not me. The fog will spread again. I-I had to get past her before I started crying...thank you for the hug.

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): I am...I am merely making sure you stay on topic. Continue Fluttershy.)

Well, Fluttercruel told me this idea was crazy. But if I could help the ponies of Sunnytown start healing, then I thought I could help other ponies without Alicorn magic I hurt too.

I touched so many hearts that day, I suddenly knew so many ponies better than themselves. I knew where they hurt, why a lot of them hurt...because I'd felt all of them. I know I was insane, but I still felt all that pain I'd absorbed as Nightmare Whisper, I couldn't tell all of them apart, but I could identified some of them.

Dr. Freudian Excuse insisted he observe and that the orderly stay with me to protect me. Part of me felt like he was protecting them from me.

The doors were all recently reinforced, they had break-proof glass for the one way mirrors, the orderlies were armed with clubs and tasers, it was different from when my fog, myself, had come through here. I was scared, but Fluttercruel helped me stand on our four hooves.

I sat across from her in her room. She growled and whimpered when she saw me. I think she remembered 'me.'

I spoke with her, trying to use the most relaxing voice I could. "Hello. No, I promise I'm not here to hurt you. I just want to talk to you. Erm, yes it is a good day to play ball outside. I'm sorry I don't know where Screwball went. I'm sure she's thinking about you too and the doctors will find her soon."

The orderly looked at me like I was crazy too now. I ignored him.

"Do you understand why you're here? No. It's because you're confused. You're here because you're lost. No, not that kind of lost. Your family is very worried about you. Yes they still love you, they still miss you. Can't you remember? Please try to remember."

Now the orderly was looking at Dr. Freudian Excuse, he doesn't respond, he keeps his eyes on me and her.

"No. You're not. I know it's hard for you to accept but you're not. You have a name! That is not your true cutie mark! Your husband and grandchildren all are want you to come home! They want their grandmother, not a pet! Those Diamond Dogs are gone now, they're not going to hurt you again. You're, you're worth more than an animal." And yes, it hurt me to say that, but there was no kind way to say it.

''Shy, let me take over, you don't need to-'

'No.'

She barked louder at me. I had challenged her world, of course she'd react like that.

"Your grandson wants you back. So does your daughter. And your name isn't Spot or Rover. You have a real name. You -taught- them stories, and they're still teaching what you taught them! You're in a fog. They're waiting for you outside it. Those aren't paws. The Diamond Dogs aren't here. You can speak. No. Really speak. You don't have to be afraid."

"Sorry. Time's up." The orderly told me.

"Please-just a bit more, I think can-"

"Time's up." The orderly just repeated and led me out of the room. He looked back at me, confused, questioning .

After the cell door was closed he said, "Pst. I can't believe the doc' actually believes your story that you can understand what Barking Mad is saying. She's not saying anything. She's just nuts."

I narrowed my eyes at him. I push Fluttercruel back in case she does something foolish. A part of me wants to let her, it whispers he deserves it. Instead I constructively voice my anger. "Maybe you could help them more, by treating them like ponies and not calling them by such cruel names."

"I'm not paid to act like they're still ponies. That's the doctors' job. If you ask me, you should be in here with them Miss Conquer Equestria Lady."

"Roid Rage! That's enough!" Dr. Freudian Excuse snapped at him, the pegasus backed down. He may have only been half of Roid Rage's size, but he still signed his checks. "I...I think you might have gotten her to respond. Could you really understand what she was saying? That's a miracle."

"It's about time she had one." I said simply. I had seen way too many pony's hearts who hadn't. Lost souls with no pony who willing, or able, to hold out a hoof to guide them home. And I'd still be lost if my friends hadn't held out theirs. And you wonder why I wanted to take all Equestria's pain into myself?

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): No dear. We at least don't blame you.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Hey wrinkles, you okay? )

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): I'm fine. And Fluttershy. You are the most selfless, kind hearted, and warm hearted pony I've ever met. Do not sell yourself short. You're humble, you know your limits, and that's what makes you strong. But you don't ever, ever d-dare sell yourself short. There are other kind ponies in the world. But none of them will ever be you. Understand? You are a blessing upon the world. Not a curse. You understand, yes Fluttershy?)

I...I...I think I really am blushing! Erm, everywhere!

