• Published 20th Jan 2012
  • 20,650 Views, 781 Comments

The Third Generation - Candle Light

  • ...
20
 781
 20,650

The Third Generation Chapter Three

The Third Generation

Chapter Three

By Candle Light

Thistle Whistle looked around nervously, gazing out over the sprawling view from a cliff high up a mountain right next to Ponyville. A mountain that hadn’t been there the day before. Clouds! Strange, swirling clouds in shapes she had never seen before! Of all the strange things that had happen to the village lately, why did clouds have to be one of them?

“I don’t get it,” said Scootaloo, the orange-coated earth pony that had talked her into coming with her on this trip. The stripes of pink in her mane mixed with the overall blue as the wind rustled her hair. “If this leads where I think it does… but that’s crazy! A mountain can’t just up and move, right?”

The pegasus let out a whistle. “That’s what you said when we found Breezy Blossom,” she let out a 'fwee' whistling sound, as was her habit, “just down the river from Ponyville. And ponies can’t just up and – fweee – change how they look either, if you ask me.”

“I know; I’m as confused as you are. But Breezies are small; maybe they just wanted to move to another meadow. But a mountain? Come on, it’s just a little further now.”

“Fweee… how did I get talked into this...” complained the pegasus, her gaze stuck to the strange cloud formations overhead. “Why not a brave pony like Star Catcher?”

“I couldn’t find her anywhere,” Scootaloo told her. “Besides, you were trembling in the bushes! Trust me: a little adventure will do you good.”

The two followed the trail, Thistle Whistle opting to keep her hooves on the ground, taking care not to stray too far from her companion. The path was rocky and oftentimes steep, but nothing they couldn’t climb or fly over. The pegasus tried not to look down – or up, at the clouds – but occasionally her gaze was drawn to the fields just outside of Ponyville. The scenery had been redone completely: a forest had sprung up only a short sprint from the village, and beyond that extended a field she was certain she had never seen before. She would have remembered the large rocks scattered all around it.

When they did reach the top, they were met by a high wall of pink bricks. Looking up, they saw a blue dome and several pointed towers. “I knew it!” exclaimed Scootaloo, as she ran off to round the structure. Thistle Whistle followed, and soon it came into full view. It was a castle, its walls mostly pink, adorn with seven towers, each painted to represent a color of the rainbow. Rounded stairs were leading up a big set of doors with a heart shape on them. “This is Crystal Rainbow Castle! We’re in Unicornia!”

“Are you sure? Isn’t that like – fweee – a couple of hours’ balloon ride away? Not that I’ve been there myself.”

“Well, I have, and I recognize those houses!” Scootaloo pointed down the mountain the opposite direction from where they came; sure enough, there was a small village, its houses painted to keep with the theme of rainbows. “But this doesn’t make sense! How could Unicornia be back to back to Ponyville?”

“Oh dear.” The pegasus let out a long string of whistles. “It’s the end of the world – fwee – isn’t it.”

“Calm down, Thistle Whistle, it’s not the end of the world! But it is pretty freaky. It’s like the world has shrunk or something. And you’re definitely right about the clouds; I’ve never seen them shaped like this before.”

Scanning the skies; it was sunny for most part, but here and there were big, fluffy clouds that stuck out in odd angles, making them almost look like faces. Others were twirling like whirlpools, ending in an elegant tail. But just as she was contemplating whether or not she dared take to the air for a better view – those clouds seemed awfully low – a couple of unicorns came walking up the stairs. One was yellow, the other purple; Thistle Whistle didn’t know their name, but Scootaloo seemed to. “Cheerilee? Brights Brightly?”

“Scootaloo!” said the purple unicorn, Cheerilee. “What on earth are you doing here? And who’s your friend?”

“Well, you know how nothing’s been quite normal lately?” said Scootaloo. “We were actually in Ponyville just a while ago, but then we found a mountain that wasn't there before, and here we are!”

