• Published 20th Dec 2012
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Cultural Artifacts - Dan_s Comments

A little piece of Earth arrives in Equestria, a human and it's home. The citizens of Ponyville and Princess Luna struggle with this newcomer, as it struggles with them.

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15) The Other Side of Broken Glass

Dan's Comments

Cultural Artifacts - The Other Side of Broken Glass

DISCLAIMER: My Little Pony is the property of Hasbro, Inc.

Day 26

I can't take you anywhere. A nice ride with a fancy mare and you have to muck it all up.

"Excuse me," Tom said, "I'd really like to know which of you said that, it's getting dreadfully confusing."

I did.

"You gentlemen do know my inbuilt 155 has a recoilless option, so I can fire in both directions at once?" Tom asked.

"It doesn't matter who said it," Discord said disgustedly, "We're in another fix! What is it with you monkeys and curiosity?"

Danger invites rescue, he replied, Ponies can't climb as well as humans.

"Pegasi can fly," Discord replied hotly.

That guardspony seemed to be having real problems stopping. Besides going through the far door, I don't know where she went, he replied, But considering the alarm that the Apples were going through, I bet Granny Smith is in here somewhere.

"How are you going to get her out?" Discord asked.

Open a window, he replied as he walked over to a window displaying the pony leadership obviously conferring. He raised the window and saw the blank wall behind it.

"You were saying?" Tom asked.

All right, I think I stepped in it this time, he admitted.

"Huzzah, a bit of truth shines on your utter INSANITY!" Discord raged at him.

Why Discord, I didn't know you cared, he replied, Let's locate the lady, then we can work out how to escape.

"Well, the good news is you have a plethora of senses that allow you to navigate this maze. I really am surprised," Discord admitted, "Follow your intuition. That seems to be how they're wired up. Inconvenient."

You can develop the improved design, he thought and picked one of the doors. Before he walked through the threshold, he stuck his arm through to feel the direction of gravity in the place. He oriented himself so he could drop to the ceiling easily. Glad that the pony-scale means the floor and ceiling were close enough to touch, in a human-scale building I'd be in trouble.

Sapphire Trinket raised her head from her collision with the wall of the Apple home. She stood and looked around, then collapsed to the ground. Too much time between meals, she thought, But if he's in this madhouse, I can deal with him and no one's the wiser. Soon mother, he will not be able to destroy you. I'll see to that. Even if I am a 'failure and a disappointment' I will not fail in this. I will not disappoint.

She stood much more slowly and felt the various tuggings from the wall around her that had disoriented her so the first time she stood. All right then, she thought with determination, I go.

She walked forward a few steps, and the entire house groaned. The familiar pressure on her hooves vanished as she raced for the far wall. Frantic wing beats only ensured she didn't land face-first. This isn't fair! she thought as she crashed into the bookcase. Followed by a cascade of its contents. Threw the book at me, she thought muzzily.

"I don't think this railing was meant as a ladder," Discord helpfully pointed out.

Shaddup! he thought just as helpfully in reply. He looked 'down' at the ceiling, and 'up' at all four walls, and wondered, If I let go, how many pieces will I wind up in?.

"Just trying to help," Discord said innocently, the ting of his halo sounding particularly pure.

How quickly can you start using that Alicorn Amulet? he asked.

"You want to go through the ritual here?" Discord asked incredulously.

I'm just hanging around, I might as well do something useful, he replied. Until the house changes again, I can't really reach any of the doors.

"All right, but don't try any of these actions until we're on more solid footing," Discord cautioned. "The danger of the amulet is that it will try to corrupt the wearer. By whispering little poisons into the wearer's brain. Fortunately for you, it will be whispering in Equestrian, so that's out. Second, there's the whole 'absolute power corrupts absolutely'."

With you and Celestia in the mix, that puts the 'absolute power' out of reach. I saw the particle beams she was raining on that thing. I doubt a tank would do well facing those.

"The other thing is fortitude and sacrifice, not something you'd find in someone wanting the cheap power-up of the amulet," Discord explained.

What, engage it in mental combat and give it some of the wearer's blood? he asked as the room seemed to rotate, and he could put his feet on the ceiling and stand stable.

Discord? Discord? Discord, are you okay?! he asked.

"He's, pouting. He hates being predictable," Tom explained, "I'll explain to him. Uh, by the way, that's exactly how it must be done. How'd you figure it out?"

Pretty strong symbolism, mastery of self, and blood offering, he mentally replied, It seems reasonable that it's also something under 'a god I am' would be able to manage. Go check up on him, if you would.

"Certainly, sir."

The odd quiet in his mind worried him. He looked around, certain he was being watched. Watched by something hostile. Okay, whoever you are, once I get the old lady out of here, you are going to get a painful surprise.

He scanned the surroundings, and moved to the door. He lowered himself through the door and landed carefully on the wall. Picking his way across from wall joist to wall joist as he advanced. "I was in this room before. But it was painted differently."

He touched the door opposite and yanked his hand back. The door was hot. "Okay, some of the building is on fire. That's going to make things interesting, and it definitely puts a time limit on being in here." The walked back, and couldn't open the other door.

With no other way out, he settled in the corner and pulled out the amulet. Mental combat, eh, so, let's do this, he thought and concentrated on the red eye of the amulet. In his head he heard the buzzing distraction, but he concentrated on the eye.

Blueblood tied the note to his polo ball with bad grace. But Rarity staring at him kept him from voicing his concern, or doing it poorly or slowly. Across the barn, a fat, bespectacled lavender unicorn was instructing her Blueblood in the same task.

"I get fat," Twilight said despondently.

"Uhm, Twilight, you aren't fat, you're pregnant," Fluttershy said.

"With his!?" Twilight nearly shrieked.

"Uh, maybe, not that you have to, but it kinda seems, yes," Fluttershy said quietly.

The soft tap of a polo mallet against the ball cut off Twilight's reply. From the opposite side, another polo ball took flight. The crazed path soon had the ball literally drop in front of them. Blueblood removed the two notes, and handed the one addressed to Twilight to the waiting mare, he looked over the other one.

Twilight gasped, choked, shuddered, and pronked clear around the barn squealing with pain, finally collapsing with a groan. When somepony reached for the note, Twilight slammed a hoof down on it and growled at her. Luna backed up sharply.

"Your Highness, I'm sorry!" Twilight amended.

"Everypony RUN!" Pinkie and Luna shouted in chorus and ran back to Celestia.

"I'll just take the note to their Highesses," Rarity said and gingerly took the other note. Across the barn, the other Twilight, Blueblood and a pink and green Alicorn were laughing uproariously. Twilight buried her face in the dust and groaned.

"It, ah, might not be so bad," Fluttershy said.

"I'll keep her away from sharp objects, your friends need you over there," Blueblood said, "What did you see in there?"

"A scary unicorn," Fluttershy said and flittered away.

"Ah, so Miss Rarity is trapped in there as well. Too bad, I kind of liked the fellow," Blueblood said and returned to the game.

