• Published 25th Mar 2013
  • 2,914 Views, 73 Comments

Equestria Divided: The Pink Samurai - The Kobold Necromancer

Pinkie Pie is brought to Equestria Divided, an alternate universe where the Mane 6 have turned against each other, warping Equestria into a nightmarish war zone. For her new friends, Pinkie fights against the odds as the Pink Samurai.

  • ...

Prologue Part 2 - The Drafting of the Samurai

Canterlot appealed to most of Twilight's ensemble.

She of course loved it, it was home, it was where she grew up, and it was the capital of Equestria. It had the grandest libraries, the best museums, and was a focal point in learning, culture, and progress.

Rarity loved it because it was where the upper class lived. The most glamorous dresses and fashions were made and worn there. Every pony was cultured, civil, and living the kind of life she always dreamed of. She sometimes wished she could move there, maybe one day she would.

Rainbow Dash liked it too, because it was so spacious and airy. Pegasi of the metropolis flew from place to place, daily commutes as fun as free-style flying. She could also get used to the food they served.

Spike was born in Canterlot. He grew up there, he knew ponies there that had known Twilight Sparkle. Of course he would love any excuse to come back and see it.

Fluttershy enjoyed seeing the animals that lived in Canterlot, as amazing and plentiful as Ponyville, though different in special ways. One would think a posh, upper-class city like Canterlot wouldn't have many animals, but if you knew history of Equestria and Canterlot (and you don't, we know you didn't study), you would know how much animals and ponies truly live in harmony.

Pinkie Pie could party anywhere. She could make friends with anypony. She loved visiting new places. Canterlot was pure fun for her.

Applejack was the exception.

The farm pony felt the giant city was suffocating, the enormous amount of ponies and buildings made her feel like she was boxed in. The fancy, posh attitude that seemed to be literally built into the cities. Applejack could practically feel the "what the hay is she wearing?" stares she received from ponies who reacted to her buckaroo hat. It was like she was wearing a lampshade in public.

Though her apprehension to being in the posh metropolis was not noticed, as Twilight Sparkle was more than a little distracted by Pinkie Pie.

"I thought you and I agreed," Twilight hissed as she stared down Pinkie Pie, "that you wouldn't do anything embarrass me at Canterlot Castle!"

"I'm not, Twili."

"Then why are you wearing that?"

Pinkie tried to glance at what she was wearing on her head, but that proved to be difficult; it is, after all, hard to see what is placed on your head and over your ears. Thus, Pinkie couldn't look at the white headphones she was wearing.

She could, however, look at the small magical device that the headphones were plugged into. "If you're worried about my gicPod, I'm not listening to any music right now."

Twilight frowned at her, then glared at the musical/magical device. The two of them stepped out into the street, leaving the hotel that had been set up for their group when they arrived in Canterlot. A carriage was to arrive and pick them up soon, but Twilight wasn't sure now if she wanted to go to the castle when her friend was like this.

"We have been asked to go on a tour of Canterlot Castle, the most important place in all of Equestria," Twilight continued, "and you're going to wear headphones?!"

"Like I said, silly, my gicPod isn't playing music, so I am wearing one for the tour effect that is only proper for tours."

"What? What are you talking about?"

"Vinyl told me all about it. You see, pretty much every entourage at Canterlot has a member wearing headphones and drinking something when on tour."

As if to further demonstrate her point, she pulled a tall cup with a straw from her mane. She sucked on the straw, though it was obvious no liquid was in the cup. "And thus, I am helping you by making our group seem normal!"

Twilight face-hoofed. She really, really did not want to embarrassed at Canterlot. She knew ponies here, Celestia was here! Though she loved Pinkie, and could stand her antics, she didn't think many of the higher minds of Canterlot would appreciate it.

Twilight continued to argue with Pinkie about wearing headphones and pretending to drink as their other friends came out of the hotel. The debate was stopped as Rarity stepped forward, and Twilight's violet eyes nearly popped out of their sockets.

"Darling," Rarity said, waving a hoof at Twilight, "I think you're being too hard on Pinkie. You see, it is the craze going around nowadays to be casual, aloof, to act like a pony who is not part of an establishment."

"What… why… how," Twilight stammered.