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): You deserve every word.)

Are...are you crying?

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): It's...just good to see a wonderful pony like Fluttershy. What?)

If you're going to hug me, then I think it's only fair I hug you back.

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Thank you Fluttershy. Thank you.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Go ahead, please finish.)

O-oh, yes...

"Yes, it's not quite like a dog's language, but she's close," I continued. I then looked at Roid Rage, narrowing my eyes, but continuing my conversation with Dr. Freudian Excuse. "She's been responding all this time, she's always been saying something. It's not anypony's fault they didn't understand her."

"Just what are you saying? Are you saying I'm stupid?" asked Roid Rage, towering over me, trying to be as imposing as he could. I didn't budge, even if my heart was racing.

"No, I never implied something like that. My special talent is communicating with animals. I just didn't realize that there was a mare here who believed she was one," I reply, looking him in the eyes. "I respect your opinion of me, I said I would. But I didn't brainwash them into being something that wasn't already in them, that's what Discord did, what I did was take away the pain and the problems they already had. What was there on the day...on the day I did all of that, was what was underneath all the pain and suffering all those ponies experienced. I can promise you, Roid Rage, somewhere deep down in the ponies you call nuts are the ponies they used to be, and unless someone holds out a hoof to help them out, they'll stay there."

'Shy, I have to say, that was pretty badflank of you.'

Um, thanks Fluttercruel...

I don't know if I changed Roid Rage's mind. But I hope he'll start seeing those ponies as ponies...Because I know he's got his own reasons for acting like he did...I've seen them too. And I hope I can use what I know to help him too... I can't help all of them at once, and I can't help every animal in Everfree, but I'll help those I can when I can, how I can, and that'll be enough.


How did I feel? How did I feel?

... I felt hurt.

Diamond Tiara. Ponies didn't have her wrong, she is as spoiled as a filly can be, but I got to see there was more to her than that. As Pinkie Diane would say, she doesn't exist simply cause somepony 'needed antagonists.'

Like any bully she has her 'reason' for doing what she does. As I told Sweetie, some don't see those they're picking on as people so it's okay to toy with them or vent your frustrations on them like you would a rock. Some Earth ponies used to have a trick called the 'sadness stone' where they'd paint an unhappy face on the rock and have it be sad instead of them. Perhaps that was Pinkie's inspiration for Pinkamenia, she did live on a rock farm. And for Diamond, she forced her feelings of worthlessness on blank fillies. After what I learned and the number of times I spoke with her I'd have to be blind not to see it.

The time we spent together was private. It was our world. That gave it a magical quality. And I thought if I could show her she did have worth, she'd have no reason to drag others down, and begin to raise herself up.

It was like a story out of a fairy tale. Then out of nowhere, making no sense, it was torn away. Was that my real reason all along for wanting to find Diamond on my own? Did I want to keep our time to myself? Did I want that sparkling setting back?

I'd have gone livid with scandalization at the audacity of such a accusation before. Now being on the receiving end of her parent's anger, I'm not so certain anymore.

"I want to ask you something Miss Rarity. Did you know that Golden Tiara had escaped from the asylum?"

I felt struck by lightning. "N-n-no! I had no idea! What happened! When did it happen? How did it happen? Why? Where? Who?"

I was given the details after I stopped babbling. If I was the paranoid type or still feeling like fairytales, I'd assume her mother had gone off looking for Diamond herself.

"So you have no idea where she's gone?"

"Didn't I just say that?"

"Sorry, I think after all the interviews my friends and I picked up the habit of repeating things. So what did you mean? 'I've done this to her?'"

He looked at me darkly, "You know I still haven't forgiven you for hiding what happened to my daughter."

I shrunk away from his gaze. Now I know how Fluttershy felt. 'I was only trying to protect her,' I was going to say. But I'm not Rainbow Dash, I think first, act second. "And I won't expect you to. I would feel the same if it were Sweetie in Diamond's place. It was my selfish mistake. But please finish what you start. 'I've done this to her.' What did you mean?"

"It's what I kept telling myself." He flared his nostrils. "Fine. It's time for the truth."

+++

I took every move slow, like a Timber Wolf was inside every shadow just waiting to pounce. No motion was too slow. No breath too shallow. No noise too quiet. Had to be careful. Had to be so careful.