"According to other Twilight, they mixed golden apple and zap apple pollens," Celestia said as she read, and grinned at the style of the note, "The academy will love getting this, it will set dimensional investigations ahead decades. Unfortunately, they don't have anyone who can safely brave the multidimensional void." She noted Armor getting ready just incase Celestia decided to try for it. "Fortunately, we do," she said, causing Armor to relax. "They also believe that it is not a mere dimensional cross rip, but one where each person involved had one significant difference in their lives. Twilight's was finding a special somepony at the Academy. She suspects that the other variations will depend on what other highly magical beings were in the vicinity when it erupted. She had the entire Examination of Contention (Twilight, Luna, Big McIntosh, Pinkamena, Sweetie Belle, Celeste, Fluttershy, Octavia and Reginald) and their ruler Queen Eris. Who names a pony Reginald?"

"Ah, your Highness, Reginald is my friend," Fluttershy said, "He's a bear."

"I guess they needed a good sergeant-at-arms," Shining said, "So that's ten, assuming the slight changes carry over."

"A thousand twenty-four places in there," Big McIntosh said as he looked at their home, "That's going to take some explorin'."

"And poor Granny Smith in the middle of it," Applejack said quietly.

"Your grandmother is tougher than you think," Celestia assured them, "And more resourceful. I'm more worried about the alternate Lunas and the alternate mes. Celeste was not a Princess, but what other Princess Celestias and Princess Lunas are there?"

"Queen Eris, you don't suppose . . . " Rainbow began, "That their Queen, is Discord?"

"Two thousand, forty-eight," Big McIntosh said, "More explorin'."

Pinkie bounced away from the group as they pondered the spells needed to untangle the mess.

Discord watched the mental battle between constructs, and smiled. "Ponies always try to go straight in, power against power, and most don't have the determination to win," Discord said proudly. "Oh this is fun!"

The battle resembled a lone lance fighting a squid with a buckler. The one of the two long tentacles deflected all attacks with the buckler, while the others swarmed the lance. It was clear the lance was getting tired.

"Hence the fortitude requirement, and saving some of your energy for the final battle while laying dozens of diversions," Tom agreed, and tossed the popcorn back to Discord. "He should be about done."

The long tentacle got a grip on the lance, one the lance couldn't dislodge. The buckler guided the tip out of the mass of tentacles that swarmed in and quickly broke the lance to pieces. The scream of the evil spirit Discord had bound within the amulet centuries ago echoed in the Big Guy's mind.

"Now you know why I negotiated," Discord shouted at the wailing spirit, "Moron."

That was certainly, interesting, he thought as he lay on the floor and felt the universe rotating around him.

"Yes," Discord commented, "You did it exactly right though, couldn't have done it better."

That was a trapped entity, he said.

"He, it, volunteered, to get revenge. Nistag was initially a grave disappointment, then when he got more control, less of one," Discord said.

He sat up, regretted it but struggled to remain upright. He looked at his finger where he'd pierced it with the Alicorn's horn and smeared the resulting blood drop in the amulet's eye. The eye was now a brilliant, scintillating blue. It's like a blue opal, he thought as he attached the amulet around his arm just below the shoulder, and pulled his shirt over it. That's what was bugging me, the markings on that spear. They were the same as the UV markings on that plant! Is that where Nistag got the idea? Because that plant, that was Nistag's work, wasn't it?

"After the amulet got a firmer grip on him, yes," Discord said, his enthusiastic tone seemed to encourage more answers. When the Big Guy didn't provide them, Discord threw out a clue, "Have you ever heard of Timberwolves?"

Yeah, big furry, have the same ancestors as dogs, why? he asked.

"On Equestria, they look like yours, but they are made of wood," Discord said gleefully. He watched in delight at finally being able to horrify his host.

A plant, sentient species, in a land full of herbivores, he whispered in his mind, Did they communicate, warn the ponies off?

"Of course they tried, what do you think Timberwolves and Poison Joak were? Happy accidents? No, the ponies didn't eat them. They didn't even know they were there. They simply dug up the 'weeds' and used them as they needed them. Great vines that linked individuals and interlinked entire communities, torn up to use as ropes. The great bodies sawn up to use as houses, or carved up inside as living spaces. Their great priest, I guess you'd call him, called on his gods for vengeance. There was only one god listening at that point."

You, and you didn't try to stop them, stop the ponies from attacking these plant people, why? he asked.

"Because the ponies weren't doing anything different from what they'd done to each other for centuries. The idea that these ponies are pleasant and gentle creatures is due to Celestia's influence. They were right, royal bastards when left on their own. Now don't get up on your high-horse with me, your own nightmares show you're afraid they'd do the same to you and yours, if they ever got the chance."

No, you're right. It's been the thing that's been bugging me since I got here. Aside from the communications problem. I've been wondering when the novelty would wear off, and they'd toss me in a cage. Or link results to rights, turn me into a Dhimmi, he sighed, I just never really wanted to admit it.

"They won't. A thousand years ago, they probably would have hacked you apart already as a spy from the other races, or to deny your intelligence to the other side(s). But not, here, with the ones you've fallen in with, it's unlikely."

Thanks, he thought, Let's find the nice old lady and get out of here. You haven't been commenting on how you like the architecture.

"There is such a thing as taking a good idea and running it into the ground," Discord said, "This runs it so far into the ground, it's in geosynchronous orbit on the other side."

He opened the door, and there was Celestia, calmly reading a scroll. "Your Highness?" he asked.

The scroll crashed to the ground. "HUMAN!" Celestia shrieked, in perfectly understandable and terrified English, "Humans cannot exist in Equestria! Humans must not exist in Equestria! Ponies are pure and good and noble!"

"Got it, leaving now." He slammed the door and ran towards another one. You suppose they come from an Equestria without this one's pre-Alicorn history? he asked, as a long white horn punched through the door.

"Less philosophy, more running!" Discord insisted. As the horn was rammed through the lock above the handle.

Night was falling, and despite glimpses of things, and odd sounds, the various observers hadn't seen anything through the windows that would have led them to Granny Smith. The polo ball messages continued. An attempt at face to face communication by the Rainbow Dash from the other side, had resulted in the complete destruction of an apple tree and very nearly the captain of the other side's Wonderbolts. Other side Rainbow Dash had been heavily concussed and taken to a hospital, before any message could be delivered. Other than don't do this yourself.

"Ah, polo balls are fine with me," Element Bearer Rainbow Dash exclaimed as she saw the far superior flyer being untangled from the remains of the tree, and carted off. "Doesn't hurt my pride, no sir," she said as she cringed at the other pegasus' injuries.

"The wingspan is too great," Blueblood said, "She was operating in multiple zones simultaneously." The stallion looked at the stunned ponies. "It's what Sparkle said," he added. The others relaxed.

"So we need to basically increase tension on both fundamentals of the dimensional thread," Twilight said.

"Yank hard on the rope," Lyra translated and smiled at Twilight.

"Easy enough, how and where?" Applejack said.

"As soon as possible," Twilight said. "The Elements of Harmony should be here shortly," Twilight explained, "Then all we have to, where's Pinkie?" She looked around.

"Up there." Derpy pointed to the pink mare standing on one of the gables with a coil of rope in her mouth. She looked over the edge into the room, and raised her head. Whatever she shouted was garbled by the rope. But the window shattering from the inside told the story.

" 'Bout time, young'un," Discord translated for the wizened mare as she sat in her rocker.

