• Published 29th Jan 2012
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The Dresden Fillies: Strange Friends - psychicscubadiver



Harry Dresden, Chicago's only professional wizard, accidentally travels to Equestria. What could go wrong?

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Chapter Four

Chapter Four

Written by: Psychicscubadiver
Edited by: Silentcarto

Disclaimer: I don’t own The Dresden Files or My Little Pony, that is Jim Butcher and Hasbro, respectively. This is a fanfiction only. Comments are appreciated, trolling is not. This takes place before season two in MLP and between books five and six in the Dresden Files.

“Oh, and his front legs are shorter than his hind legs, so I don’t think he can walk on all fours even if he wanted to,” Twilight continued. Rarity sighed and shook her head.

“This will be a real challenge, Twilight. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of such an odd creature. Even Spike or the-” She shuddered slightly, “Diamond dogs can at least walk on all fours. I don’t think any amount of skill will make him look like a pony.”

“I know,” Twilight agreed. “If you can’t think of anything, then casting an illusion over him might be the only way.”

Rarity mulled that over for a moment, then elegantly shook her head. “I don’t think that would work, darling, not if he has as much power as you say. There’s too much chance he would accidentally disrupt it. But,” and she gave a smile, “I know a way do it. Inanimate objects are so much easier to enchant; I’ll make him a cloak big enough to cover all of him and we simply spell it to replace the real image with whatever we want him to look like.”

Twilight looked at her friend with new respect. “Wow, Rarity, I didn’t know you were so accomplished in illusion magic.” She beamed. “I’d love to learn some of the spells you use.”

“Well, yes,” Rarity said, trying to head off her friend’s enthusiasm before they got too far off track. “I’ve made quite a few costumes that would have been impossible with fabric alone. And some customers are so insistent in their demands, no matter the difficulty.” A frown crossed her face as a new thought occurred to her. “Although it’s hardly perfect.” Twilight cocked her head curiously, and Rarity continued, “We can only work a little movement into it, nothing more than walking I would think, and the spell will only last a few hours.”

“That’s not a problem, Rarity. A few hours is more than long enough to get him to the library and keep him hidden. Besides, I was thinking we would disguise him as one of the royal guard ponies. They never seem to talk or change expression.”

Rarity looked impressed. “Brilliant, Twilight! Not only that, but most ponies won’t even approach one of Princess Celestia’s guards. I mean, they are rather intimidating to the average pony.”

Applejack sighed as she trailed behind her friends. I like’em plenty, she thought, but when they get to talking ‘bout something that ain’t interesting, like fashion or magic, I just can’t stand it. Not even Twilight’s description that strange fella was worth listenin’ to thanks to Rarity always butting in with questions about his colors or measurements. And the way she goes on about them fabrics; it’s enough to drive a decent pony ‘round the bend. To make matters worse it was mid-afternoon and she still hadn’t found Pinkie Pie. It looked like she’d just have to wait until another day to work on those recipes.

They were about twenty minutes from Fluttershy’s house when it happened. All thoughts of recipes, magic and fashion went out the window as they watched the incredible inferno rise into the sky. It was frightening and beautiful, one of the forces of nature manipulated into an awe-inspiring display. The roar of displaced air reached them on a hot wind as the blaze climbed higher and higher. All three ponies were mesmerized by the sight. After a moment more, the flames died out, leaving the horizon as empty as it had been only a minute earlier.

“My goodness,” Rarity said. “Was that a dragon? Oh I’d hate to deal with one of those right now, what with everything else on out plates.”

“I dunno, Rarity,” Applejack said. “That didn’t look like dragon fire to me, there’s no smoke or bellowin’ or nothing. What do you think Twilight?” Applejack noticed her friend’s expression and fell back a step. “Twilight, are you okay?”

Twilight was not okay. She seethed with anger and just barely kept herself from bursting into flames more impressive than those they’d just seen. Twilight gritted her teeth and ground out, “if it’s who I think it is, he’s in big trouble!”

........

I was in big trouble.

I eyed my opponent carefully. She was crafty and skilled, but I had the advantage this time. I considered my first move; it would decide the entire battle. She waited for me, a smile on her face and absolute confidence in her eyes. I made my decision and struck. She responded almost instantly, and then in only a few movements it was all over. I had lost.