Cheerilee’s eyes widened in surprise. “Is that Ponyville just behind the mountain? We can see your castle from the village! And there’s a lake right over there I haven’t seen before.” She pointed with her leg off to the right-hooves side of the mountain, and sure enough, there was a large expanse of water, the other side barely visible on the horizon. Right around its center was an island, and ever from this distance, Thistle Whistle thought she could recognize its shape.

“Is that Butterfly Island?!” she exclaimed, forgetting about the clouds long enough to take flight. She rose about ten pony lengths, and from here, the shape was unmistakable. “It’s Butterfly Island!” She let herself descend to the ground, her heart lighter. She had found home!

“It’s like someone took here, there and everywhere and shuffled them all together!” remarked Scootaloo. “Where’s Rarity? Is she alright?”

They both gave them a solemn look. “Well,” said the yellow unicorn, Brights Brightly, “we haven’t seen her since it happened. We’ve looked everywhere. Maybe she’s in Ponyville?”

“We haven’t seen her,” offered Scootaloo. “But you’re more than welcome to come and look, seeing as we’re neighbors now and all. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen Pinkie Pie around either. Or Rainbow Dash.”

“I hope they turn up okay,” said Cheerilee. “I don’t care what happens to the village or our bodies, but I couldn’t stand to lose any of our friends.”

***

“Good morning, Rainbow Dash!” greeted the other-village Pinkie Pie as she entered Rarity’s fashion shop, Carousel Boutique. “And you too, Rainbow Dash!”
“Good morning to you too, dahling,” the cerulean pegasus said, flapping her eyelashes in an exaggerated motion. “Such a rainbowy dahling day today, dahling.”

Pinkie Pie laughed. “Nice try, but your voice is just too different.”

“Plus, I don’t carry myself with quite so much flamboyance,” remarked the earth pony counterpart. “Do I?”

“Well, that’s the best I can do. You happy, Rarity?”

The snow white fashionista unicorn giggled. “It will do. And I hope you now realize that I do in fact know just as much about the Wonderbolts’ flying techniques as you do. I’d have to, if I ever want to branch out into aerodynamic uniforms. Wouldn’t want them to break by a few loops, would we?”

The cerulean pegasus grumbled, making a mental note to think twice before challenging Rarity to a quiz again. “I guess. Shouldn’t everypony be here by now?”

“I’m sure they’re all on their way,” replied Rarity. “Show some patient.”

“I hope they get here soon, though,” said Pinkie Pie. “I for one am really looking forward to going home. Not that our time here hasn’t been absolutely positively festive, but I’m sure all of our friends are worried sick”

“I just hope they’re all there,” pointed her cerulean friend. “It’s been on my mind since we met the Princess yesterday: if we woke up outside of Ponyville, who’s to say our friends didn’t? What if Minty is out there somewhere all alone, hungry and lost? Or Wysteria? Oh, my poor heart couldn’t take it if something were to happen to little Rarity.”

“Yeah… could you imagine Minty lost on a field? She’d be going around in circles!”

“Or cry herself to sleep under a rock…”

Seeing her own face so dismayed sent a jolt of discomfort through the pegasus’ stomach. She felt she had to say something, anything. “Come on, have a little faith in your friends!” she tried. “Plus, the Princess’s got it all covered. If your friends aren’t there, she’ll know what to do, no sweat.”

“Unless they’ve starved to death already,” Pinkie remarked.

“Don’t you ponies eat grass? There’s no shortage of food in Equestria, trust me.”

“Grass? Tell me you’re joking, darling!”

“Guess you’ve never tried it. It’s not the tastiest thing around, but it gets the job done when you’re out of options.”

At this, the earth pony’s expression did soften a bit. She even broke a little smile. “If you say so, darling. I suppose you’re right; no point in worrying, is there.”

“There you go,” pepped the other, glad that she’d managed to be sensitive enough for once. “Now if only the others would show up, we could be on our way.”