"I wish I could tell you that the cavalry's arrived," he replied as he looked at the disheveled room, and the gabled window above showing sky. "But I think I'd rather show than tell." He climbed a bookcase and pulled himself up to the window. He opened it, and revealed the wooden wall behind it. "I'm getting sick of this." He closed the window, still displaying sky, and pulled the knife from its sheath as he hung there.

Granny Smith shouted a warning. Discord translated, "Hurry young fellow the change is coming."

He broke out the window and saw the sky. And a large, pink cloud with a rope in its mouth. Pinkie began her commentary, which became no more coherent when she dropped the rope around his head and onto his shoulders.

While holding onto the sill with one arm, he handed the end of the rope back to Pinkie. She took it in her mouth and stood firm. He dropped the rest of the rope down, only to watch it make a complicated series of dog legs in midair. "Oh that's not going to work." He returned the knife to its sheath and shinnied down the rope. Then dragged the end over to Granny Smith. The old mare had collected a few towels and tablecloths, and tied then as a crash web to keep her in her chair. She nodded and gestured up at the window. He tied off the rope to the chair, and Pinkie hauled. He guided the chair through its gyrations to reach the window. There, eager hooves pulled the elderly mare out of the chair.

Then the grinding sounded and he was thrown against the wall as the room reoriented. The door he'd landed on gave way a moment later.

"NO!" Twilight was yanked away from the window as something severed the rope and the chair vanished from sight. When she rushed back, the room changed had completely. The rest of the furnishings had vanished with the chair, to be completely replaced, and the window was again intact.

"We have to do something!" Twilight told the others as Rainbow lowered her to the ground.

"Go in there?" Dash asked incredulously, "The air in there is doin' loop-de-loops!" She returned to pick up Rarity. Fluttershy was landing with Applejack.

"Consarn it!" Granny shouted angrily, "Jist like a stallion, why didn't he jist hang onto the chair?" The matriarch grumped, before being surrounded by her grateful family.

"Granny," Applebloom said, "I'm sorry, this is all my fault."

"Ya don't learn nothin' without mistakes child. But this one was a doozy," the old mare said and winked at her grandchild.

"That's how I knew he'd be there, and was it ever a doozy of a doozy!" Pinkie said as she danced happily as she landed.

"He's still stuck in there!" Twilight reminded them.

"Well, I'm sure he saw that scary unicorn, and he's going to, you know," Fluttershy said and bowed her head.

" 'Scary unicorn'?" Armor asked as he approached the group.

"Yeah, dark, with glowing eyes and canine teeth," Fluttershy said, "Even a Timberwolf isn't that scary."

Armor looked at Twilight, then the group shrugged. Celestia exchange worried looks with Luna.

Sapphire Trinket looked through the slots in the cupboard under the kitchen sink at the unicorn who crooned menacingly. I think it's better I don't understand what he's saying, she thought as he walked through slowly, as if feasting on and savoring the favor of terror of a pony he couldn't see.

He wasn't searching, just letting anyone in hiding know he knew they were generally in this room, and implying he could get them whenever he wanted. The menace radiating off the unicorn was palpable. The desperate fear Sapphire Trinket felt made her gnawing hunger worse.

I need to get food, and I need to get out of here, and I can't do either hiding under here, she thought as she watched and listened.

The hoof steps had receded, but she knew the old hunting trick. She waited, listening, watching, even smelling to detect his approach. The cupboard wrenching open and the hand closing over her muzzle almost made her scream. The hand was to prevent that very thing. He gestured for her to be quiet, and carefully removed his hand. When she didn't scream, he relaxed.

It isn't fair. A room full of sharp weapons, and I can't just kill him, or I'll attract that thing. I should just do it, and hang the consequences. A dutiful daughter would. A daughter who wasn't a disappointment and a failure would, she thought miserably and started quietly crying.

He'd paused and come back for her when he realized she wasn't following. He reached into his pack and pulled out a brightly wrapped tube. He opened it revealing a pastry filled with a fruit paste. He ate a small piece to prove it was safe, then offered the rest to her. She took it and chewed thoughtfully. He held her shivering form and offered what she guessed were encouragements.

It's not fair, she thought as she leaned into his hug, I know he'll destroy my mother, the prophet said so. So why does he feed me? Why can't I just hate him, and be done with him and my life?

He broke the hug and extended a finger from his head and made a crazy face.

She nodded. Yes, I've seen the crazy unicorn, she thought as she nodded.

He gestured for her to follow. They stepped into a large room with a stair leading up. Several doors led into the room, but he headed straight for the side of the stairway and lifted a piece of paneling out of the way. He gestured for her to climb in as he positioned himself to pull the paneling back to cover their hiding place. The fit was tight with the panel closed. He stroked her mane to offer comfort.

A place to rest, after a long day, she thought, Is he really foolish enough to think a piece of wood will distract that maniac? She grew bold, and gestured for him to close his eyes. To her amazement, he nodded and settled into the corner and tried to get comfortable. Wait for it, she thought as he stopped moving and his breathing slowed. She approached. Just crush his throat, one blow, no noise and it'll be over, she thought as she raised a hoof.

His eyes snapped open, and took the entire scene in. She froze, giving a weak grin. He replied with a sardonic one.

Scat! He knows! she thought, certain of only that, and what he'd do to her would be horrible.

He wrapped his arms around her and stroked her mane and back, murmuring soothingly. She laid her head on his shoulder and wept at the unfairness and perversity of the universe.

"Sparkle," Trixie said, as Rainbow retrieved her out of the tree, "Why don't we cut to the chase and just burn the place to the ground?"

Rainbow held Trixie over a water trough and dropped her.

"It should have worked," Twilight said as a canary-colored rhinoceros with a pink horn gently dug through the compost heap to pull Twilight out of the hole she was buried in.

"It didn't," Trixie said, and wrinkled her nose. "You'd better dump her in here next. She smells like she needs it." Trixie clambered out of the water trough and sighed.

"Uh, can one of you change me back?" the rhinoceros asked, "Being a rhinoceros is okay. If you don't want to, I understand, but I'd really like to be back."

"Yeah, sure, Fluttershy, no problem," Twilight said. Her horn glowed briefly, and then she collapsed. "Look at all the spinney stars."

"I think she's too pooped to pop," Trixie said, and bowed her head, "And Trixie is also exhausted."

"Oh, okay," the rhinoceros said, and daintily walked toward their Highesses, one was covered in cake, and the other had dozens of forks and spoons magnetized to her body.

"So, it's not an anthaumic junction of possibility fields," Twilight said as she rolled over on her back, "So each identity point has its own tensor to add to the vector sum. Plus hysterisis and drift, wonderful," Twilight moaned.

Rainbow had maneuvered a cloud over the reeking Twilight, and jumped up and down on it. The rain washed away the compost and the smell, but also removed the last of Twilight's enthusiasm for the project.

"So there's only ten million, eight-hundred and thirty-seven thousand, six-hundred and three ways this can go catastrophically wrong," Twilight explained as Rainbow did her tornado dry on Twilight.

When Trixie indicated her own soaking wet condition, Rainbow just raised an eyebrow.

"Was this one of them?" Trixie asked.

"No, this wasn't even close," Twilight admitted. "The catastrophic ones are catastrophic."