“Whoo-hoo!” Pinkie cheered. “Tic-Tac-Toe three in a row! Do you want to play again?” I sighed, that was the seventh game in a row I’d lost. It didn’t even matter whether I went first or not, she was unbeatable.

“You know,” Rainbow said, watching with amusement from the chair she lounged on. “You’re not going to beat her. Nopony can.”

I made a shooing motion while studying the last game. “Quiet you. I don’t have time for your facts.” Maybe if I tried to entrap her there. That might work. “Okay, I’ll play again. It's your turn to go first.” I drew a new square on the page of my small notebook and she studied it. A minute later the corpse of my pride took another kick. I sighed, and glanced out the window. Fluttershy was still calming all of her animals after the fright my pyrotechnics had produced.

“C’mon,” Rainbow complained, “enough of this, I want to show you my stuff. I mean what you do is cool, but my tricks are the coolest in Equestria.” She stood up, stretching her wings with a proud smile. “With these babies, I can even do a Sonic Rainboom. I bet you’ve never seen one of those.”

A what? “Given that I’ve never even heard of it, you’re probably right.” She stared at me in disbelief. “Oh come on! I’m from another world, and that’s what surprises you? I know what a sonic boom is but you couldn’t mean that.”

She smirked. “Oh, it’s better than that. A Sonic Rainboom is a when a pegasus goes so fast she breaks the sound barrier and makes a rainbow at the same time. Everypony thought it was just an old mare’s tale until I did it, not once but twice. But I am the fastest flier in all of Equestria,” she finished with a smug look.

“Slight problem with that claim,” I offered, “it’s impossible. I mean multiple layers of impossible, not just the normal impossible that somebody can actually do.”

“Why not?” Pinkie said. She had walked over to us and I noticed, with no little amount of surprise, that her head was only slightly lower than mine and upside down. She was walking on the ceiling. My mind boggled, but she was still talking. “I usually do six impossible things before breakfast.” She giggled at my dumbfounded expression, and even Rainbow was staring.

“How are you doing that?” I asked slowly, wondering if I had finally snapped.

“What do you mean?” Pinkie asked, far too innocently to be believed. I took a closer look and noticed something odd about her hooves. They had something strapped to them.

Oh, okay. She’s just wearing suction cups, not blatantly disobeying gravity, I realized. Hang on. That just raises more questions! Where did she get the suction cups? How did she get them on without Rainbow or me noticing? And how the hell did she get on the ceiling with them?!

Rainbow just shook her head. “Pinkie, you are so random.”

“I know,” Pinkie chirped. She started clapping her front hooves together, but apparently two suction cups weren’t enough to support her. They let go of the ceiling with enormous pops. I just barely caught her, and almost face planted. Rainbow started laughing which set Pinkie off giggling again. I rolled my eyes at them, but my goofy grin wasn’t much better.

“So anyway,” Rainbow wiped tears out of her eyes and brought things back on topic. “You’ll be even more amazed when I show you the Sonic Rainboom. I need a few minutes to warm up, but trust me; it’ll knock your socks off!”

I shook my head. “If it’s as impressive as you say then you definitely can’t do it. Twilight said not to attract any attention. My little ‘raging inferno’ probably already made her--”

“Mister Dresden!” Twilight yelled, slamming the door open.

“Angry,” I finished somewhat lamely. Twilight stomped into the room glaring daggers, followed by Fluttershy and a new pair of ponies. It was the orange cowpony and the white unicorn I’d seen in the Soulgaze. I only got a glance at them before my attention was drawn back to the small purple mage. She was not a happy pony. She stopped only a foot away and glared at me until I had to avert my eyes.

“Perhaps I wasn’t perfectly precise in what I preferred, but please point out precisely how playing with such profoundly prominent pyromancy could possibly be perceived as preserving a low profile, you preposterous practitioner!” She wasn’t shouting, but she didn’t have to. Everyone else in the room was dead quiet as she spoke. “Now puzzled ponies may propose to pursue the producer of such potent prestidigitation. Ponder, then, the panic a pugnacious primate with prodigious preternatural powers might provoke among the peaceful populace! Plus, that performance placed my precious pals in personal peril. What would you plead if Pinkie Pie or our pair of pegasi were put in pain by your pin-head production?!”

Hell’s bells. I was being chewed out in alliteration. I couldn’t tell if the whole thing was frightening or just plain adorable. Twilight stopped talking and stared at me. My thoughts must have been plain to see, because her eyes narrowed until they were tiny slits of glowing purple. The scowl she was giving me bordered on the epic, and I suddenly had no trouble deciding whether or not she was frightening.