***

Twilight knew she was late. She had been up until the early hours in the morning, studying up on every piece relevant piece of literature she could find, which had turned out to be more than she thought. She had skimmed through a history book covering all known facts about Discord’s magic, and then read up on the Time Capsule spell. Both topics were heavy and intricate, and it required her to look up some archaic magic terms and practices to follow along. At first, all she had found were more questions, but as her mind started to adapt to the complexity, she eventually came across a theory that was in equal parts fascinating and frightening. She would need the Princess’s opinion on it.

She knocked on the door to Carousel Boutique, and after a moment, the upper part of the door swung open, and Rainbow Dash peeked out. “Hello, darling, such a pleasure to see you again.”

“Why, thank you, Rainbow Da—wait, Rainbow Dash, that’s you, isn’t it!”

The pegasus let out laugh. “I’m getting better at this!” She opened the lower door for her, ushering her in. Everypony else seemed to be present, except the village local Pinkie Pie.

“Well, it’s nice to see you two are getting along,” noted Twilight, eyeing the pegasus’ unusually styled hair.

“I didn’t even have to ask her that time,” said Rarity. “What do you think of the hair-do? Her mane is to die for, really; if only she’d let me work away those nasty tangles. You should lose some bets with me more often.”

“Yeah, that’s not gonna happen,” she replied. “Isn’t Spike coming?”

“He’s taking care of the animals for me,” Fluttershy explained. “He’s such a nice little guy.”

“Right. So I guess we’re all here? Wait, where’s Pinkie Pie? The other one, I mean.”

“Right here!” Startling everypony in the room, Ponyville’s local party pony popped out basket in the corner, spraying pieces of cloths on the floor. “Geez, you guys are so slow! I’ve been here for hours.”

Only the lookalikes didn’t drop their surprise after about five seconds. “Okay then,” said Twilight, “now I suppose all we have to do is wait for the Princess to pick us up. She said she’d be here nine o’clock.”

“And here I am.” Although she didn’t pop out of a basket, the way Princess Celestia entered from the next room over, as though she’d been there the whole time, was more than enough to warrant a jaw-drop from all of them. She always did that, and Twilight never got used to it; the Princess was worse than Pinkie Pie sometimes. “A pegasus carriage waiting for us out back; we’re ready when you are.”

“Right…” said Twilight, pulling herself together, “let’s go, everypony.” As they all filed out the door, Twilight lagged behind a bit to ask the Princess, “How long have you been here?”

“Just long enough to see some friendship unfold,” replied Celestia. “Now move along, we can talk more on the carriage.”

***

“Hey, Rainbow Dash!” called a voice from behind. The cerulean earth pony turned around to see an orange-hued little pegasus filly eying her excitedly. “Are you going somewhere with the princess?”

In the corner of her eyes, Rainbow Dash noticed her pegasus other was peeping out from behind the carriage, grinning wildly. She got the hint, and decided to humor her. “Yeah,” she tried her best to mimic her high tone. “We’re going out on an adventure! It’s gonna be, uh, awesome!”

“Sweet!” replied the filly, none the wiser. “I wish I could come with.”

“That’s very swee— cool of you, dar—dea—little girl,” Rainbow Dash struggled, earning a strange look from the filly.

“Is it me, or is something different about you today?” she noted. “Hold on… your wings!” She took a step back. “Who are you, and what have you done with Rainbow Dash?!”

“I’m right here, squirt!” called the pegasus version, popping out from behind the carriage. The earth pony felt quite sorry for the filly as she let out a screech, stuttering nonsense, her eyes shifted between both of them. The pegasus, meanwhile, was on the ground laughing. “You should see your face, Scootaloo! This just keeps getting better!”

“I’m so sorry, darling.” So this was their Scootaloo. She was much younger than the one she knew. “I suppose I got caught up in the moment. I may not be the Rainbow Dash you know, but I am nonetheless called Rainbow Dash. Nice to meet you, darling.”

“‘Darling’?” repeated Scootaloo, an apprehensive look on her face. “Dash, is this your twin sister or something?”