Blueblood trotted over. "Latest polo-mail," he said and chuckled. "Ahem, 'Enough fascinating explosions and humorous injuries for one night. We're going to sleep, recommend you do the same. Signed, Queen Eris.' I shall forward the message to their Highesses and remind you that without their assistance our efforts cannot continue."

Twilight laid her head down. "We were so close!"

"Unless there was a major magical entity inside," Blueblood said and walked away.

"It would take someone very powerful to throw my calculations off," Twilight assured her friends.

"Like Celestia and Luna goin' in themselves to rescue their folks?" Applejack asked sardonically.

Twilight stared at her in horror.

"He's asleep," Tom said quietly. "This room is shielded, why are we whispering?"

"Ambiance," Discord said, and nodded to another Discord done up in rainbow colors.

"Love what you've done with the place," Rainbow Discord said as he looked around.

"I'm crashing with a friend while he teaches me stuff," Discord told Rainbow Discord angrily, "And, Rainbow Discoed, for someone who looks like he got graffitied by sugar-addled kindergarteners -"

"Gentlemen!" Tom interjected, "Before we devolve into 'yo mama' jokes, let us return to the matter at hand? Shall we?" The grudging silence let him continue, "You messed up, and are afraid of punishment when you return. We can ameliorate the punishment, or at least make it seem less. We will require payment for this service."

"In what? You can do anything," Rainbow Discord sneered.

"I can't make Celestia, or in you case, Celeste, like me. Or even tolerate me," Discord replied stonily, "Sound familiar?"

"Spirit of disharmony and chaos remember?" Rainbow Discord said rather bitterly.

"Let me show you our price, and you just might understand," Discord said and handed him a dossier.

Rainbow Discord flipped through it. "You must have this already."

"Read the bit in purple again. Now, yes we sort of have one. What about two? Certainly in all this vast chaos, there's one around nopony would miss."

"A couple. He wouldn't want them though. But," Rainbow Discord said thoughtfully, "One was piercing the veils seeking help."

"Found it?" Tom asked.

"No, where do you find anypony who could - " Rainbow Discord stopped and looked around. "Him?!"

"Him," Discord said triumphantly. "The white knight races in, slays the evil, and rides off, no, gets followed to a new land and a new start. He's steeped in the American ideal of reinventing yourself. It would appeal to all his instincts. He wouldn't even consider saying 'no.'"

Rainbow Discord literally dissolved in laughter. The rainbow-colored cloud hovered over them, raining chocolate and strawberry milk and guffawing hysterically for several minutes. Discord and Tom exchanged knowing glances and multiple toasts, some with real toast, until Rainbow Discord pulled himself together.

"Okay, that is funny. All right, I'll meet your price, even throw in the extra deluxe for free. Because that would get us in even better. I can just imagine the look on your Celestia's face and my Celeste's when we tell her the news. But, he's got that crazy Celestia chasing him."

"He can dump a megadose of purple conversion goo on her," Tom said, "Good plausible deniability for us."

"She'll shake it off," Rainbow Discord said.

"Eventually?" Discord asked innocently.

"Yes, eventually," Rainbow Discord said, grinned widely and extended a paw.

Discord turned it and revealed the joy buzzer. He shook his head, showed his paw empty and extended it. Rainbow Discord took it, and it came off at the elbow. "Get yourself more involved in the joke, then people don't resent it as much," Discord explained as he chuckled.

"Now, as our bonus, two lessons," Tom began, "Life-affirming chaos, and positive sum games."

The steady clip clop of hooves brought him to full wakefulness, erasing all the efforts Sapphire Trinket had made to collect her courage to do her duty. I guess the legends are true, accept food in a strange place, and you can never raise your hoof against the benefactor, she thought, but she could sense his fear.

She listened, but the pace, and sound of the tread were totally different than what she remembered. She pointed to the room beyond the wall. He fearfully shook his head.

She pointed insistently. He grimly nodded and he carefully lifted the panel aside, letting her out and letting her see.

"Princess Celestia!" she said excitedly, "Are you here to lead us out?" She paused at the Solar Diarch's confused expression. "Highness, what is wrong?"

The alicorn nuzzled Sapphire and spoke, utter gibberish that sounded like no Equestrian she'd ever heard. The alicorn spoke politely, as a mother to a worried child, and levitated a dozen good-sized jars of what looked like grape jelly with a trace of white paint mixed in it. The alicorn was clearly trying to ask her a question, and was looking around for something.

Or someone, she realized, There are two crazy unicorns in this place, this is who he was running from. She smiled and looked into the Diarch's eyes and saw the madness there. This isn't Celestia, she thought and dashed away from her towards a door. The smiling Diarch walked after her, the swarm of jars following, save for the one sailing for the door Sapphire had just wrenched open. It nearly exploded on the floor of the other room. Sapphire slammed the door and searched desperately for another exit.

Thunderclaps and the explosion of the jars nearest Celestia shocked both of them. The thick purplish matter fell on the Diarch's coat, staining it like splashes of blood. As the other jars dropped to the floor, Celestia began spinning in place, screaming in agony and fury.

The Big Guy broke from cover and raced for a door on the opposite wall, shouting and motioning for Sapphire to follow.

With Celestia on the floor seemingly going through convulsions, he had little encouraging to do. She ran after him. They got the door closed as the house groaned again. Opening the door yielded the exact same room, sans the damage from a madly thrashing alicorn. They proceeded back through the room and exited through the door she'd originally intended to exit through.

She got in front of him and stopped him. "What was that?" she demanded and gestured back the way they'd come.

He made the unicorn horn and the crazy face. She shook her head. "That wasn't my crazy unicorn," she said firmly.

He held up two fingers. She nodded. "There are two of them," she agreed.

For the first time in her life, she saw somepony else feeling as despondent as she always felt. "Great, the first person I can empathize with is the one . . . crap, the world isn't fair," she said.

He must have understood her tone, because he shrugged and nodded.

Okay, what the fricken' hell was that? he mentally shouted at the two cowering aspects of the spirit of Chaos, And when the hell did Celestia learn standard English?

"Other dimension," Tom offered, "After all that, ahem, material was beyond the capability of Equestria."

Some kind of polymorph potion you said. You know I was going to try to study potions with Zecora, but everyone except her who studies potions goes completely mental. Does J. K. Rowling know about this?

"Possibly," Tom said reasonably, "But the lady was afflicted by a different 'mad god with a horn'. It might be wiser to concentrate on that."

The soft answer turned away wrath. All right, but what is going on in here? This can't be from mixing pollens, there can't be that much raw magic in apples, despite what the owners of this house might believe.

"It appears we are caught in a transdimensional war. I suspect that we encountered one of the combatants." Tom said, then quietly added, "At least I hope so."

You 'hope so', That was Celestia. And she was carrying anti-Celestia weapons. What the heck would she need that kind of firepower against? You? Luna? Superman? Mickey Mouse? Leroy Jenkins? And if she's not one of the first-line fighters, what is?

"I don't know," Tom admitted, "Perhaps we should accelerate our efforts to escape."

He sighed and looked over at the nervous guardspony who kept looking horribly guilty. Poor kid thinks because she's got the uniform she's supposed to be guarding me.

"She is trained," Tom said, "And that should count for something."

A trained mouse against an experienced cat is still lunch, he replied and glanced around his mind, Where's Discord?