"Well, I studied like Pinkie did, especially since her darling sister told me all about this craze," Rarity said, batting her eyes. "Chancellor Puddinghead unofficially declared this week to be Thinking Outside the Chimney Week, also known as To Chweek. Thus, you wear things to express your individualism."

"Doesn't explain what you're wearing," Rainbow Dash said to her.

Rarity bat her eyes again, and adjusted the maroon beret that rested on a tilt on her head. Her black sweater almost had a luster to it, with how sleek the fabric was. Rarity had even combed her hair so that it wasn't as curly, and thus looked slightly like Twilight's style.

In fact, that's why the bookworm was almost freaking out. Rarity was dressed like a hipster, wearing her hair like Twilight's. And she was going to be seen with Twilight, at Canterlot Castle.

"Ah gotta say, Rare," Applejack spoke up, "I rather like this look on you."

"Aw, thank you, dearie!"

Rarity fluttered her eyes at the farm pony, who simply chuckled and glanced away. The fashionista glanced over at Twilight, who was still staring incredulously. "Now now, Twilight, don't be like that. Pinkie and I dressed like this so that we would look up to standards at Canterlot."

"Nopony dresses like this in Canterlot," Twilight shouted, trying and failing to contain herself.

"Um," Fluttershy's timid voice somehow drifted into the conversation, "Twilight? Over there?"

Fluttershy was pointing at a collection of ponies who were walking down the road, bags of purchased products around their sides. Almost all of them were wearing clothing that wasn't the norm, especially for Canterlot. One even had the same beret as Rarity, and was wearing glasses that Twilight knew couldn't be prescription.

Twilight watched them pass by, the last one bobbing his head to the music coming from his headphones, sipping a drink. The lavender unicorn sighed in defeat, then glanced at Pinkie.

"Just please promise me you won't play music on that thing," she requested, pointing at Pinkie's gicPod. "I didn't even know you owned one."

"I've never really to use it until now, mostly because when I want music to be heard, I sing!" Pinkie Pie proudly pronounced with perfect pitch the particular punctuation. "But for trips and such, I like to have some music in case of emergency. These magical music players are so fun!"

"Personally, Ah think they're kind of silly," Applejack admitted. "Ah mean, Ah know it's a great leap in technology, to be able to control magic inside a small box like that, and have it play music, but really? You kind of look antisocial wearing headphones in public, Pinkie."

Their carriage arrived, pulled by four royal stallions who let out such proud nickers, Rarity swooned a little. One of them complimented her hat, and she was all gushy with him as they rode to the castle. In the meantime, Pinkie was trying to force Applejack to listen to a song she thought might appeal to the country pony.

"Of course, I prefer my collection of Octavia's music," Pinkie listed, "and "Weird Corral" Flankovic, and this awesome collection of beats that Vinyl gave me before we left this morning. But sometimes, mood strikes you, ya know?"

Applejack blinked in astonishment as the music poured from the headphones and flooded her ears. "When in the hay would the mood strike you fer this song?"

"Try not to swear at the castle," Twilight cautioned her friend. "It's really not proper, and-"

"Ya, Ah know about yer fancy traditions!" Applejack waved a hoof. "Ah'll be as good behaved as a dog who knows she's about ta git a treat!"

"And that treat would be?" Rainbow teased her, glancing between the two.

When they arrived at the castle, Shining Armor's replacement for Captain of the Guard, Rallying Cry, was there to greet them. The black-coated, light blue-maned stallion was a little intimidating to see, especially since he was wearing his armor; it made the girls a little afraid that something bad was happening.

But as it turned out, it was purely for show as he had taken Princess Celestia's request that the Ponyville visitors be treated with the utmost respect. "I normally wear this for ceremonies and such," he explained, the slightest look of sheepishness in his strong face. "It's not really for battle; besides, that stuff still stinks of changeling blood months after the incident."

Rallying Cry, better known by other ponies now as Captain Rally, kissed Twilight and Rarity's hooves in greeting. "It is common tradition," he said to the blushing mares, "to greet important guests like this. I hope I am not embarrassing you?"

"We're fine," Rarity assured her with a purr in her voice. "But be careful, Twilight's brother is the stallion who used to have your job."