Her voice grew softer, but it was still furious. “Can you at least tell me why you did something so monumentally stupid?”

This was my chance to turn things around. I just had to calm her down and explain myself in a simple and clear manner that didn’t blame Pinkie or Fluttershy. I was thinking of something clever, yet soothing, when my mouth, which frequently operates without permission from my brain, decided to open up

“Well, Miss Pinkie wanted to toast marshmallows, and things just got out of hand.” The room remained absolutely silent for a long moment. All of the ponies’ expressions had frozen. Oh Hell. This is not going to end well. Then Pinkie started giggling which made Rainbow laugh, and the sight of those two made the two new ponies chuckle. Fluttershy giggled softly, and even Twilight was fighting a smile. I breathed a sigh of relief as her temper cooled, and her glare died down.

“I am sorry about that,” I said. “I was practicing some of my spells, and I used way more power than I’d meant to. This place has a lot more magic than my world.”

Twilight took a moment to think it over and let out a long breath between her teeth. “I guess it’s all right. I was worried about my friends more than anything, but since they’re fine, no real harm was done. Luckily, it seems like nopony else saw you outside, so at least we don’t have to worry about that. The real trouble will be explaining the fire, but we can deal with that later. Rarity is going to make a disguise for you, and then we’ll hide you in the library until Princess Celestia arrives. She’ll know how to get you home.” She turned to leave but stopped and looked back, some of her earlier scowl returning. “But no more magic from you, agreed?”

I didn’t like it, but I could understand her caution given the display I out on. I held up one hand and my voice became serious as nuclear winter. “I swear on my power that I won’t use magic unless it's in self-defense or you give me permission otherwise.” Twilight nodded with a mixed look of satisfaction and relief. She understood, then, the power a wizard’s word holds. Breaking an oath would cause significant magic backlash, and weaken maybe even cripple my abilities. Besides, if worst came to worst and they were attacked (as typically happens anywhere I’m involved), I still had my revolver. Of course, I didn’t know if gunpowder even worked in this dimension, but testing it didn’t seem prudent right now.

“Thank you. Rarity is going to start on your disguise, so she’ll need your measurements. In the meantime, I’m going to study up on some illusion magic to help her finish it.” I nodded, and Twilight turned to her friends. “I’m afraid we may be here a while. Fluttershy, could you and Pinkie Pie work on dinner?”

“No problem, Twilight,” Fluttershy said, even as Pinkie piped up, “okie dokie lokie!”

“Well, finally I can get to business,” The white unicorn said, examining me carefully. Most of the other ponies drifted away. Twilight went upstairs several books in hand (or in hoof, maybe), Fluttershy and Pinkie moved into the kitchen and Rainbow stretched out on the couch and started snoring. The orange pony in the hat though stayed right in the room with clear intention of keeping an eye on me. That didn’t bother me much, I was no stranger to paranoia, or as it was called among the supernatural, 'common sense'. But the unicorn cleared her throat, and I gave her my attention.

“Hello, my good gentlecolt, I am Rarity. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” She offered me her hoof. I was surprised, but I could be a gentleman when need be. I bowed as low as I could and took her hoof gently in one hand.

“And it is an honor to meet you, Lady Rarity. I am the wizard Harry Dresden.” Don’t be so surprised. Old world manners are still in vogue in the supernatural world due to its number of immortal denizens. Once you’ve seen a few centuries, old habits become hard to break.

She smiled appreciatively. “Well! Twilight never mentioned how polite you were; it’s nice to see that somepony around here has manners.” Her eyes cut briefly at the orange pony, who was rolling her eyes at my display. The cowpony stuck out her hoof more assertively than her friend.

“And I’m Applejack. It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Dresden.” I shook her hoof firmly. It made sense in a bizarre way given her hat, but I had to wonder. How did a pony get a Southern accent? Beyond that, there was something odd about all of these introductions. I couldn’t put my finger on it but something was definitely off.

“Could you take your coat off please? I need to get your measurements,” Rarity said examining my duster. I took it off, revealing my t-shirt and jeans, but all of her interest was in my coat. “I’ve never seen a fabric like this. It’s supple, yet strong and stylish. What is it?”