"With the activation of the amulet, he has some powers, if he could, he'd have a half-dozen little SR-71s out looking around," Tom said, "I think he was even more alarmed by this than you are, especially that perversion of Celestia and what she was saying. The local Celestia is frightened of you and what you represent, but genocidal? Even if all that would be needed to accomplish that in her Equestria is a quick horn thrust, she hasn't reached that point."

Okay, intuition, he looked at the three doors that left the room. Since the building had groaned since they'd entered, the three doors would all lead to a different place. He'd managed to advance relatively safely and successfully. But this time, he couldn't decide. Okay, when the money is split between the favorites, go with the long shot, he thought as took the third door.

Discord stared at the ever-changing diagrams in his makeshift war room. He looked at the targets he could sense due to the Alicorn Amulet letting him project some of his power outside his host, and the occasional 'ping' from his ally. He sat in his chair and barely noticed Tom entering. "Time for a little of this 'life-affirming chaos'," he said as he pointed at the targets. "And he's headed that way. Is he up to what he'll run into?"

"Should we warn them?" Tom asked, "We can make ourselves understood."

"Yes," Discord said quietly, "I suspect he trusts you more than me, and that guard doesn't know you."

"What's the matter?" Tom asked the abnormally pensive Discord.

Then Discord gestured at the screen. "Is it that easy? Is it so obvious? I could have been doing this all along," he was shouting, but tears crept down his cheeks.

"It is unlikely you would have accepted such advice from the ponies. The Alicorn sisters reacted with horror and didn't understand your nature, and I don't think you respected them until they knocked you down," Tom said carefully, "You have never been afraid of anything, but the Elements and his memories, and his ideas come close. He knocked you down and then extended his hand. You needed to learn to accept help, and that all-powerful doesn't mean you can think of things you'd never had an inkling of."

"Thank you," Discord said and took a deep breath. Then he giggled like a delighted child. "This is going to be so good!"

"Oh, yes. It may even shock him," Tom offered.

"You think!?" Discord asked eagerly, "You aren't just teasing me? Are you?"

"I would not tease you about this," Tom said, "Until it succeeds, then I shall tease you mercilessly."

"Fine!" Discord angrily shouted, collected the screens under his arm and marched out.

The gray sphere that appeared before them had Sapphire stop and retreat a step. She glanced at her should-be victim. He seemed to be staring intently at the sphere as if it were only vaguely unexpected, not a complete surprise.

It made no noise, but she heard what it had said. "We've detected your two remaining 'mad-unicorns'," the sphere made her hear. "But there will also be a rescue operation that will need undertaking. Once you see the situation, you will understand."

"What is he hearing?" she asked carefully.

"Exactly what you are, but we aren't translating what you're saying, until you get to planning," the sphere made her hear. "We are also informing him of the identity of your 'mad-unicorn', someone he's already killed once, in our dimension."

"Our dimension?" she said, "What are you talking about?"

"This place is currently between the normal walls of possibilities. It's easiest to imagine timelines as things that walk on their own, separate from others of their own kind. This is a town meeting."

"So," Sapphire said as her mind grabbed the one fact that made perfect sense, "He killed it once. So he can kill it again?"

"I have no doubt," she heard the sphere say, "Take a look at him."

She did and shivered, his terrifying countenance softened as he looked at her. He smiled and she knew the warmth of his feelings. She smiled back and nodded.

"What do you need me to do?" she asked hopelessly, "I just want to run away and hide."

"I suspect his plan will be remarkably simple, and will protect you from most of the danger," she heard the sphere say.

"You think I'm a coward," she replied.

"I think the rest of us are insane, or beyond sanity," the sphere appeared to say, "Do not be ashamed you value your life, and perhaps the life of your family. They are treasures. Do not throw them away, when other courses of action are available."

She stared in horror at the sphere.

Does he know? she wondered, Have I been that obvious? She forced herself to relax, and accept that they weren't going to eliminate her out of hand. I am a failure, she though and put on a brave face.

She looked from the sphere, to him, and back. "What am I to do?" She did not like the way her would-be victim smiled.

"He says that all you have to do is scream in terror," the sphere provided.

She laughed mirthlessly. "I think I can give a very convincing performance," she admitted and looked worriedly from one to the other. They bore her no ill-will, but she had and awful feeling that it was not going to be easy, or pleasant.

"Ah, my little slave," the creature said. It looked like a cross between a unicorn stallion, and a Terrestrial timberwolf. That had been given a suit of armor, and had subsequently been thrown through a jet engine running at full song. The armor was badly damaged and the flesh underneath had also seen better days. The creature limped forwards towards the squealing, fishtailing guardspony, who was so distraught and so helpless she drew the monster's full attention. So he never checked the weird sculpture atop the bookcase. The 'weird sculpture' just smiled as the monster drove the guardspony into a corner.

"You can't shoot every problem you come across you know," Discord said in the confines of his head.

Yes, I'll eventually run out of ammunition, he replied, Did you know the original requirement for a forty-five was that it could founder a horse?

Three rounds did precisely that. The first hit some shield, so it was the size of an Eisenhower-dollar when it hit the unicorn. The others passed through without interference until they hit the body. The Big Guy jumped down and retrieved the axe from where he'd placed it, and jogged over to finish the job the old-fashioned way.

Sapphire Trinket felt the complete idiot as she sobbed in his lap. He stroked her mane, and he said something obviously meant to be soothing and supportive. She felt better as he did it. So much better that she was almost ready to stop weeping. I am supposed to be hating him, for what he'll do. Not crawling into his lap and crying my eyes out, she thought, the thought plunging her into despair again, I'm sorry mother. I've failed you. Failed my family. Failed the people who raised me. Failed everyone who matters. Her despair fueled the lengthy crying jag as she felt her guts twist with the knowledge of the depths of her betrayal, and that she couldn't get out of it. Nor could she correct it.

He felt bad for the poor kid. That other dimensional Sombra must have been more than she could take. Every time I thought she'd buck up, she go off again, he thought despondently. He'd left her behind to her tears, and advanced to where Sombra had entered from. He had the pistol in one hand, and a far more grisly missile in the other. He bashed the door open with Sombra's severed head and tossed it inside. He retrieved his camera from his pack.

"I don't know if you can understand me, but that should show you what I'll do. Now since we've never met, you have a variety of choices," he told the ones inside, "You can be friendly. You can be neutral. Or you can be dead."

"Friendly," came a tired voice that sounded hauntingly familiar, "I always start with friendly."

He held the camera around the doorframe and scanned the image. In the large kitchen, there were four ponies in all. Two crouched in the corner, pinned there by the presence of Sombra's head pointed at them. The one tied up on the counter looked like Nightmare, hogtied, and gagged, with her four hooves sticking straight into the air.

That couldn't have been easy, he thought.

The last was the most curious. Chained to the floor was a pony who looked like a cross between Celestia and Luna. The huge fields of bruises across her body giving her a splotchy coloring more like the Moon Princess. He wedged the door open, and entered. He looked around for the source of the voice. Outside the kitchen windows looked like a rather unimaginative Hell. Anything that wasn't on fire was charcoal black. There were no forests or buildings of Ponyville, the mountain where Canterlot rested was half it's height and looked melted. The sky was black and starless. He could feel the heat coming in through the glass.