Captain Rally snickered. "I trained Shining Armor, if you believe that. He surpassed me, couldn't be prouder."

He made his way to say hello to the others of the group, but most of them were fine with him not kissing their hoof. Spike earned a small salute.

The captain then led them into the castle, the grand main hall still a sweeping, amazing sight to them all, despite having seen it many times. Twilight glanced all around, admiring small changes she could recognize, then was distracted by Pinkie slurping her empty cup.

"Groovy," the party pony said with a giggle. "I love visiting the castle! And being escorted by the captain of the guard! I feel like a soldier, or something important like that!"

"While I dare say you wouldn't fit in the Canterlot military," Captain Rally said, smirking at her, "your achievements that the princess talks about are very impressive and we wouldn't mind."

"What would I fight?" Pinkie asked, her excited voice carrying throughout the main hall. "Monsters? Ghosts? Changelings? Changeling ghosts riding monsters?"

"Canterlot, and rather all of Equestria, has not had a true enemy for many years."

Captain Rally escorted them down a hallway that Twilight Sparkle had seen a few times. It was a glass-display documentary, telling stories with stained glass windows and magical displays. It wasn't her favorite historic hallway, however.

"Throughout the history of Equestria, ponies have waged war against several types of monsters and creatures," Captain Rally explained. His hoof falls, made stronger by his boots, echoed throughout the hallway, reminding the girls of a marching army. "The very first enemy we fought was, actually, something we do not entirely remember."

He gestured with a hoof towards the stain glass window the depicted a faceless, shapeless entity reached with clawed hands at a couple of frightened ponies. An earth pony was standing between them and the monster, rearing up on its hind legs, holding a rather long knife in his hooves.

"We do not know much, as most records did not survive the test of time," Captain Rally explained. "What we do know is that an evil race wished to enslave many of the creatures of Equestria, including us ponies. They were unspeakably evil, and thus ponies fought against them with equal aggression."

"What's that neat thing the earth pony is holding?" Pinkie Pie asked. "I could use that to cut three cakes at once!"

"Back then, when ponies had to be more brutal, they crafted weapons that were not like normal weapons today. That is a particularly deadly sword, curved, tempered to withstand slashing through any creature, be they flesh, rock, wood, or scale."

Fluttershy swallowed nervously. "Oh my, that sounds horrible! How could any pony think to hurt a living thing?"

Captain Rally glanced at the timid pegasus, and though he had the fierce eyes of a warrior, he still was a gentlecolt. "A pony must do what he or she must to protect the ones they love, Fluttershy. Times were different back then, and thus, they had to resort to violence to survive."

"Sounds wicked," Rainbow Dash said. "Even if they look like they're trying to cut up a ghost."

"The weapons of ancient ponies were said to be enchanted, to help them fight against unnatural powers." Captain Rally pat the scabbard at his side. "Nowadays, since we have no call for great weapons, our blades and bludgeons are simplistic but still made well.

"Still, it is a pity that so few of the enchanted blades of olden times have never been found. It is said that those blades, especially the kind depicted here, have a thousand stories of justice and bravery to tell."

"And death," Fluttershy muttered sadly.

"Darling, don't be too upset," Rarity said, patting her friend in comfort. "Those days are long, long gone. We live in much better times."

"Think of it this way, Flutters," Pinkie said as she again sipped her empty cup. "The ponies died way back when so you could live how you do now. Remember them for that."

"I guess," Fluttershy said.

"What were those fancy blades called, anyway?" Applejack asked. "Ah'm a mite curious."

"They were anything but fancy, my dear," Captain Rally said with a laugh. "They were known as 'katanas,' and only ponies with the strength, creativity, and training could hope to fight using them. It's not easy for ponies to fight on their hind legs, or use weapons with their hooves. Again, a reason we all wish we knew more."

"I love studying the unknown," Twilight said, smiling gleefully. "It's like you can almost make up your own lore to figure out the truth behind what you do know!"

Rainbow Dash wandered off from the group, studying the depictions of battle in the stain glass windows. Statutes of ponies posed in battle armor and wielding weapons added to the atmosphere. It all almost distracted her from noticing a rather special window.

"Hey everypony," she declared, pointing at the window. "It's us!"