“It’s a bit more complicated than that,” explained the cerulean pegasus, still getting over her fits of giggles. “Apparently these two come from an alternate Ponyville that’s been hidden under a spell for a thousand years.”

“A magic spell?” she parroted. “These two?”

“Yep, I’m here too,” announced the less hyper Pinkie Pie, bringing back the shock to Scootaloo’s face. “I’m – who else – Pinkie Pie! Nice to meet you!”

“Wait a sec… there’s another Ponyville where ponies look just like us?” asked Scootaloo, not taking her eyes off of Pinkie. Then her expression went from shock and back to excitement. “That sounds awesome! Is that where you’re going? Can I come with?”

“Aren’t you s’posed to be in school right now?” pointed Applejack. “Apple Bloom told me you’ve been playin’ hooky three days in a row.”

“Besides, this isn’t a leisure trip,” added Twilight Sparkle. “We’re talking about a society that’s been trapped in one of Discord’s spells for a millennium. You remember Discord, don’t you? We’re not sure what we’ll find.”

“Sure we are,” said the other-village Pinkie Pie. “There’ll be a peaceful village full of friendly ponies. I don’t mind bringing her along; the more the merrier, I always say.”

“I agree with Pinkie Pie,” Princess Celestia voted. “Getting out of the village once in a while will do the little one good. Your friends are welcome to join us as well.”

“Awesome!” said Scootaloo, jumping up and down on the spot. “Thanks, Celestia! You’re the best Princess ever! I’ll go get them right away!”

“That won’t be necessary,” she replied. “I’ll be right back.” And so with a flash, the Princess was gone, and not ten seconds later, she rematerialized, holding two other fillies in her mouth. She dropped them on the carriage. “Would you two like to go on an adventure with us?” she asked.

“Uh… okay!” replied one of them, a yellow earth pony with a red mane and tail, still looking a bit confused. “Where’re we going? An’…” her jaw dropped, “why’s there two of Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie?!"

“Ah’ll explain it to you on the way,” said Applejack. “Lil’ sister, we’re goin’ on one hay of a trip.”

***

“This is so awesome!” Scootaloo shared with her two friends. “I’ve never been on a flying carriage before! I can’t believe we’re flying over the Everfree Forest!”

I can’t believe we get to go with the Princess!” said Sweetie Belle.

“The pleasure is all mine, my dear.”

“Am Ah the only one still curious about these two?” said Apple Bloom, pointing at the two lookalikes. “Ah don’t think Ah’ve ever seen two ponies look so much alike mah whole life! It can’t be natural!”

“My thoughts exactly, little darling,” the earth pony version of Rainbow Dash agreed. “Believe me when I say it’s hasn’t exactly been easy getting used to.”

“You’re lucky you get to look like Rainbow Dash,” Scootaloo remarked. “I’d love to look like Rainbow Dash.”

“Don’t we all,” the cerulean pegasus agreed. But when Twilight gave her a hard look, she added, “I mean, er, you’ll get there. Once you get your flying going, you’ll be up there pulling Sonic Rainbooms with yours truly.”

“What’s a Sonic Rainboom?” asked the other Pinkie Pie.

“If you fly fast enough, you can break the speed barrier and blast a rainbow all over the sky!” explained Rainbow Dash excitedly.

“Wow, that sounds magnificent!” her counterpart said. “Can you do that too, Fluttershy darling?”

“Who, me?” reacted Fluttershy, almost a bit taken aback at being addressed. “Oh no, I-I could never do that. I’m nowhere near as fast as she is.”

“Don’t sell yerself short, hun,” Applejack comforted. “I’ve seen you busting those wings like yer life depended on it.”

“Yes, because our lives were depending on it…”

“I’ll show it to you someday,” the pegasus promised. “Trust me, you haven’t seen a rainbow until you’ve seen a Sonic Rainboom.”

“I wouldn't be so sure,” Celestia voiced. “Look over there.”