'You ever have one of those days Tiara where things just go on and on and on? Where everything goes in every direction except foreword? I had to put up with that for two thousand years. And let me tell ya, being perfectly sane through the whole things bites.' Whined Silver Spoon.

Ah are you still going on about that Silver Spoon? You pointed at me and said 'It was her idea!' too when mom found us pigging out on the treats in her secret cabinet.'

"That's because it was your idea."

"I..." This was where I was supposed to say, 'And you should have played along.' But instead I said "I'm sorry. I didn't think mom would catch us and I was scared how she'd punish me."

"So she'd punish me instead?" Silver Spoon wasn't supposed to say that.

"I-I thought your parents would go a lot easier on you than mom would be on me."

"You just didn't want the consequences, as usual of you Tiara." Silvery wasn't supposed to say that either.

I gritted my teeth at the sickness again. "Be quiet or the adults will hear you, then we'll both be in trouble."

I was jealous of Silver Spoon (DON'T YOU DARE WRITE THAT DOWN!), she was moving as quiet as a ghost. I could forget she was there.

We trotted on the grassy carpet to the storage room dad had put all of mom's things after she, after she got sick. The adults dad had guarding the place were as serious and dull looking as Canterlot Royal Guards.

But there weren't as many as before. That didn't make sense at all.

As I peaked around a corner below the guards' eye-level I saw the locks were the same, the security was all the same, nothing had changed but fewer people looking around. That didn't make sense. Not at all. There should be more, not less...

"It's not here," I whispered.

'What?'

I said It's not here Silver Spoon. Security is too the same, in particular after we proved last time somepony could get in. Dad's not dumb. Nothing's in there now, it's been moved.

'Well me being in the same place would be a little too easy wouldn't I? I mean, it's not like we could get this over with and-'

Not so loud! I told you they'll hear you.

'Voice in your head. Sadly they covered my head when they brought me here. Not that that really matters of course, but it took me a while to get my bearings anyway, then Celly had to go and completely redesign the maze too. Normally I'd like the change in status quo, only thing me and my siblings ever agreed on, but this is a bit of a nuisance, I can't guide you through as easily. But she doesn't know that I don't use these stone eyes to see and these ears to hear. She wouldn't know, because I don't do to ponies what she and her pawns do to me, so she wouldn't know to take proper precautions.'

Y-you? I'm been coming for you? What happened to you? Are you a prisoner here? Where?

'Yes, I'm being held prisoner at the center of the maze. About time Celly learned to appreciate irony. And ahem, Only You Can Set Me Free Brave Adventurer, how was that?'

That made no sense!

'You're finally learning. I can lead you, a little, but you're going to have to get past those guards on your own. I can't bring pets to help you along this close to Celly's presence and against her entire Guard. Surprise has it's limits sadly.'

You're with me right Silver Spoon? Stop disappearing like that. Yes yes I accept your apology, it was completely heartless of you to say I was no better than a blank flank, but I forgive you, after all, what is a princess without her most royal subject and...and...best, f-friend. Come on. Let's do this. If we're fast enough you can join me and mom for dinner!

Silver Spoon rolled her eyes and trotted along, for some reason I resisted the urge to back hoof her for that silent remark, oh right, the guards.

Yes. Everything was going to be fine. Absolutely perfectly fine. Yes.

We left the decoy 'treasure room' behind. And went outside to a 'storage house' as dad called it, which was in the backyard. There were a lot more adults now for a bunch of 'gardening tools' dad said he was keeping in there. Ha. Like I was that stupid. The weird thing is that I didn't realize this before. I'd have asked Silver Spoon about that but we had to keep quiet.

I remember when we first did this. It was just a game. Now I was playing for real. Of course this was me we were talking about. And I was great. There was no way I was going to lose. It was going to be as easy as a dance.

I stopped. The Dance. The dance of the doll had been perfect. No worries. No thoughts. No fears. Just the pure happiness of the dance. But it didn't have my mother. And because of that dance I didn't get to be with my mother. I was cheated.

'The world always cheats my faithful student, especially when the Shadows say you're the one who has to lose. So don't be afraid of cheating right back!'

I knew that one already.

'Of course. I should have known. My bad.'

I shook my head. It was so dark. I had to move so slowly. The guards could be anywhere. They could hear me without me seeing them. And-OH NO!