"What?" Twilight said, heading over with the others. "That doesn't make sense, the windows depicting us are not in this hallway…"

Her confusion was cleared up when she saw who exactly was in the window of history. Princess Platinum, horn glowing with magic, was glaring down Commander Stormwing, who was glaring right back at her, with Chancellor Puddinghead mocking them from the lower part of the window.

"I know you all are familiar with our country's founders," Captain Rally said. "I saw your performances; however, I don't remember Chancellor Puddinghead being quite so silly."

Pinkie Pie innocently whistled, while at the same time pretending to listen to her headphones. Twilight Sparkle glanced at the three leaders of the racial houses back then.

"So we went from fighting a dominating enemy," Applejack said, "to fighting each other? What the hay happened?"

"Hey now," Twilight cautioned her, but Captain Rally merely chuckled.

"Odd, isn't it? We fight together, only to fight each other. As some of you may know," he said, nodding to Twilight, "history is a little darker than we'd all care to remember. The pegasi, unicorns, and earth ponies were so desperate for a place to call their own, they ended up fighting each other.

"And not as gently as you might want to believe. While war and grand-scale death did not happen, riots and fights among the three pony kinds did break out. A lot of ponies, hungry and needing, would kill each other for any land that wasn't being dominated by snow."

"And to think," Rarity said with a sad shake of her head, "it all happened because they were fighting."

"Commander Stormwing was chosen by her people because they truly wanted a warrior to lead them to victory," Captain Rally explained. He pointed to Stormwing, who was not rainbow-maned and light blue like Rainbow Dash, but a dark yellow mane and shadowy gray coat.

"So I played as a warrior?" Rainbow asked. "Neat!"

"Oh, I don't like it," Fluttershy whimpered. "I felt so privileged to be Private Pansy in the play, I hate to think she… she… killed somepony!"

"As far as the records say, she never did," Captain Rally assured her. "Though Commander Stormwing was a fierce and stubborn pegasus, and definitely fought many opponents in combat personally. The other two? Not so much.

"Princess Platinum inherited her position, as you may have guessed. Chancellor Puddinghead was elected, mostly because she was the only one who was brave enough to face a princess and a commander in political debates."

"Puddinghead was brave?" Applejack asked with a scoff.

"You shouldn't mistake her zany attitude for not being a brave pony. She had to be strong to not let others push earth ponies around, and thus became a little too focused in pushing back to listen to Smart Cookie until after the alliance."

"I prefer to think of those times," Pinkie admitted. "The six of them becoming the true allies against real evil, and realizing we are all ponies deep down."

"Indeed, after the snow started to melt away in Equestria, or Place Ponies Play Perfectly as Puddinghead called in her journals," Captain Rally explained. "She always did like alliteration. Equestria truly began to grow then, and eventually, our princesses grew to the leaders we know today."

"You sure know about history," Twilight commented, "for a member of the army. Err, I mean," she nervously stammered when he cast her a confused glance, "I'm not implying you're dumb or anypony in the military is dumb! My brother is in the military! It's just…"

"Yes, I am well aware Shining Armor doesn't have the best grasp of history. I am a bit of a history buff, it was what I studied when I was in school. So I rather like to lead these escorts for ponies and beings of high authority when I can, gives me a chance to show off."

Captain Rally escorted them to another window, this one sadly recognizable in its issues. Nightmare Moon, in full defiance, was rearing to attack Celestia. Beneath them in the window, ponies were attacking each other, but some were not normal.

"When Princess Luna tragically fell to corruption and jealousy," Rallying Cry said, "she had tried to force ponies to accept her nights. Thus, nocturnal ponies were created, including midnight pegasi, who serve our princesses to this day."

"Why did they fight?" Fluttershy whimpered. "Aren't we better a thousand years ago?"

"The ponies that were changed by Nightmare Moon were treated as outcasts, before and after the princess was banished to the moon. Thus, they aggressively fought back to avoid being destroyed as traitors to the throne. Princess Celestia spared them, and thus we still have some around today, including the Captain of the Night Guard, Duskwing."

Twilight Sparkle nodded. She had met Duskwing once, during her brother's promotion to Captain of the Day Guard. The midnight pegasus had been more than a little intimidating to see in pony, and Twilight had wondered why he was called the Night Guard, while most ponies referred to her brother simply as Captain of the Guard.