“It’s leather,” I said without thinking, and then realized that I could not tell her it was dead animal skin. Not when she was half-wearing it to get a better feel for the material. She put it down with obvious reluctance and levitated a tape measure towards me.

“I’ve never heard of such a fabric. Where does it come from?”

She started measuring me as I tried to think up a fast explanation. “It’s uh… from a plant on Earth. I don’t think you have it here.”

“Really? It doesn’t look woven, I can’t make out any threads. Is it felted?”

“You’re right,” I said sweating bullets. “It’s not woven. The plant has these, uhh … huge leaves that we turn into leather.” I’m terrible at lying, but it looked like Rarity believed me. I guess she’s willing to take other-dimensional weirdness at face value. Unfortunately, Applejack seemed to see right through it.

“Horse apples,” Applejack said, “What’s it really made of?”

Rarity was scandalized. “Applejack! Don’t be rude to our guest.” She turned to me with an apologetic smile, “I’m so sorry for her behavior. She really was raised in a barn.”

“I was not either, but even if I was, that don’t change the fact he’s lying to us, Rarity,” Applejack said stomping her hooves and glaring at both of us. Oh, great. She was stubborn too. Rarity just ignored her and starting digging through her supplies on the other side of the room.

We spent a few minutes of uncomfortable silence, punctuated only by Rainbow’s snores and the soft sounds of Rarity working. I didn’t have any good ideas on how to deal with Applejack, but I could least try to convince her I wasn’t the bad guy. I plunked down next to her and said as softly as I could, “sorry for lying, but trust me. You don’t want to go down this road.”

She seemed startled that I’d admit to it, but she whispered back, “if you want yourself some trust, then pony up and tell me what it’s really made from.”

I wanted to sigh. “Believe me, you don’t want this answer.”

She hissed angrily, “I want the truth!”

A wiseass like me could not ignore a set up like that. I made my voice gruffer and wished briefly I could shout it like Nicholson.

“You can’t handle the truth!”

“I can handle whatever you got to say!” she shot back.

No respect. I give them comedic gold and get nothing. But jokes aside, I did need to address the problem at hand. “Okay, fine,” I said. “But promise not to tell any of the other ponies.” She looked surprised, but I crossed my arms and did my best to act stern. “It’s that or no deal at all.”

She checked on the other ponies while she thought it over. Rarity was busy sketching designs and murmuring to herself. There were some odd noises and a few giggles coming from the kitchen, and Rainbow was still snoozing on the sofa.

“Deal,” She said. “Now spit it out.”

“Well, Twilight mentioned that humans are omnivores, right?” She nodded and I continued, “So, there’s a tradition when an animal is killed for food. You use every part of the animal. Once you took its life, it’s your responsibility that none of that sacrifice is wasted. So, we make clothes from their skins. Leather is the treated skins of hunted animals.” It was a stretch, but for some cultures it was true. Besides, I wanted to soften the blow, and keep humans from sounding like Hannibal Lecter. Applejack just stared at me as the truth sunk in. Then she just sat, her hind legs giving out, an expression of pure shock washing across her face. She looked with wide eyes at the duster and seemed close losing her lunch. She gagged, but started breathing deeply and just barely kept it under control. I tried to catch her eye, but she pointedly ignored me. A long, uncomfortable silence stretched between us.

She looked uneasily at her friend, still wrapped up in her work. “I suppose that makes sense, but that means Rarity was admirin’ pieces of dead animal?” She shuddered at the thought.

I nodded. “You see why I didn’t want to tell you?” She nodded uncomfortably. “You will keep your promise won’t you?”

She sighed, “I s’pose so.”

Relief flooded me. I don’t know if Rarity would have taken that news as well as Applejack did. Maybe she would have, but I didn’t want to risk finding out. I watched as Rarity continued working. She was levitating some material without any apparent effort and with more subtlety than just about any wizard I’d seen. She’d used as much skill with the tape measure now that I thought about it, but I’d been distracted at the moment.

“So, Rarity can use magic too?” I asked.

Applejack looked at me like I was an idiot, though she seemed more than willing to change the subject. “Well, o’ course she can. She’s a unicorn, ain’t she?”

I thought that over. “So about what fraction of the population do unicorns make up?”

Applejack frowned. “Is that a fancy way of asking how many we got?” I nodded tersely, and she shrugged. “About the same as pegasi or earth ponies.”

“Wait a minute.” I was staggered, “A full third of the population is capable of magic?”