"Please I'm not causing trouble!" I got on my hooves and covered my head. Silver Spoon of course would run away. The guard said nothing, and nothing...and nothing? I peaked an eye open.

A statue. It was only a statue of a royal guard.

The voice laughed. Buck him. No, I needed him! No, he could do something I wanted and he needed to me. Right? Right Silver.

A hoof landed on my I yelped and bucked with my rear leg at, thin air? A small bug fluttered off my shoulder. The voice laughed again.

'Thank you, I needed that. You're a laugh a minute.'

I growled.

Silver patted me on the shoulder. Forget it, had to focus.

"Oh Look At You Tarnished Rich You Look So Lovely, Like A Regular Princess From A Fairy Tale!"

"do you really think i look like a princess mommmy?"

"Yes Honey, The Best Princess The World Has Ever Seen! And Don't Let Anypony Tell You Different! Prove Them Wrong!"

"yes mommy! i will! i promise!"

"Also Have You Thought About Your New Name Yet For When You Get Your Cutie Mark?"

"what's wrong with the name i have right now mommy?"

"Erm, I Think I'll Let Your Father Explain That To You."

"so when will i get my cutie mark anyway mom? i can't find the date on my ipony."

"That'll Be Up To You."

"i want it right now then. . . so where is it?"

"It Doesn't Quite Work That Way. Supposedly You'll Get It When You'll Find Out What You're 'Destined' To Do With Your Life. Me? I Say You'll Get It When You Find Out What You're Great At, By Your Own Talent. You're The Only One Who Controls What Happens To You, Tarnished."

"okay mommy, does that mean i get to stay up late?"

"No."

"no fair!"

"Life Doesn't Tend To Be, You Gotta Take It By The Horn And Ride."

"what sort of saddle should i use?"

"Tarnished, I Think It's Time I Introduced You To The Magical World Of Figures Of Speech."

"speeches have fashion models?"

"Starting Right Now."

(*) (*) (*) (*) (*)

mommy is so much fun

Mom is so great!

Mother is the best mare in the world. With me riding number two right behind her like she said I'd be! I'm the princess of this fairy tale and the main character.

Heh. My mother is Super Mare, stronger than Super Stallion and smarter than Batmare. And that makes me Super Filly.

I'm best pony, and these foals are gonna know it!

Oh right and Silver Spoon! She's uh, Co-Best-Pony. That's right.

Now if I could just get my cutie mark. More than half their class already has there's. Geeze what am I missing?

Mom is best pony.

Mom is best pony, and she loves me. yes. i.

...

Mom. Why are you shouting so much? I mean it's just at servants, so it's no big deal but, I think it's getting a little weird. And why did that dumb servant with the cuts on her face look so freaked at you? Ah well. It's no big deal. It's the servants' fault for not doing anything right. They deserve everything they get. Mom's fault? Pst. Don't be stupid Stupid, that's the most stupid thing I've heard in all the land of stupid from planet stupid.

...

I don't get why mom made me stop wearing jewelry whenever I wanted. I looked pretty, like she always said. I have to stay really still when she puts them on me now, making everything is perfect, like us. But why is she like this now? I don't want to say that it hurts a little with how hard she grips me. It's nothing to worry about.

"She said she wants me to always be wearing it perfectly. As if I don't know how to wear jewelry on my own. As if!"

I, I don't remember when I became friends with Silver Spoon. She's always just been there. We haven't been friends since we were in diapers, but she's in all of my photos, no, I'm in all of her photos after that. It was always just natural to have her next to me.

I-I don't really remember how Silver Spoon got her cutie mark. I-I s-she, she just had it one day, after helping her family with some charity auction or something. I never asked her how, and she's not the type to speak unless spoken to. All I knew was that she had it before me.

I-I don't think I hated her, no no of course I didn't. Why would I? After all, I knew I'd get my cutie mark super soon and it would be cooler than her silly spoon and it would be okay. She-she never treated it as-as anything special. She actually wore a dress when she came over first. She didn't, she didn't want to know she had hers until I had mine. But she caught it on a table corner and I saw.

"S-Silver Tray! You're-you're-you have your cutie mark?!"

"Uh, yeah, I was just waiting...er, I wanted to surprise you."