"Is there still some lingering prejudices?" she asked.

"I would hope not, but mostly the nocturnal ponies have reverted back to normal sleeping patterns, except midnight pegasi. Commander Duskwing and the others prefer the night, and thus don't mind being a little isolated."

"They need a night party," Pinkie suggested. "Can I host a night party here?"

"I don't think they'd come."

"Then I'll make them come!"

She laughed aggressively, rubbing her hooves together. As Applejack prevented her from putting on a devious mustache, Captain Rally chuckled. "I'd love to see you try."

"This is all so depressing," Fluttershy said, glancing sadly at the captain. "Could we please see something more interesting? Something nicer?"

"This is history," Twilight protested.

"Plus, it's combat and achieving awesomeness," Rainbow Dash exclaimed. "What's more awesome than that, Fluttershy?"

Captain Rally rubbed his chin. "Well, there's always the history of sex."

Almost everypony and dragon had wide eyes at this. Only Pinkie looked slightly less interested, not embarrassed for being interested, as she casually sipped her empty cup. "Well duh," she boldly stated. "We all know how it works!"

"Spike not know," Rarity hissed, rushing over to cover Spike's ears with her ears. "Shush! He doesn't have to know about the birds and bees now!"

"Um, but he already knows my pet birds and bees," Fluttershy admitted.

Rallying Cry, using his rather powerful voice, called for assistance. Two servant ponies arrived, and gleefully escorted Spike to the cafeteria for some gemstone snacks. The dragon for once didn't look so thrilled for his favorite food, he wanted to hear more about reproduction.

After convincing Fluttershy that this was truly about education, the ponies headed off to another historical wing, dedicated to love and fertility of their kind. Most of it was love stories, discovering how ponies of different races could not only have babies together, but why the results could sometimes be rather unpredictable.

Also there was the rather puzzling explanation to why pegasi and unicorns didn't make alicorn babies. Alicorn origins were so far back, no pony truly knew about them. The princesses didn't discuss the issue much, and thus historians just had to work around their leaders' stubbornness on the issue.

The best part was when Captain Rally, the only male pony of the group, had to discuss love children of two mares. "It was actually a long time ago that such a miracle could happen," he said. He managed to still sound tough and formal, despite talking about a subject that had Fluttershy hiding her now red face.

"I thought fertility potions had only been around for a few decades?" Rainbow asked.

"There have been several ways two mares repopulate, and they vary so much, it's hard to differentiate the lovely myths from the truth."

"Oh my," Rarity said with a giggle. "It's so funny, to think about it in serious ways!"

"Truthfully, it has always been a problem for our kind to reproduce," Twilight Sparkle said, adapting her scholar voice for this. "Ponies have biological complexities that cause us to have a one-in-seven chance to give birth to a male. Thus, the need for finding a way to impregnate a female as a female was a study long since-"

"Quit saying impregnate," Pinkie Pie whispered to her, "Fluttershy's blushing enough as it is."

Captain Rally cleared his throat. "Well, I think you all know enough about this, or," he glanced at Fluttershy, "as much as you care to. Maybe another time?"

"Oh, but the whole point of this trip," said a familiar voice behind them, "is to educate them all about Equestria."

Princess Celestia approached them, smiling at her subjects. They all bowed respectively, though Pinkie accidentally knocked off her headphones, scrambled to get them back on, tangled the wires up with her drink and crashed on her face. The princess held back a small laugh to desist embarrassing the party pony.

"I think it is time, however," she spoke as they all rose, "that I show you the reason I brought you all here. It is a very sacred room, and with something that may worry you to learn about, but I know you all.

"And I believe you are ready to understand more about the world, or more so about the universe. Spike may be too young, and I see you sent him off for a snack before learning about mares reproducing. Though please tell me…"

The princess's smile became rather mirthful, and she asked, "Was this because one or more of you are interested in this subject?"

Most of the mares there blushed, and denied the idea. Only Pinkie Pie, finally untangling herself, didn't quickly dismiss the idea, but that was solely because she wasn't interested.

Truthfully, she was interested, despite part of her not liking it, about the war hallway and the idea of fighting evil. Pinkie still was troubled about what happened a week ago, with Octavia's former bandmate. Part of her wondered if there was still that fighting side in her still.