“Sure thing, sugarcube.” She chuckled at my expression. “I’m bettin’ it don’t work the same way in your world.” I slowly shook my head. No wonder magic was so open here. I’d suspected the pegasi were inherently magical given their flying abilities, but a population that supported so many practitioners? That was a shock.

My voice was soft when I finally spoke. “The power to be a true wizard, someone like me, is literally one in a million, and I would be amazed if even minor talents were more than one in a thousand. Magic-capable humans are far and few between.”

Her smile faded to a soft frown. “That sounds mighty lonely.” She didn’t say much but her empathetic eyes did. She was good at reading between the lines and was more right then she knew. My powers separated me from most of humanity. After all, there’s no such thing as magic, right? When people see me advertise as a wizard, at best they think I’m a harmless nutcase, at worst a petty conman. It was even worse with people who knew the truth. My reputation isn’t pretty, but then, neither are most of the things I’ve done to earn it.

Not that I’m completely alone, I thought, before I started wearing eye shadow and writing whiny poetry. There’s Murphy, Michael, Billy and the rest of the Alphas. They were true friends, people that I would take a bullet for. Thinking of them, brought a smile back, “It’s all right,” I told Applejack. “I’ve got friends too. Not a lot, but I’ve always been a quality over quantity kinda guy.”

Applejack chuckled a couple times and glanced fondly at the two ponies in the room. “I know what you mean there.”

Rarity cleared her throat delicately and waited for our attention. “It’s lovely that you two are getting along, but I’m afraid I need to steal Mr. Dresden away for his fitting.” She levitated her finished product, a gray cloak, onto my shoulders. I didn't know whether to laugh or curse.

The damned thing looked just like a warden’s cloak. I’d never been on the best of terms with the police of the White Council, and wearing their uniform felt like sewing a swastika onto my coat. On the other hand though, wouldn’t it be great if that paranoid bastard, Morgan, could see me in it? Inwardly, I grinned like a wolf. Sure, he would kill me right after, but the shock and horror on his old face would almost be worth it. If I was lucky, the surprise would be enough to give the cranky zealot a heart attack.

My poker face must not have been very good, because my expression caught Rarity’s attention. “Oh, darling, do you not like it? I know it’s dreadfully plain but nopony will see it anyway, so don’t you worry.” She laid a consoling hoof on my knee, about the highest she could easily reach.

“No, no, it’s very nice,” I assured her. “I was just thinking about something else.” Rarity daintily arched an eyebrow but seemed willing to let it go.

“Fine. Now, if you would, pull the rest of the cloak on and walk across the room. I need to be sure you’re completely covered.” She laughed softly. “Nothing like a limb appearing from nowhere to ruin an illusion.” The cloak fit so well, I could hardly believe I was the first human she had ever made clothing for. The heavy hood came down just far enough that I could see a few feet away, but when I looked in the mirror my face was still hidden in shadow. The bottom of the cloak was large enough for even my huge feet. Not that I could actually see them; the hem went almost to the ground, floating only an inch above the floor.

Rarity watched critically, murmuring to herself. She shook her head angrily as I walked back. “No, no, no. I need to adjust those shoulders, and put two, no, three clasps on it. And that hood hangs too far forward. Goodness, Rarity, you can do better.”

I glanced down at the cloak. It seemed fine to me, but then again, I understand fashion about as well as I do women. “I don’t know how you could’ve done better.”

“Thank you,” she replied with a demure smile, “but a true fashionista can always improve. I am afraid I’ll have to ask you to keep the cloak on while I’m fitting it. I need to see how it hangs while I work.” She pulled over a step-ladder, and I did my best impersonation of a mannequin.

“Almost done,” Rarity said, after a few minutes of prodding and adjusting. “Soon you’ll be fit for even the finest dining establishment in Fillydelphia!” I just stared at her. She blushed a little. “Well, perhaps that is an exaggeration, but you will look fabulous once we cast the illusion spell.”

I shook my head. “No, that wasn’t it—you actually have a city called Fillydelphia?”

“Well, yes. It’s not a large city, only about as big as Stalliongrad. Why, does it seem odd?”

Odd is such a mild word. Odd is wearing plaid socks with sandals. Odd is naming your child Cornelius. This was not odd. This walked the teetering edge of madness. “No, it’s perfectly normal for an alternate dimension populated by talking ponies to have cities with pony-themed pun names based on cities from my world. I’m almost afraid to ask what the capital’s called.”