Time to get out of here and close the door on this place. This is the war you were talking about, right? he thought.

"Correctamundo," Discord answered.

I think they lost, he commented.

"Can't believe in a talking horse?" the bruised all over Celestia asked, tried to laugh and just ended up coughing.

"No, I've been dealing with talking horses for almost a month. English-talking horses, are rarer, non-crazy ones are a unique experience," he replied as he knelt beside her, "You aren't going to declare me 'icky' and insist I become a pony now are you? I've already had that experience."

"No," Celestia said quietly, "It's over. Nightmare Moon and Sombra won. I failed my ponies. And my last hope."

"Sent out a call for help, and the help arrived too late, sorry about that," he said, "You've still got two. And a doorway to a world full of other ponies."

"They aren't the ones I failed," she said quietly.

"You've still got two. Quit feeling sorry for yourself, get up on your legs, and start thinking about what you have."

"Two ponies, and a mad sister," she said, and began crying, "I failed them, I failed them all."

"They have the Elements of Harmony out there, back where I want to go. You can get your sister back. All you have to do is ask. Those two are going to need you. A new world, with no one speaking their language, they are going to need something to hold on to."

"I failed them," she sighed.

He stood up and looked over the bound Nightmare Moon. What do you think? he asked his 'boarders'.

"The real problem is there's not enough life force for them," Tom replied, "That's also why they are so quiescent and depressed. They burned their hope and rage in an effort to get someone here to solve their little problem, Sombra. You did, too late for their world."

I think somepony else was mucking with the dimensions at around the same time. Too many cooks and all that, he thought as he looked at the barely breathing Nightmare, What if we lowered the overhead costs? he asked.

"What do you mean?" Discord asked.

If I understand what Dinky tried to explain, when the Elements were used on Nightmare Moon, Luna became a filly not much older than Applebloom. She grew into a teen-aged form over a year. That might be what we do here.

"Even with the Alicorn Amulet, I don't have that kind of power, and there's no quick way to educate this world's Discord to the ideas of 'life-affirming chaos'. He'd be worse than useless," Discord admitted.

How do you . . . ? Never mind, I was thinking about parasitizing those chains, even good metal couldn't hold her down, so there has to be hellacious magic in them, he replied.

There was the sound of pounding. A fish against leather, a belt against sheet metal, a fist against a car horn, a rabid fangirl against the latest idol, and lastly, a thick skull against a metal Pole.

"Tadeusz Komorowski has a special place in your gallery of heroes?" Tom asked, "I'll have that dent polished out of the bronze immediately."

Thank you.

"Of course there's enough magic in those chains to do the job, only a complete idiot wouldn't see that instantly!" Discord angrily thundered.

Or someone concerned about the injury of a friend, he said soothingly, he could practically hear Tom nodding.

"What!?" Discord shouted angrily, "You aren't one of those idiots who think we shared wild, passionate nights eating ice cream! Arguing philosophy! Testing each other's might and magic! Talking about our childhoods. It didn't happen, really. It's just something loose-mouthed people say. Just a dream that can never happen."

Life-affirming chaos, remember? If you can and are able to do anything, then you can do anything. That's what being random really is, he reminded the despondent Discord.

"She'll think it's a trick," Discord said miserably.

Of course she will. The Seventy-Sixth Rule of Acquisition, he explained, 'Every once in a while, declare peace . . . it confuses the Hell out of your enemies.' Don't let what someone thinks get in the way of all the chaos it will cause.

"You are evil," Tom accused, "Corrupting a poor innocent draconequus like that. For shame!"

Now watch this, he told his boarders.

"I am pretty sure I can rescue your sister, but I'll need your help," he told Celestia.

"How?" the alicorn asked wearily.

"As I said, I have access to the Elements of Harmony. And I have this." He pulled up his sleeve.

"The Alicorn Amulet?" Celestia said, finally showing some life. She shied away from the man. "That corrupts the user, makes them evil."

"Well, it tries. But it whispers poison in my ear, in Equestrian, which I cannot puzzle out for the life of me. And as for power corrupting, I've seen the first power of the realm, even felt the Elements' power when I fought Tirek, Nightmare Moon and held Discord."

"Discord!" Celestia whispered fearfully, "You've had dealings with that monster?"

"Trying to reform him actually. Taught him something very important, about life-affirming chaos. I need to get a button that says 'Ask me about Life-Affirming Chaos' and then get stuck not being able to speak their language. That would work out perfectly."

"I've never heard of it," Celestia admitted.

"That, your Highness, is why you never taught it to him. He's the avid student, once he realized he could be himself, and still be liked by others. Something else no one ever taught him, the positive sum game, where everybody wins."

"What do I have to do? Yes, I would save my sister if I could. But, I've failed her so often."

"Trust me," he said and extended a hand close to her foreleg.

She put her hoof in his hand. "I trust you. Please save her, and the others."

"Only if I get to save you too. It's an all-or-nothing sort of deal."

Celestia smiled. "A burden, but I shall bear it well."

"All right, let's make some magic!" Discord shouted inside his head.

You're sweeping up the bunny droppings, he replied.

Sapphire had crept up to the door and stared inside. The sight of Celestia, and the odd Luna, had sent her scampering back to the corner. She huddled in the corner and whimpered. Why is this happening to me? A simple job, and I'm swept up in all of this. I just want to go home. There I was only accused of being a failure. Here I prove it at every turn. I could race in there. The princesses are chained down, close the door and they're in another universe, along with the body. But I look at them, and I can feel their hope burning in them. The prophet said, but watching him, I can't believe it, yes I can. But I don't want to. Why can't I do what I have to and be done? I don't even have to survive. But, I don't want to.

She crept back towards the doors after the flashes of light stopped. She was immediately tackled by a small, white alicorn.

SMALL! she thought as the filly playfully wrested her to the ground, and began tickling her mercilessly. She kept repeating the same words in a commanding tone, but Sapphire couldn't understand a word she said. So she laughed so hard she couldn't stand and could barely breathe.

Then it ended and she was left panting on the floor. The filly proudly announced her victory to the Big Guy as he pulled a child's wagon behind him, inside rode a filly who looked like a small, evil version of Princess Luna. The other filly was still tied at the ankles and around the wings, her legs still sticking straight up in the air as she rode in the wagon on her back. She was ungagged and sputtering invectives. Her hatred was palpable. Sapphire retreated to the corner again in fear.

"You shall pay for this indignity, you shall all suffer a thousand times this torment!" Nightmare Woona shouted, "And you, my 'dear' sister, shall suffer for this latest indignity!" the filly Nightmare squeaked at everyone as she struggled helplessly against the bonds that still held her. "Release me at once!"

"Or you'll yell at us?" Celestia said, "Those chains drain your powers as thoroughly as they drained mine."

"You will suffer for this," Nightmare Woona announced.

"She's just so cute when she's like this," he said and stepped back to tower over her, "But such a mouth. She must be punished."

"I am evil in this world!" she haughtily squeaked, "Damned voice."

"You know not evil, or torment," he said darkly, "I will strip you of dignity and set you begging for mercy. You will know no respite until I chose to grant it." He laughed malevolently. "And it shall begin, now."