She had managed to push it away for now, as she was overjoyed to have Octavia and Vinyl Scratch in Ponyville. Pinkie had many plans for what their welcoming party would be, and wondered how all of her friends would be at the party.

Cloud Kicker would probably hit on both, she was such a flirty pegasus. Sea Swirl, who had already asked about their relationship numerous times in hoping it was romantic, would probably abandon asking and try to pair them together.

Doctor Whooves would obviously make sure everything in their new home was in order, he was very obliging like that. He'd probably even offer a free check-up, he had a tendency to ensure perfect health in new arrivals in Ponyville.

Maybe even Cranky would take a shine to them, Octavia more so. Pinkie knew he and Matilda loved classical music, so the donkeys could be good friends with her sister. Vinyl would be a little more tricky, as her DJ buddy loved things loud, the opposite of what Cranky liked.

Speaking of likes, Pinkie wondered how Octavia and Vinyl felt about babies. Pound and Pumpkin were still so young, so adorable, how could anypony not like them? Still, babysitting wasn't for everypony, as she had learned, so she wondered if they'd enjoy watching over the twins? Who could love those two mischievous babies?

You may be wondering why this digression of narration has happened rather abruptly. It is because after that last thought, Pinkie, much like the readers, found themselves in a large, circular room. Her train of thought had been so distracting, she hadn't noticed Princess Celestia teleport them all to this room.

Pinkie was glancing around the room in curiosity. The ceiling and upper walls were artfully painted, depicting ponies of all kinds, colors, and age participating in many activities. And though she knew she really should be listening to the princess, Pinkie was lost in the artwork, especially when she noticed something peculiar.

"The ponies you see on the ceiling and wall artwork," Celestia was saying, "are all ponies I have monitored in this room."

Rainbow was the first to point out the obvious. "But your Highness, there aren't any windows in here!"

Princess Celestia nodded at this, then approached the only furniture in the room: a throne decorated with some rather stunning gems and precious metals. She used her golden magic to reveal a button in one of the armrests, and clicked it.

The floor in the middle of the room parted, and a glowing orb hovered up into sight. The amount of magic radiating from it was staggering, even to the non-unicorns and alicorns in the room.

Captain Rally bowed his head. "I'm honored that the princess is allowing me to see this again."

Twilight Sparkle blinked in surprise. "Princess, what is this?"

Walking next to the orb as the floor closed up underneath it, Princess Celestia gestured with her wing. "This is my key to seeing other universes. It is a window to see how all of us would fare differently…

"… and who we are in different worlds."

The six mares stared in disbelief, and then Twilight gasped loudly. "You mean… alternate realities? They are real? Really real? For real reals?"

"Of course, Twilight," Celestia said. "I wouldn't have introduced you to the idea if it was fiction."

"Okay, I am totally, and utterly, lost," Rainbow Dash muttered. "Twilight, can you translate?"

"Alternate realities are other realities out there," Twilight explained, that knowledgeable, adorkable tone in her voice that could be so charming. "Basically, what you have is another world where you exist, but you are technically not you."

"Still lost, sugarcube," Applejack said. "Come on, you know not all us ponies can follow these complex things like can so well."

Twilight sighed, then rubbed her head to think of an easy explanation. "Okay, um… think of it like a story character. Daring Do, if you would."

As the other ponies nodded, Celestia distanced herself slightly by going to sit in the chair. Her horn lit up with magic as Twilight spoke, and the orb expanded itself into a flat rectangle stretching several meters.

"Think of if one author writes a story about Daring Do, and then another author does her own ideas with Daring. But they are not the same storyline, they are two different stories and two different pathways."

"Oh I see," Rarity said. "Like in a romantic love triangle, if the mare choses the second stallion instead of the first!"

"Um, yes, kind of."

"Such worlds exist?" Fluttershy said. "You mean… there are more of us out there? More of me and all of you?"

The glowing rectangle flashed with Celestia's magic, making it transparent enough for the ponies to see her on the other side. "Indeed, my little ponies. This is the Astral Screen, one of the most powerful magical items in the world. It allows a pony who has taken much, much time and effort to master the incredibly complex ley lines to see other worlds.