“What? You mean where Princess Celestia lives?” Apple jack sounded defensive. “Well, that’s Canterlot o’ course. Are you gonna tell me that’s a pun from your world too?” A small part of my mind wondered if I should tone down my reaction, but the rest of me was too busy groaning at ‘Canterlot’ to notice.

“Yep, an especially bad one. Let me guess, there’s also huge city full of socialites and high culture called Neigh York?”

Rarity seemed surprised at the suggestion. “Why, no. There isn’t any city with a name even remotely similar.”

Okay, maybe I’m overreacting. Coincidences happen, right? I almost had myself convinced when Applejack spoke up.

“Sure sounds a lot like Manehattan, though.” My left eye started to twitch.

“I rather thought he was referring to Prairis, myself,” Rarity replied.

The lack of a punchline threw me. What? I thought. How is that a pony pun? Well, ask and ye shall receive.

“Ah, someday I hope to visit ‘gay Prairie’ myself! The society, the fashion…” The unicorn continued, but I couldn’t hear her over the gibbering in my head.

I was wrong, I realized, this isn’t a Disney movie. It’s a Piers Anthony novel. I just couldn’t help it anymore, I started laughing. It was one of those deep belly laughs. You know, where you keep on laughing, and everything seems funny. Rarity and Applejack stared at me like I was crazy, but that just made me laugh harder. I didn’t stop until I was out of breath, but somehow the laughter continued, just more bubbly and higher pitched.

For an instant, wondered where the laughter was coming from, but then I recognized that laugh. Pinkie Pie had left the kitchen and was rolling on the floor laughing with me. Even though I’d already stopped. Applejack just rolled her eyes and stepped around Pinkie to tug on my sleeve. “C’mon, if you’re done foolin’ around, Twilight and Rarity gotta get working on the magic bit of the cloak.”

I pulled myself back together. “Right, the illusion spell.” Pinkie, though, was still laughing, and didn’t show any signs of stopping. Didn’t she need to breathe at some point? “Uh, is she … all right?”

Rarity was quick to reassure me. “Oh, don’t worry about her, Mr. Dresden. Pinkie Pie is just, um… well…”

“Bein’ Pinkie Pie.” Applejack said. “She’ll be fine.” We headed for the stairs, and I got painfully reacquainted with the ceiling. The downstairs was plenty roomy, but the stairwell and the rooms upstairs were a lot shorter. At least this time I wasn’t trying to carry a tea tray while struggling through rooms made for someone half my size.

The sight I was greeted with made the trip worth it. Twilight was curled up with a pillow and blanket while she read. The book was open on the floor in front of her and she was enraptured by it. There is no other word to describe the look of tranquility and sheer joy she had as she read. She didn’t even glance up as we entered. She just flipped a page with one hoof and blew an errant lock of hair out of her face. I’m a reader myself, and the tableau before me was freaking adorable. I wish I’d had a camera.

Rarity coughed delicately, “Ahem.”

No reaction.

“Twilight?”

She flipped another page.

“I do hate to disturb your reading, but we do have some work to do.”

Silence. I was impressed. I wish I could ignore people who interrupted my reading that well.

“Oh, fer goodness’ sake! Twilight! It’s time for to take your nose outta the book and make with the magic!” Applejack yelled, more exasperated than angry.

Twilight lifted her head and blinked in confusion, seeming to notice us for the first time. “Oh, sorry. I just got to this absolutely fascinating chapter on the underlying principles of the manipulation of the visible spectrum used in illusion magic.”

“That’s wonderful, darling,” Rarity said hesitantly, “but did you get to the chapter on enchanted objects? That is what we need after all.”

“Of course, I’ve already studied it thoroughly. I just started reading through the rest of the book to get more background in the field.” Twilight beamed and nodded confidently. “Now, I assume you’ll create the framework, given you have more experience and a better mind for details, and I will supply the power and affix it to the target item. That would be the best way, don’t you think?”

For moment Rarity was speechless, and I had to hide a chuckle with a cough. The look on her face was pretty damn entertaining, but she found her voice quickly enough. “Yes, that does sound ideal, but I must ask. Are you sure you haven’t done this before?”

Twilight giggled a little and shook her head. “I am a quick study, but the real test will be doing it, not knowing the theory. Let’s get started.” Her attention turned on me, and she became a bit more formal. “Mr. Dresden, would you put the cloak on the bed? You might accidentally disrupt the spell if you're wearing it.”