"Well it's...really cool. It-it's not gonna be as cool as mine still better than anypony's else's for sure."

"Right. I know yours is gonna be great!" And she hugged me smiling.


AGH! Uuuuuuh. The sickness. I actually fall on my side. Why do I feel like all of my insides are made of slime? Am I going to die?

I rolled my eyes over the crescent moon in the sky, I couldn't tell how long I had until dawn and my cover would be blown. Have to get up. Get up. Please get up. Good. Got up. We gotta go. Right Silver? Thanks. I can... I can always count on you.


Mom always said know what you want and go for it. Then she tells me she doesn't trust me to wear my jewelry right anymore? She takes it away? Was this her idea of a game? Well I'd show mom that I knew how to win! I know what I want and so I'm going to go for it!

"Hey Silver Spoon," I asked as we lazed about in my bedroom looking at magazines. Hm? Naw. Mom tells me she threw hers out when she married dad. "I've got an idea. You with me?"

She looked at me. "Behind you Tarnished, all the way."

She didn't even ask what the idea was. S-She trust me. Just so completely. Always did.

I went to my dad's study and pulled out a book titled 'The Big Heist.' I smiled to myself. Guess Miss Cheerilee was right about books.

The ponies in the book wore all black, but that was stupid so we dressed as we always did. Only an idiot dresses -like- they're going to sneak in somewhere when they're going to sneak in somewhere, the whole point of sneaking is to, ick, -not- to be noticed.

There was nothing strange about the two of us together. There was nothing strange about us going around my own home. It was perfectly natural and normal. Yes.

My heart thumbed loud in my ears, my body sweat, my breaths were so shallow. Silver followed me like a good shadow, her eyes were so small, was that how mine looked? The adults never gave us a second look.

Mom stole our lock-picking tools after we had broken into the dessert cabinet. And if we smashed the door in the adults would know we had been here. So we stood stupidly in front of the door with no clue how to get in.

Yeah right!

Do I look stupid to you? I memorized every line on the house blue prints before we started my plan! All it took was one quick lie about trying for an architect cutie mark! The alarms were all on the door leading inside. I discussed the whole thing to Silver Spoon. Mommy didn't want my help in helping organize the schedules but who cared? I just needed to see them and know they weren't going to be changed before I pulled this off! Not just the servants, but deliveries, mom and dad's own hours, and the hours for the heating and cooling of the house! Mom ran everything like clockwork and didn't budge on what she wanted.

'Patterns are traps,' some dead stallion once said, and I finally understood what he meant!

With some fashionable purses being carried by both of us we made our way into an air-vent. No way in Tartarus they'd fit an adult, but us fillies? We, ugh, can, do, IT! OKAY! OKAY! It's not that bad! We can fit through! I'm not stuck! I'm not! Spider-spider-spider-spider! Silver Spoon! Thank you! No! Not out! Forward! No! I'm not giving up! Not now! Push! Okay! Okay, I've got it now, move on your sides, we can fit easy. Trust me. I promise.

She trusted me.

Silver Spoon took the bottle of water, soap and towel out of her bag and cleaned me off. What? I'm not about to wear mom's jewelry looking like a stray.

"Are you sure we didn't make so much noise everypony will know we're in here?" Silver Spoon asked.

"We're kids, we're supposed to be noisy."

"I meant in the air vent."

I stopped for a second before saying, "Er, I'm sure nopony heard. And if they did, they'd never believe we were in one."

Mom's storage room? It was the inside of Aladdin's lamp.

This was the place, full of so many wonders, casting their spell, that I was now under.
Treasures far from the east but far from the least.
The most fantastic things that could be bought with money. Heh, money?

This was a magical place! And we wouldn't leave a trace.
There was more pretties here than you could believe, it was like Hearth's Warming Eve!

Yes, I, had to, try on, eeveerything!

We pulled open every drawer we saw and ogled the jewelry inside! We dumped treasure on ourselves like a shower. Ow! Jewels can be sharp.

"Tarnished, how do I look?"

I stared.

"I have no idea," I said honestly.

Silver had put on a silver and diamond...something or other that was covering her plot and the space between her rear legs and the things right above.

I heard that ponies in other countries had more strict laws of what you could and couldn't show, but you're going to make something like that, why not just go around with nothing at all?