Nightmare Woona realized too late just what was sticking straight up at chest height. "No!" she screamed as his fingers touched her hoofs and the skin beyond. "I shall, hehe, kill you if you, ahah, touch me! I shall, ahaha, fry your heheha in the fires of Hell. All of hahaheheee shall know your suffering. Heehoohahaha. I shall heehaheehohee your flesh and make it a ahahahahahahahahaha!" The threats ended and Nightmare laughed uncontrollably.

Celestia ran up on the other side and began giving Nightmare Woona little cat licks behind her knees, and giggling. The wailing, thrashing Nightmare sputtered, but couldn't manage a coherent word. The two shell-shocked survivors also walked in. Then stared at the scene, and decided to sit down beside the guardspony huddled in the corner.

"Lightweights," he commented as Nightmare Woona wailed and twisted to protect what she could, but the hooves were easy, and Celestia knew her other ticklish spots.

"Please stop I'll wet myself!" Nightmare suddenly shouted.

They withdrew from the panting alicorn filly.

"I didn't even have to ask her for the magic word," he said.

"I will kill you for this," Nightmare Woona promised, "Slowly, painfully, over eons."

"And I'll die knowing if I could just get to those little hoovsies," he replied then he looked up at the sound of the door opening, and things stopped being funny.

"Torturing my little ponies?" the fully adult, white alicorn asked, but she moved with jerky motions, like a damaged mechanism. "You thought my potion, my gift would finish me. But it is my treasure, my plaything, it is mimimine."

Little Celestia grabbed the tongue of the wagon and dragged it to the corner with the others, then raced back.

"Corrupting my lilililittle poooonies?" the odd alicorn asked as she walked towards the pair. While the steps were elegant, regal even, her head twitched as if she were plagued by flies. "You must be punished for that, surely."

"Don't call him Shirley," little Celestia said. "I can take her," she assured him.

"I don't think she's ticklish. Besides. I think she's the final link," he said, then dashed back into the kitchen, kicking the prop for the door away as he passed through.

The tall alicorn seemed to try to look at every corner and wall while her hooves moved up and down as if she were cantering in place. "You will be free of his evil. You will return to the place where no one is cruel, and all love their goddess."

"I was never a goddess," little Celestia growled at this abomination.

The taller alicorn chuckled as she walked towards the kitchen. Then charged in at a gallop. "What have you done to my Equestria?!" the mad thing thundered on seeing the hellscape outside the windows.

He stepped out from behind the door and dashed out of the kitchen, slamming the door behind him. A two-foot section of horn crashed through the door a moment later. That thing looks like a sword with spiral blood grooves, he thought of the thing that had come within a few inches from his head and now sawed around trying to touch him. Then it glowed, and the door took on a similar glow. But the building groaned.

From behind the door came a horrified shriek, and the horn dropped to the floor. The only sound was that last remnant rolling around, as if seeking its target or its master. Little Celestia put a hoof down on it as he stared and shuffled to avoid it.

She looked up at him. "It's over," she said quietly, "I think we wait for a bit, and the power will dissipate. Then we can go home, your home."

He nodded and let her lead him to a couch where he laid down. She laid her head on his stomach and rested. "Thank you, for everything," she sighed.

"You're welcome," he said quietly and scratched her behind the ears.

Her ears went flat. "Oh you are a devil," she sighed as she closed her eyes.

Day 27

"Rise and shine, it's Nightmare torturing time," he said happily as he shook the filly of evil awake.

"And I was so enjoying a sleep, I dreampt about you, and a vat of boiling oil," Nightmare Woona told him.

"I'm Fondue of you too," he said.

"Puns, wouldn't hot irons in the eyes be more merciful?" she asked, struggled against her bonds, which held firm.

"No, I have an extra-special, horrifically terrible and squirm-inducing and inciting torture just for you!" he said happily, his hands clasped in front of his chest and a happy smile on his face.

"That expression really doesn't sell it," Nightmare Woona said tiredly, struggled with the bonds around her ankles and wings, and gave up. "NO, I'm not going to ask what it is."

"Okay," he said happily.
"Midnight not a sound from the pavement, has the moon lost her memory? She is smiling alone."
"In the lamplight, the withered leaves collect at my feet and the wind begins to moan."

"Oh gods below, opera," Nightmare Woona moaned.
"Memory all alone in the moonlight, I can smile at the old days life was beautiful then. I remember the time I knew what happiness was let the memory live again."
"Every street lamp seems to beat a fatalistic warning. Someone mutters at the street lamp gutters. And soon it will be morning."

The others drew near as Nightmare Woona squirmed.
"Daylight I must wait for the sunrise, I must think of a new life and I mustn't give in. When the dawn comes tonight will be a memory too and a new day will begin."
"Burnt out ends of smoky days. The stale cold smell of morning. A street lamp dies, another night is over. Another day is dawning"
"Touch me it's so easy to leave me, all alone with my memory of my days in the sun. If you touch me, you'll understand what happiness is. Look a new day has begun."

Little Celestia nuzzled him. "I think I know," she said quietly. As she leaned against him.

"Oh, this is the torture. All that love and trust," Nightmare Woona said, "As if it will drive away the harshness of the world."

"Hmm. Another song?" he asked.

"Yes!" Little Celestia shouted happily. Even the two quiet Earth ponies seemed to be more willing to open up as they nodded.

He got ready to ask their names, when they noticed him looking, they closed down again.

"When you're weary, feeling small. When tears are in your eyes, I'll dry them all."
"I'm on your side, oh, when times get rough and friends just can't be found, like a bridge over troubled water I will lay me down."
"Like a bridge over troubled water I will lay me down."

Little Celestia gazed up at him as he let the song flow.
"When you're down and out, when you're on the street, when evening falls so hard I will comfort you (ooo)."
"I'll take your part, oh, when darkness comes and pain is all around. Like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down."
"Like a bridge over troubled water I will lay me down."

He knelt down and scratched Little Celestia behind the ears.
"Sail on silver girl. Sail on by. Your time has come to shine, all your dreams are on their way. See how they shine. Oh, if you need a friend. I'm sailing right behind."
"Like a bridge over troubled water I will ease your mind."
"Like a bridge over troubled water. I will ease your mind."

Celestia buried her face in his chest, openly weeping. He caught the wistful look on Nightmare's face, before the mask dropped back into place.

He heard Discord beating his head against various thing, and Tom sweeping up the breakage. He grinned and considered, his next song was obvious as he hugged Little Celestia and the guardspony approached warily.
"It's been a long road, getting from there to here. It's been a long time, but my time is finally near."
"And I will see my dream come alive at last. I will touch the sky."
"And they're not gonna hold me down no more, no they're not gonna change my mind."

Little Celestia looked at him with empathy. He smiled back and continued.
"Cause I've got faith of the heart. I'm going where my heart will take me."
"I've got faith to believe. I can do anything."
"I've got strength of the soul. And no one's gonna bend or break me."
"I can reach any star. I've got faith, I've got faith, faith of the heart."

She smiled, and he continued.
"It's been a long road, getting from there to here. It's been a long time, but my time is finally near."
"And I can feel the change in the wind right now. Nothing's in my way."
"And they're not gonna hold me down no more, no they re not gonna hold me down."