Across the skies, over the treetops of the Everfree Forest, a giant rainbow was being shaped before their very eyes. Rainbow Dash’s eyes filled with awe as she practically leaned over the edge to look at it. “Would you look at that!” she breathed. “I’ve never seen one so big!”

“I’m glad you like it,” said Celestia. “We strive to make Equestria as beautiful as we are able.”

“Did you make that, darling?”

“Oh no, that honor goes to the pegasi of Cloudsdale.”

“So it’s true that pegasi make the rainbows in Equestria?”

“They do occur naturally,” she told her, “but sometimes, we like to lend mother nature a helping hoof, as you see before you.”

“Just don’t try drinking a rainbow,” warned the native Pinkie Pie. “It’ll burn your tongue.”

“Drink it?” repeated Rainbow Dash. “Why on earth would I want to drink a rainbow? I never realized it could be drunk.”

“And here I thought you knew all about rainbows,” laughed the other Pinkie Pie.

“It would seem I still have much to learn. But I don’t mind; the more there is to know about rainbows, the better! Rainbows, darlings, rainbows!”

***

As the others continued to gaze out over the rainbow, Twilight took the opportunity to converse with the princess. “Your majesty, I did some reading up on Time Capsules last night.”

“As did I. What did you find?”

“If I’ve understood this right, Discord shouldn’t have had the right magical nature to cast the spell to begin with. The only way he could have done it if he had an army of mages do it, or…” she paused.

“…if he wielded the Elements of Harmony himself,” finished Celestia, her expression darkening. “While it’s not outside the realm of possibilities that he may have discovered them before we did, I can think of no possible way he would ever be able to harness their powers. Nor can I imagine any followers of his being in the right sate of mind to pull off a spell of such magnitude. Not the way he ruled...”

“Then there is the simple question of ‘why’. Could there be something he was trying to preserve in there?”

“That, or keep something out,” guessed Celestia. “Looking at these two,” she motioned toward Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie, who were now watching the pegasus Rainbow Dash performing acrobatic tricks in the air, “I don’t think the village is under his influence anymore, but it’s probably safe to say he left something there. We should keep our eyes peeled.”

Twilight was about to give a response, but was interrupted by the clapping and stomping of hooves. “Simply amazing, darling! I’ve never seen a pegasus spin around so fast!”

Pegasus Rainbow Dash landed on the carriage. “And that’s what put the Dash in Rainbow Dash.”

“Dashing indeed! Ooh, just looking at you is giving me ideas for some absolutely darling outfits! Just imagine, a cape adorn on all the colors of a rainbow, blurred into an extension of her mane as she flies by!”

“That would look fabulous, wouldn’t it,” Rarity agreed. “And if you’d straighten up her tail a bit, I bet you could even look good in a spin! See, Rainbow, if only you’d let me work on you more, the possibilities would be endless!”

“I modeled for you last week! Can’t Rainbow ‘Darling’ Dash do it? We look the same, don’t we?”

“My gosh, you're right! I simply must take your measurements when we get back, both of you! You’re not weaseling your way out of this one!”

“Ugh, me and my big mouth.”

“I can’t wait to meet my lookalike!” said Scootaloo excitedly. “She’s older than me, right? I bet she’s already got her cutie mark!”

“Cutie Marks?” said Pinkie Pie with the lighter mane. “Oh yeah! That’s what Toola-Roola calls them!” She turned her head to observe her own: a picture of three balloons, same colors as the other Pinkie Pie, but closer together and in a different angle. “Yeah, she’s got one. Everyone does.”

“Sweet! Don’t tell me what it is; I wanna see it for myself!”

“Hay, could that be the village?” Applejack called, pointing downwards to a spot by a mountain and a hill. Twilight walked over to her side; down there she could see what was unmistakably two castles, one on top of the mountain, and the other a smaller one with houses dotted around it. Soon, everypony gathered around the edge for a better look.

“That’s it!” cried Pinkie Pie. “That’s Ponyville; it has to be! But why are there two castles?”