Silver shrugged and tossed it off, and we began rummaging some more.

I check the silver watch I was wearing (it looked better on me than gold, er, matched my mane). Like I was going to rely on the room having a clock.

"Okay remember we have another thirty-five minutes, then 'bout ten minutes to get this mess cleaned up, then seven minutes to get back to our room so nopony notices."

"Right." Silver smiled as she tried on bracelets too big for her. Me? I found scepters, royal orbs or whatever they're called, and crowns. I was a princess, and this was my fairy tale after all. Why did all of them have to fall around my neck though?

"Hm?" I caught a glimpse of something buried under some necklaces. Silver and diamonds. I pulled it out. A diamond tiara. And it was just my size.

I looked at myself in the room's full length mirror, I looked positively royal, almost, just one thing was missing.

A little clumsy, I managed to stand on my hind legs using one of the scepters to prop myself up which added effect too.

"Silver Spoon?" She looked at me, the one witness to my coronation. I looked back at my perfect face. "As Princess Of the Land of Earth, having led us to victory, I do declare this mission a success!" I crowned myself. Everything had worked perfectly! It felt wonderful. no, I absolutely loved it! I felt a strange tingle on my flanks.

"T-Tarnished..." Silver Spoon gasped.

"What?" I glanced at her weird expression, she as pointed a hoof at my rear. I looked down.

My jaw fell from my face. I stared at a replica of the little crown I had put on my head. I looked left and right and yep, it was the same on both sides.

"I-I-I-I-" I gasped for breath, I felt dizzy, Silver Spoon leapt and hugged me on the treasure pile.

"TARNISHED! YOU GOT YOUR CUTIE MARK!"

I think I fainted, but I don't remember.

~~~~~
~~~~~

I'm drowning! Ack! Silver Spoon! She was holding an empty water bottle over my face. My foreleg slapped her. What? It's natural, you know, like when you hit somepony in the knee.

Why would Silver be angry with me? She never got angry with me, not even when I told her I'd earn a better Cutie Mark than her...

She didn't say a thing or give me a bad look in response as she gave me a towel. She never would. N-never.

I felt anger, joy, and panic all in thirty seconds when I sat up in the treasure pile, looked at my flanks and saw it wasn't a dream, and glanced at my watch and saw how much time had passed.

"G-g-g-go!" I said as we hastily put the treasures back in the drawers we had found them in (mostly, I hope, no, we-we got all of them, of course we did, we must have, nothing went wrong). And scurried like mice back the way we came. Yes, I put the crown back where it came from too. What? I'm no thief. I wouldn't steal from mom.

"Diamond Tiara? Good thing, I mean, too bad your grandfather Obscenely Rich isn't here to hear you pick your new name." Dad grinned ear to ear when I showed him and even wider when I told him my new name.

How'd you know grandpa Obscenely Rich was the pony who insisted they name me Tarnished Rich when I was born?

I don't even remember the lie I made up for how my cutie mark came to be, but they bought it hook, line, and sinker.

"I ALWAYS SAID YOU WERE A LITTLE PRINCESS AND THIS IS THE PROOF!" Mom declared in a booming voice as she picked me up and spun me around like a merry-go-round. I laughed. Silver Spoon clapped. "Now there are two crown cutie marks in this house!"

I kept laughing. I was so happy. We were happy. My fairy tale was finally back on track.

...

At school I met with a bunch of other fillies who had gotten their cutie marks. I was part of the 'in' herd again. I was top filly, again. Everything was right with the world. Blue-Luck, now named Archer showed off how her cutie mark meant she was good at archery. A yellow filly Alula said how hers meant she was good at gymnastics. Eyes turned to me, "So what does your cutie mark represent Tarnished Rich?"

"That's Diamond Tiara." Even if I hadn't had my cute-cea├▒era yet but the paper work had already gone through for my new name. Didn't matter, I went by my new name before the ink was dry.

Alula asked again, "Well, what is it for?"

And I felt like a Windigo bucked me from behind.

"It, isn't it obvious?" I made a small laugh, hiding my emotions like a good liar.

I placed a piece of jewelry on my head, and I get a cutie mark. All I did was wear some jewels, and I get the symbol for what's supposed to be my fate-?! It-it-.