“No argument here. I don’t want to wear anything you two are slinging magic at. That’s a good way to end up with an odd number of eyes.” Twilight looked a little horrified by the thought, but I chuckled. Then I got a front row seat to some other-worldly magic.

I extended my senses to their utmost, doing everything short of opening my Sight to watch. I saw immediate differences in the way we used magic. They didn’t use any words or props, even for a major spell like this. Nothing but their minds shaped the spell, and nothing but their horns focused it. I could feel their power as they worked, and I gained a new respect for Twilight. She wasn’t as powerful as me, but she had some serious skill, if she could really translate theory to practicality that easily. Give her some experience and a reason and she’d be more than a match for most wizards of the White Council. Rarity wasn’t too shabby either. She was holding the whole thing within her mind; her horn softly glowing as Twilight poured more and more power into the construct. With an enormous surge of magic, Twilight’s horn suddenly went from sunny day to supernova. It felt like my eyes had been obliterated by a wall of solid light, and only the fact I was speechless kept me from cursing. The light faded as quickly as it had appeared, but my sight was slower to return. When I could eventually see again, everything looked unchanged except the conversion of two unicorns from energized to exhausted and one cowpony from focused to blurry eyed. The cloak looked the same, but when I touched it, I could feel the magic that hummed steadily through the cloth.

Twilight shook her head trying to clear the dazed expression off her face. “Go ahead and put it on, Mr. Dresden. Rarity and I need a moment to recover, but we’ll be fine.”

I cocked an eyebrow. “You sure?” They both nodded, so I shrugged and put on the cloak. It still fit just as perfectly. I made sure the clasps were fastened and turned look at myself in the mirror, wondering how I would appear. I looked like a very tall man completely shrouded in a grey cloak. Fantastic. This disguise was foolproof.

“I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but I don’t think it worked.”

Twilight shook her head and trotted over. “It works. I just need to activate it. Hold still.” She pressed her horn into the side of the cloak, and it softly pulsed with light. I didn’t feel any different, but before I could add some of my sparkling wit to the problem, I caught sight of myself in the mirror. I gave a low whistle, one that seemed distinctly out of place given that my illusion didn’t move his lips.

I was now a solidly built pony, with a white coat and blue mane and tail. I stood taller than all of the other ponies, four maybe four-and-a-half, foot, and I was wearing what looked like golden centurion armor modified for an equine body. The helmet even had one of those ridiculous crests. I turned, and the illusion moved with me, even moving its hooves to match my motions.

Color me impressed. They were both better at the subtle magic of illusion than I’ll ever be. I’m the mystical equivalent of a brawny thug, while they were definitely artists- or maybe fencers, to continue the warrior metaphor.

“Well, if you’re done admirin’ yourself the mirror, I think dinner is just ‘bout ready.” Applejack gestured downstairs where I could faintly hear Fluttershy calling for us.

“Dinnertime, everypony.” I found myself suddenly hungry. It had been a long time since lunch.

........

I followed Twilight down the winding road back to Ponyville, patting my stomach and sighing contentedly. (Really, Ponyville? I didn’t live in a place called Humantown. Oh, well… at least it wasn’t another pun.) The sun had set just a little while ago and the moon was peeking above the horizon. A chill wind whispered through the trees, but I had on both my duster and cloak. It seemed to be a perfectly beautiful evening, or would be if I didn’t feel like I was being watched.

When you’ve been a detective as long as I have, you get a sense of when you’re being followed. I wondered which pony it was. Fluttershy or Rarity I think I could rule out, but Applejack or Rainbow wouldn’t surprise me. Pinkie was a wild card, so I couldn’t count her out either. Whatever. It wasn’t going to bother me.

Dinner had been delicious. The hot vegetable soup and fresh baked bread were excellent, but the dessert was to die for. I suspected Pinkie knew a little magic too, given how addictively tasty those apple turnovers were. But I’d enjoyed the company even more than the food. Normally I eat alone, and I had forgotten how nice a home-cooked meal with friends could be.

I’d gotten to show off how useful hands could be, when eating. Unfortunately, Rainbow took that as a challenge and spilled her whole bowl trying to copy me. We had all gotten a laugh out of that. Well, everybody except Rainbow, but she was the one covered in soup. Despite being trapped in another dimension, I was happier than I’d been in a long time.