“I must warn you,” Celestia spoke up, “your home will more likely than not be different from how you remember it. Yours was a world created by an illusion, and I cannot tell you how much of it was based on reality.”

“As long as all my darlings are still real and well, that’s all I ask.”

***

“Greetings, sister! And to you as well, pony friends!”

The voice came as sudden as its source; Pinkie Pie had kept her eyes on her village, when suddenly a dark blue pony who, just like the Princess, wore both horn and wings appeared before them seemingly out of thin air. Her mane looked more like a transparent liquid than hair, stars twinkling within. She landed on the carriage, and Pinkie took a step back.

“Princess Luna!” exclaimed Twilight. “What are you doing here? In broad daylight!”

“We are to meet the ponies imprisoned by Discord, are we not?” The mighty pony’s voice was dark and full of authority. “For diplomatic reasons, my presence is required.”

“A…are you a princess too?” Pinkie Pie dared.

“Indeed. My name is Luna, ruler of the night. From your semblance, you must be Pinkie Pie.”

“Y-yeah, that’s me,” Pinkie Pie managed, staring into the Princess’s soul-penetrating eyes. “N-nice to m-meet you´.”

“Why are you so frightened, my dear?” asked Luna, giving her a quizzing look. She turned her head to Twilight and Celestia. “Am I doing this wrong, Twilight Sparkle? Is my voice too imposing? My language too archaic?”

“No, it’s fine,” said the lavender pony reassuringly. “You’re doing lot better than last time. It’s just… your presence can be a bit overwhelming the first time. It’s okay, Pinkie, she’s a nice pony.”

“Oh,” replied Pinkie Pie, raising her posture a bit. Come to think of it, she didn’t look angry or anything. “I’m sorry, Princess.”

“It’s quite alright, my dear. And you must be Rainbow Dash. Your likeness to your counterpart baffles me.”

The earth pony gave her a bow. “As does it me, darling.”

“So how did it go?” Celestia inquired. “Were you able to gather up the remnants from the spell?”

“An impossible task, dear sister,” reported the dark-blue princess. “It wouldn’t crystallize using conventional spells. It would require weeks of continuous effort from our High Mages, and that could drastically affect the magic flow of the surrounding areas. The cause is clear: there is no doubt the spell was created by the mixed powers of Discord and the Elements of Harmony.”

“Hold on a darn tootin’ minute,” questioned Applejack, her incredulous expression shared by her friends. “How’s that even possible?! That creep wouldn’t know harmony if it hopped up an’ square-danced on his face!”

“Your guess is as good as mine,” replied Luna. “If he had acquired the Elements before we did all those years ago, and was able to wield them, I can’t think of a reason why he never used them against us.”

“We’ll have plenty of time to think about it later,” said Princess Celestia, getting to her hooves. “Right now, we have a new village to welcome to the world.” No sooner did she finish the sentence did the carriage come to a halt, giving them a good view of the village. Pinkie Pie gazed down upon it, smiling widely; there was no doubt in her mind that this was the Ponyville she knew: all the houses, parks, the river, everything was just as she remembered it. She could even see ponies walking on the streets.

“Oh, darling!” said Rainbow Dash next to her. “It’s all here. There’s my shop, and there’s the castle!”

“I still can’t place that mountain though,” Pinkie Pie pointed out. “Or those houses over there. And was the forest always this close?”

“Is that a roller coaster!” said the other Pinkie Pie. “I like this place already!”

“Could you two tell me how many ponies live in your village?” asked Celestia.

“How many? Geez, I don’t think I’ve ever counted. Thirty, maybe?”

“More like fifty, darling,” corrected Rainbow Dash. “Not counting the Unicorn or pegasi; that would make it more like a hundred.”

“I would have thought it to be bigger,” Luna remarked. “I suppose this will make things easier.”

“I hope so,” said Celestia. “Land us over there, please, on the hill.” The pegasus ponies keeping the carriage airborne turned around and started their descend. Pinkie Pie’s heart swelled with happiness the closer they got to the ground, and when they touched down, she practically flew out of the carriage.