I could feel their eyes on me, all of them, but I for once I didn't like it.

That's when I first used my favorite trick: when backed into a corner, push somepony else into one.

"It's obviously -much- better than that filly over there with her invisibly cutie mark. Oh wait, she doesn't have one!" I laughed. Silver and the other fillies giggled.


"You know dear I think your cutie mark looks just like a little tiara I have, it would fit you perfectly."

"N-no thanks mom. Why don't we just have the jewelers make a new one for me? Then we can have a matching set."

"That's my little princess, so polite, thinking of her mother. Oh, we'll look so darling together!"

(*) (*) (*) (*) (*)

"So you're doing all this to save your mom? Making up for making her that way? That's cool I guess, but you didn't have to kill me."

I gasped at Neatly Spell walking next to me, smiling.

"I didn't kill you." I said.

Come on Silver, we don't need her, we, we just need the voice to guide us. I'm not crazy. Yes she is there, just like you're right there. And if she's there, then she's alive.

"Well, I was with you when you blacked out, and now I'm gone. What do you think you did?" Why did she have a noose around her neck?

"I didn't kill you."

"Are you sure?" She asked still smiling, she manage a good trot for having a knife now sticking out of her back.

"I said I didn't kill you."

"But how can you know that for sure?" She asked not taking a hint. She rubbed against me, why did she now have bruises around her neck shaped like hooves? M-My hooves? Why did she feel cold?

"I'm-I'm not a killer. I'm a princess."

"Oooooohhh. Okay. I guess that makes sense, maybe. I mean, it would be awful if my parents never saw me again, and you know, the Princess sent you to the moon for being the first pony murderer in a zillion years." She managed a good smile, the bruises were gone, now she had a bloody rock in her head. W-wasn't that the same rock the voice pointed out to me?

"So-so how about you go away now."

"Naw I can't do that. Because you killed me."

"No, no I didn't-" Tell her Silver, tell her that I didn't kill her. Oh right you weren't there. Sorry, it's, it's getting a little hard to tell when you're here or not.

Voice, you tell her that I didn't kill her, you know.

'Tell who that you didn't kill who now?' The voice asked in a irritated, bored, and confused tone?

Neatly Spell! Tell her I didn't kill her! And can you tell her to stop hanging her head like that? It makes her look like she has a broken neck!

'Huh? Oh her. How am I to do that exactly again?'

She's right here with me and Silver! Just tell her!

'You and...oy. As happy as I am at your progress my little pony I think you should just ignore the, er, your, ugh. Well, this is new. That is, how about we just pretend that Neatly Spell isn't here?'

"Of course I'm not here. You killed me," She gurgled, she looked drenched as she coughed up water.

"I DIDN'T KILL YOU! JUST GO AWAY PLEASE!"

"DID YOU HEAR THAT?!" "LET'S GO!"

'IDIOT!!! HIDE~!'

I leapt into a bush just as a couple of Night Guards came on the scene. I was scared they'd notice Silver but they didn't seem to see her, and Neatly Spell had finally left me alone. The nerve, acting so nice and friendly with me, being kind to me, being so warm to me, and having the nerve to say I killed her. I'd...I'd never do that. I'm a good princess, I'm a good pony.

'Of course you are. Or are you my little pony? Then again, you're doing all this for your mother. So there's no way you're a bad pony. You'd never do anything to hurt your mother, yes my loyal and faithful niece? My lovely daughter?'

The batwinged guards kept looking, did they have night vision? Of course they did! The bush was small, like me, don't look this way, don't look this way! They looked behind the bush, but not in it. They left.

Thank the voice.

'Lovely, you're welcome. Now don't go doing anything that stupid again. We've burned far too many hours as is. If she shows up again, just ignore her.'

The guards were everywhere now. They were as numerous as the statues.

'And who is to blame for that?'

Ah shut it. I could feel their eyes on me as I moved behind their backs behind one statue after another, making extra sure it was a statue, it was hard to tell them apart. I could feel them right behind me whenever I didn't look. Like a weasel I made my way to the edge of the hedge maze. The smart thing to do was cheat and force my way through the hedge, but I didn't want to risk getting stuck and making so much noise.

Two guards were standing directly in front of the entrance to the hedge maze. Should've seen that coming.

I picked up a rock and got ready to throw it to draw their attention like in the books.