“So, where are we headed?”

“Shhh!” Twilight hissed. “You aren’t supposed to talk, remember?” Her eyes darted back and forth across the meadow, looking for eavesdroppers.

I rolled my eyes and crossed my arms underneath the cloak. I know she couldn’t see it, but some things are just required. “Yeah, your friends who already know might hear us. Or maybe it’s those crickets; they sound real dangerous.”

Twilight turned and stared my illusion in the eyes. Then she remembered and adjusted her eyes upwards. Her scowl was set on stun, but she aimed it about six inches too low. “Can’t you be quiet?”

“Probably not. We could just pretend I’m practicing my ventriloquism. Would that work?”

She sighed and turned back towards Ponyville. “You are the most infuriating human I have ever met.”

“Well, I am the only human you’ve ever met.” I pointed out. “To be fair, I’m pretty darn infuriating to other humans too. That’s one of my many charms.” She chuckled at little. “If you don’t want me to talk, why don’t you talk instead?”

She flushed a little and got flustered. “Talk? Well, I mean, what would I talk about?”

I shrugged. “Well, I’ve met all of your friends except for the dragon and the royal. Why not talk about them?”

“What!? How could you-” She fell silent for a short moment. “Right, the Soulgaze. I’m not going to get used to that anytime soon.”

Way to be a dick, Harry. I thought. “Sorry again.” A long moment of silence. “Um.. do you want to talk about it?”

She still wasn’t talking, and I was just bright enough not to ask again. After another minute without talking she finally spoke. “No, thank you. It might be a little stupid, but I don’t want to know.” She paused to think. “It’s strange, this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to know the truth, but I’m afraid of what that mirror will show.” She stared at the night sky, with an expression of troubled melancholy. It was a poignant, dramatic moment.

I really couldn’t help ruining it.

“Heh heh heh heh, w-wait. What? Seriously?” I tried to speak through the laughter.

Twilight was not amused. She spun like she’d been stung, and put her face right into mine. Well, my illusion’s anyway. “What about that is so funny?” she demanded.

I managed to get my laughter under control, but it was still pretty funny. “You. You’re afraid to know yourself even though your soul is one of the most wholesome and beautiful things I’ve ever seen.”

She blushed and quickly backtracked, “W-what? I don’t know what you mean.”

“C’mon. You have to have figured out by now that I come from a pretty rough place.” She nodded slowly, and I took a deep breath enjoying the night air. “I’ve seen a lot of things both good and bad. I’ve seen the souls of the kind and the cruel, and yours has more integrity than any of them.” Except Michael, maybe. “You are intelligent, driven, kind and you love your friends more than anything else in the world. Kid, you can’t go far wrong with a heart like that.”

She got teary-eyed, but quickly turned to keep me from seeing. She started walking again, and when she spoke, it was in a much softer voice. “You’re a lot nicer than I thought you’d be, Mr. Dresden. Thank you.”

I smiled. “That’s the thing about us humans. We’re not just nice or mean; that’s easy to work with. No, we’re difficult because we’re just so damned inconsistent.” She chuckled a little and I joined her. I’d like to think that’s how rest of the trip would have gone, a companionable silence during a walk through a beautiful night, but fate had other things in mind.

There was a sudden spike of magical energy, and suddenly I couldn’t feel anyone watching me anymore. I turned in the direction I’d felt it came from. “Did you sense that?” I hissed, watching the meadow carefully. There’s wasn’t a lot of cover, but the shadows were thick and hiding would have been easy.

“Yes, it felt like somepony just teleported away. But who?”

“I don’t know. I knew somebody was following us, but I didn’t see them.”

Twilight stared at me. “Somepony was following us? When were you going to tell me?”

I shrugged again, then remembered she couldn’t see it. “I thought it was one of your friends keeping an eye on me. Can Rarity teleport?” She shook her head. “Well now that leaves us with one hell of a mystery.” She had recognized the magic, meaning it must be another unicorn. One that wanted to know what we were doing, but wasn’t afraid to let us know we were being watched. I felt a grin coming on. This required a very special reference.

“Come, Twilight! The game is a-hoof!”

“What?!”


Author’s note: A wild plot appears! I chose you, Reader! I want to thank silentcarto for editing. I am a bio major, and grammar is something I am only vaguely familiar with. Thank you, also, to all the fans; your comments warm my evil heart.

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