“I can’t wait to see everybody!” she said happily. The park was just bellow the hill, and she could see that some ponies had already spotted them, and were approaching curiously.

“I know, darling!” her cerulean friend agreed happily. “This hill here is new, but everything else looks untouched!”

It wasn’t long before two ponies rounded the hilltops. One a white unicorn, her mane purple and pink, the other a light-purple earth pony. Even with their altered looks, Pinkie Pie knew them well. “Sweetie Belle!” she called. “Razzaroo!” She ran over and gave them both a big hug.

“Pinkie Pie! It is you!” happily replied the purple pony, Razzaroo. “And Rainbow Dash!”

“Are you alright?” asked the other pony, Sweetie Belle. “We’ve been so worried!”

“So were we, darlings!” their Rainbow-maned friend said. “We’re just fine, thank you. How about you? Is everyone in the village all right?”

“Yes yes yes!” sung Razzaroo. “Everyone is a bit confused, of course, but we’re all doing fine. So what’s the story? Where have you been? Who are these people? And… why are there two of you?” she added as the other Pinkie Pie joined the group hug for no apparent reason.

“It’s kind of a long story,” the straight-maned version replied, as the ponies untangled themselves. “One I’m not sure I understand myself.”

“Yeah, things have been pretty crazy around here too,” said Razzaroo. “Nevermind our new looks, Unicornia and Breezie Blossom just up and moved right next to Ponyville!”

“That’s Unicornia?” exclaimed Pinkie Pie, looking up at the unfamiliar mountain.

“Looks like we have much to discuss,” said Celestia, drawing the two newcomers’ attention. “Would you two be kind enough to tell everyone in your village to gather around this hill?” The two ponies stared at the Princesses in awe, just like Pinkie Pie had; no one in their village had ever heard of ponies with both horn and wings. “Tell them to follow the rainbow.”

With that, the two princesses thrust their horns skyward, and a bright beam of light was expelled from each. The two beams swirled around one another like a spiral as they grew in size, eventually changing colors to all those of a rainbow. The twirling pillar rose high into the sky, piercing a cloud above. The two ponies only stared at it, but when the princesses lowered their gaze at them again, they tensed. “Y-yes, ma’am! Right away!”

***

It had been so long since Ponyville’s premium party planner had seen so many new faces. One hundred and nine ponies, by Pinkie’s count, of all kinds were flocked on and around the hill, practically standing in line to welcome their friends Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie back to the village. Actually, many of these faces weren’t new at all; their manes and coat colors were different, but Pinkie recognized around twenty ponies that shared the exact same face with residents of her own village. It wasn’t a village of clones as she’d hoped, but she couldn’t wait to get to know all of them, not to mention exposing them to her parties.

“Citizens of Ponyville!” Celestia’s voice resounded over the crowd, drawing every eye to her and Luna. “I am Princess Celestia, and this is Princess Luna; together we are the rulers of the land of Equestria!”

“What we are about to tell you may be difficult to for you to believe,” Luna took over, “but yours is a society that has been wrapped in magic for a thousand years! You have all been asleep under an illusion, brought about by Discord, the spirit of chaos! Only yesterday were you finally able to awaken to the real world!”

A shock wave of gasps and murmurs spread throughout the audience. The Princesses allowed them a moment to collect their thoughts, before Celestia continued, “Unfortunately, many of the questions you must have for us are mysteries to us as well. We don’t know how or why it was done, but this much I will tell you with utmost certainty: there is no need to be afraid. Luna and I both welcome you with open hearts to the land of Equestria, and will do everything in our power to assure you are able to adapt to your new home.”

There was a silence, as the crowd exchanged looks and whispers with one another. Then a nearby pegasus spoke up. “Uhm, excuse me, Princess?” she ventured, followed by a whistle. Pinkie thought she resembled that mail-mare with the lazy eye; what was her name again? “Are you telling us that a-all our lives up until now have been n-nothing but a dream?” She drew a long whistle. “B-but how could that be? We’re all still here, aren’t we?”