'Don't throw the rock that way.'

What?

'Drop it, loudly, right where you are.'

That's crazy.

'If you love your mother do it. Or do you hate her after all?'

I drop the rock, hard, just missing my own hooves.

"What was that?" One guard looked in my hidden direction and took a hoof trop forward.

The other one caught him by the shoulder. "Wait! Don't you ever watch any shows? If that was an intruder and not a raccoon, they threw it that way to distract us! We should go the opposite way."

"Shouldn't you stay here and guard the post while I check it out?"

"Sorry but how thick are you? If you're all alone then someone is going to jump you from behind. Then I'll wander after you alone and get jumped too. Let's both go."

"That's why we're the smart ones!" The two cheered each other and high-hooved and went in the direct opposite way of my hiding place.

'See? This is what happens when you try to cheat conventions or overanalyze a situation. You just invent new patterns to get caught in.'

I scurried into the maze. I moved for the right path, time for the right hooved method.

'No. Go left.'

Huh? What difference will that make? And you said you couldn't guide me.

'I can't. I don't know the layout, but I do know this style. Oh Celly. How thoughtful of you.'

What?

'A very handsome friend of hers designed the magic for this maze for her and her sister's last birthday party before he got eaten. That birthday was so much fun, so many laughs. This must be her idea of a joke. Now go left, I can tell you it will make a difference.'

I did so. Whenever my logic and reason told me to go right, I went left, I doubled back on dead ends only to find they now led further in. And, A GUARD!

I dove into a hedge-wall for dear life.

A night guard made his way down to where I hid. He must have heard my heart pounding for he reached in for me. I didn't give him the chance as I bucked him in one eye, leaving a nasty impression on his face.

He grunted and ran to two more guards I could barely see out of the corner of my eye.

"HEY! There's some THING in the hedge wall! Come with me and check it out!"

The two guards looked at each other. "A fellow guard telling us to abandon our post with a 'can't wait, get to it' tone with a scar we don't remember him having before?"

"Must be an impostor!"

They tackled the first guard on both sides at once. Where did they get the rope and gag?

"Ha! This'll teach you to try and use the Diamond Dog Fire Drill on us!"

'What are you waiting for? Go!'

I hurried behind the guards. "That's why we're the smart ones!" the two cheered each their and high-hooved.

Did you do that somehow? Despite it demanding me to run it had been chuckling at the whole scene.

'My dear. If I could do that, I'd think of something much more funny for them to say, and it would be in octave.'

If I trusted just my sense I'd say I was just going in circles, but I couldn't deny from the view that I was making progress.

Where had Silver Spoon gone? Why did she have to keep coming and going?

The sky was changing color. Dawn was coming.

'Yes, may it be the last scheduled one this world ever has.'

I didn't even ask what nonsense the voice was going on about now. Nothing mattered except avoiding the guards and getting to the center of the maze.

I surprised when I found a clear spot in the maze. Not that there was much here except a muddy puddle and some tree stumps that must have been cut down decades ago.

There is one truth Ah'll accept. The truth hurts. The truth is cruel. And Ah won't be part of somethin' dat awful again! Sweet little lies are so much kinder.

What was that? I heard the voice give one of those chuckles. The kind that even now sent a chill straight down my spine.

'Oh just a very beautiful moment on a glorious day.'

No no no, I meant, what was that?

'Meh. Memory impression. Happen in some form or another for gratuitous reasons when you have enough magical or spiritual aura saturating a place. Think of it as the ghost of an event that happened here. It's a sign of how close you're getting to me, how strong our bond has become, and your natural talent as an Earth Pony to sense the flow of life, and memories, contrary to some opinions, are not dead things. Anything with enough emotional release can create one, but you'd need godly levels of magic in the area at the time and have acute enough magical senses to, well, let's just say this makes you a tinny tiny bit special. Or it's something I just scrawled into reality's underside that didn't get washed away. Take your pick.'

My head hurt. Where was Silver when I needed her?

'Tell me my dear. Why was Silver here? And when exactly did she join you?'

She's here because she's always with me, and she joined me when...when...I didn't remember! Did I, did I really, no no no no! Of course not! I'm fine! Where was Silver to tell me I was fine?!

Have to get to the center. Then everything will be better!