Nightmare Woona was giving him an adorable death glare.
"Cause I've got faith of the heart. I'm going where my heart will take me."
"I ve got faith to believe. I can do anything."
"I've got strength of the soul. And no one's gonna bend or break me."
"I can reach any star. I've got faith, I've got faith, faith of the heart."

The guardspony settled beside him, and Little Celestia laid her head against his chest.
"It's been a long night. Trying to find my way."
"Been through the darkness. Now I finally have my day."
"And I will see my dream come alive at last. I will touch the sky."
"And they're not gonna hold me down no more, no they're not gonna change my mind."

He reached over to tickle Nightmare Woona under the chin, she snapped at him. He grinned at her.
"Cause I've got faith of the heart. I'm going where my heart will take me."
"I've got faith to believe. I can do anything."
"I've got strength of the soul. And no one's gonna bend or break me."
"I can reach any star. I've got faith, faith of the heart."

He smiled at them as he sang.
"I've known the wind so cold, and seen the darkest days."
"But now the winds I feel, are only winds of change."
"I've been through the fire and I've been through the rain. But I'll be fine."

Little Celestia joined in.
"Cause I've got faith of the heart. I'm going where my heart will take me."
"I've got faith to believe. I can do anything."
"I've got strength of the soul. And no one's gonna bend or break me."
"I can reach any star. I've got faith."

The little alicorn was smiling and crying.
"I've got faith of the heart. I'm going where my heart will take me."
"I've got strength of the soul. And no one's gonna bend or break me."
"I can reach any star. I've got faith, I've got faith, faith of the heart."

He finished.
"It's been a long road."

Little Celestia broke down, crying her heart out and holding onto him like she was afraid of being pulled away. He let her cry and sniffle for a while. Nightmare Woona would occasionally look at the scene and roll her eyes in disgust. Once, he waited until she looked, and he mouthed the word 'jealous' to her.

Her answering snarl would have been utter malevolence, but she was too precious to carry it off. Which made her pout about it. Which was also adorable. Which further depressed her.

"How about one for our little warrior here?" he offered. Nightmare glared at him. "You can even sing the chorus."

"Not interested," Nightmare said.

"Well, everybody else can, even our shy guardspony. Okay when I point to you, all of you sing 'We heil'." He blew a raspberry. " 'Heil.'" He blew a raspberry. " 'Right in the Fuhrer's face'."

Celestia managed it. The two earth ponies got the raspberries, as did the guardspony. Nightmare Woona was beating her head on the bottom of the wagon.

"Can we switch to slipping splinters under my hooves now?" she asked.
"When der Fuhrer says we is de master race," he sang.

"We heil heil right in der Fuhrer's face," they sang
"Not to love der Fuhrer is a great disgrace."

"So we heil heil right in der Fuhrer's face."
"When Herr Goebbels says we own the world and space."

"So we heil heil right in der Fuhrer's face."
"When Herr Goring says they'll never bomb dis place."

"So we heil heil right in der Fuhrer's face."
"Are we not the supermen Aryan pure supermen? Ja we are the supermen. Super duper supermen."
"Is this Nazi land so good would you leave it if you could? Ja this Nazi land is good, we would leave it if we could."
"We bring the world to order Heil Hitler's world to order. Everyone of foreign race. Will love der Fuhrer's face. When we bring to the world dis order"
"When der Fuhrer says we is de master race."

"So we heil heil right in der Fuhrer's face."
"Not to love der fuhrer is a great disgrace."

"So we heil heil right in der Fuhrer's face."

Celestia giggled. The two earth ponies smiled. The guardspony looked around with a 'what is going on, but I kinda like it' expression. Nightmare Woona had her eyes squeezed shut and was humming as loudly as she could.

When she realized it was over, she opened her eyes. "Just shoot me and get it over with!"

He looked out the window, and saw in the dawning light, the Bearers and all three Princesses assembling.

"Your wish is my command," he said, and pulled her wagon towards the door. "A little dignity, let her face it on her hooves."

"Thank you," Nightmare Woona said acidly.

"Besides, less temptation to tickle them," he said and little Celestia nodded sagely.

"I will kill you for this," Nightmare Woona promised.

"Not today," he said darkly.

Twilight felt rested, confident and ready for the challenge ahead. The Princesses were there to support if needed, but this was Twilight's moment. "Ready girls?" she asked her fellow bearers.

"Ready," they announced, each taking a step forward.

"Then, let's . . . "

Then the door opened, and he walked out. And Twilight's world canted sideways. He rolled the wagon carrying a miniature of Nightmare Moon a short distance away from the assembled Bearers, and stepped away. The little alicorn was tottering in the wagon as her legs were all tied together at the hooves. She was also furiously screaming at everybody. An equally miniaturized Celestia ran up before them, bowed to her full-grown counterpart, then took a begging position and nodded towards mini-Nightmare. Behind them, the guardspony and two earth ponies ran from the house and took cover.

"I think it might be wise, before she escapes," Luna said, breaking the mental inertia.

Wide-eyed, Twilight looked at the other Bearers, and they summoned the power within them. Mini-Nightmare laughed at them, until the rainbow formed around her. In a replay of their encounter with Nightmare Moon, the creature screamed and tried to avoid the effect. As the miasma rose from the possessed filly, the guardspony who has returned with them threw an odd spear at it. The thing that looked like Celestia's horn froze in the middle of the miasma that was the entity Nightmare. It seemed to absorb it all and it fell to the ground. The filly Celestia ran to the restored filly Luna. The two embraced cheerfully, tearfully, and chattered to each other in a language Twilight almost recognized but couldn't decipher.

Blueblood ran up, distracting everyone for a moment. "Urgent message. 'To our allies, Stop the spell casting it's breaking on its own. Thank you for the return of my little brother I hope his prank didn't cause too much discord, ha ha. He says he learned a lot, and apologized, that's a first, for the trouble. He promised to explain later. He also insisted we tell Applebloom her experiment didn't cause this, but she should try it on a nonmagical substrate, because it does attract a lot of attention. He recommended bananas, I think he was joking. All my best to you and yours, Queen Eris.'" He gasped on finishing. "Then they vanished."

"There still bloomin'!" Applebloom shouted happily, "And I know what he meant! The Big Guy's apple trees! They're nonmagical!" Applebloom shouted happily and dashed off.

"Shining and I will look after her. We have experience with excitable fillies," Cadence said as she and Armor headed after Applebloom. Twilight blushed and pawed the ground, laughing nervously.

Applejack left the mini-Princess' reunion and headed with Big McIntosh towards the newcomers cowering on their porch. The guardspony took off down the road like a hydra was after her. The other two stood up. Applejack's stunned gasp brought everyone's attention around.

"Nope!" Big Mac shouted as he backed away from the pair of earth ponies. "Nope! No! No! NO!" he shouted as he charged off into the fields.

"Mom?" Applejack gasped, "Dad?" She stared at the two earth ponies as if she'd seen a ghost.

What frightened Twilight more, was the newcomers were looking at most of them, especially Applejack, the exact same way.

Memories - from Cats by Andrew Lloyd Weber
Bridge Over Troubled Waters - Simon and Garfunkel
Der Fuhrer's Face - Spike Jones
Where My Heart Will Take Me - Diane Warren

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