Everypony in the audience shared the same worried expression as they looked upon the Princesses. Celestia faced it with a smile. “Exactly. Yours was a dream shared by all of you, an illusion spell meant to preserve your minds for generations. You still have your memories, don’t you?” The pegasus nodded. “Then they are as real as you want them to be. All that matters is that you are still you, alive and well, here and now.”

“I-I suppose so.” It helped to calm the crowd down a little, but concern still lingered on their faces.

“Know that we offer you all the support we can,” Celestia promised. “That’s why I’d like to ask all of you to come up to us, one at a time, and tell us your names. Just so we know who is who, and so we can make sure nopony is missing.”

“We ask that you form an orderly line!” instructed Luna. Be it from imitation or curiosity, the order was carried out immediately, the ponies scrambling around to fit themselves into a line. “This won’t take long; just your name will do!”

One by one, the ponies approached the two princesses, telling them their names, to which Pinkie Pie paid close attention. April Daisy, Blue Mist, Golden Delicious, Coconut Top; for each greeting, Pinkie Pie made sure to remain right next to Celestia, giving them an extra ‘hi!’. Many ponies remained on the hill to hug and welcome their Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash back to the village. There was a reaction from her friends when somepony actually introduced herself as Applejack, but since she shared no physical traits to the orange work pony, it had to be more more than a funny coincidence.

The procedure didn’t take more than a couple of minutes. “Thank you, everypony,” Princess Celestia concluded when Fiesta Flare had introduced herself. “I hope we all get to know each other from now on.”

“Excuse me, but has anyone seen Minty?” asked one of the ponies: a purple earth pony named Wysteria.

“No, I haven’t,” Toola-Roola, a white earth pony with a yellow and pink mane, replied. A bunch of other ponies nodded in agreement.

“Rarity is gone too!” a purple unicorn that was this village version of Cheerilee said. “We’ve searched everywhere; Unicornia, Ponyville, Breezie Blossom, even Butterfly Island!”

“Fweeee,” whistled Thistle Whistle, “I haven’t seen Star Catcher either.”

“Minty’s missing?” repeated the other Pinkie Pie, her eyes sinking. “And Rarity too?!”

“Oh no,” said Rainbow Dash, looking just about ready to faint again. “This is dreadful, darlings!”

“You guys showed up alright,” their version of Scootaloo pointed. “I’m sure they will too.”

“This is different, darling! Pinkie Pie and I woke up in the middle of nowhere! It was a miracle that we even found these kind people. Our friends could be anywhere! Princesses, darlings, we simply must find them!”

“We’ll certainly try,” replied Luna, “but tracking an individual we haven’t even met is a difficult task.”

Pinkie Pie slumped down on the grass, her head sinking. “We’re never gonna find them again, are we.”

“Of course we are, darling, don’t say that!”

“But how? It’s a big, unknown world out there, and we don’t even know where to start,” her eyes were shaky, and tears were starting to form. “I’m sick of this. Why did everything have to get so complicated? Why did we have to lose our friends?”

The other Pinkie Pie couldn’t explain it, but seeing her other so sad sent a jolt of coldness through her veins. Maybe it was because she hated seeing ponies sad, or maybe it was the likeness to herself, but it was a sight she couldn’t bear to look at. She walked over and put a hoof under her chin. “Come on, cheer up, Pinkie. I-I’m sure we’ll find them, if we all work together.” Looking into her teary eyes made a lump in her own throat appear. She tried her best to keep up the smile.

Pinkie looked up at her solemnly. “Is your twitching telling you that?”

“Well… no. I’m telling me that. That’s gotta be worth something, right?”

Their eyes locked for a few moments. And with the tears finally letting go, Pinkie Pie hugged the other, wailing like a baby. Both of them. It had been so long since the party pony had a good cry, she’d never had a reason to. But she wasn’t about to let any Pinkie Pie of hers cry their heart out alone. That’s no fun.