"I know this is a hard concept to grasp, so take comfort in the same way I did: though there are many, many versions of you out there, you are unique, and stand out among the many as that specific one."

"Kind of like life itself," Applejack said with a laugh. "Millions of ponies out there, yet you're one in the millions."

"Exactly, Applejack," the princess said with a grateful smile. "I wanted to show you some of these worlds, because I know that some of you have been worrying if you aren't special or brave or strong enough. I just wanted to show you that out there, you make a difference no matter how your life varies.

"Though I must warn you," her voice darkened, making all of the mares, and even Captain Rally, shiver a little. "In some universes, you are not… good ponies."

"I'm… I'm a bad pony somewhere else?" Fluttershy asked, looking panicked already.

"You aren't a bad pony here, Flutters," Pinkie assured her. "What Fluttershy does in some other world doesn't change who you are."

"Thank you, Pinkie Pie," Princess Celestia said. "You seem rather relaxed about all this."

"When you've had about a hundred versions of you bouncing around, you can grasp the concept of individuality."

Celestia blinked in confusion at this, and decided to let it go. She may be a being of incredible power, and millennia of experience and knowledge, but even she could get a little perplexed at Pinkie. She powered up magic in her horn, and focused on the rectangle of power.

The magical screen lit up completely now, and soon it was flashing images of ponies. The glimpses were too fast for anypony to make out at first, but then they became more steady.

An image of Rainbow Dash, turning prismatic all over like if her entire body had been dyed metallic rainbow, shooting through the sky and right into a gray pegasus. She then proceeded, to many of those viewing's surprise, pummel the living hay out of her apparent opponent.

"Neat," Dash exclaimed, while Fluttershy hid behind Applejack.

The screen flashed again, and they saw Twilight Sparkle, only she wasn't… she. The six mares all gasped, especially the bookworm, because they couldn't believe what they were seeing.

"Twilight's a boy," Rainbow exclaimed, bursting with laughter. "Twilight's a dude, a stallion! That's hilarious!"

"My my," Rarity said, grinning at a red-faced Twilight, "you don't look half-bad as a stallion, dear."

"Oh my," Fluttershy stated. "Um… why is male Twilight with me?"

"Ah think what's more important to ask is how," Applejack commented, "you two are sitting around, at a picnic together, and y'all aren't saying nuttin! Are y'all on a date or something?"

Now Fluttershy was blushing rather fiercely, and hid behind Rarity more. Celestia decided to stop embarrassing her favorite student with this alternate reality, and changed the picture.





Princess Celestia rather enjoyed showing her subjects these alternate realities. At first, she had been worried they'd react badly to the idea there were many versions of them out there, but as the reality had rested in them all, they seemed rather keen learn more about the universes out there.

As long as it wasn't too embarrassing for themselves. Applejack and Twilight Sparkle were completely unable to look at each other when they had seen the alternate universe where the two had somehow become married after a night of drinking; Rainbow Dash was still rolling on the ground laughing at this.

After showing them many other realities, some of them involving romantic relationships between each other (Celestia even showed one where Twilight was dating Luna, even though she knew her sister might kill her for revealing that), the princess decided to go forth with the harsher, more important reason for this.

"I know you all have been worried that you could be bad ponies, but I want to tell you that you aren't," she said. "Trust me when I say that I know bad ponies, and they exist out there. They are guiltless and cruel, and despite the things you all have done, you have all felt guilt, shame, and remorse at your actions.

"This is something that many ponies lack, tragically. Why ponies hurt each other so much, I will never know; I am rather glad how our universe turned out, as we are a kingdom that runs on love, trust, and friendship."

Fluttershy swallowed hard and raised a hoof timidly. "P-princess? I… I don't want to see bad me."

"I will spare you, and all of you if you prefer," their princess offered.

Twilight Sparkle shook her head. "I'm sorry, I want to see at least once what I am like… when worse. I just want a basis… because sometimes I feel like a bad pony."

As her friends all assured her she most certainly was not, Princess Celestia used her magic to channel a reality she knew all too well. Twilight Sparkle was the first to gasp in terror, as she saw herself in this world.

The Twilight of this universe had an evil, red glow in the dark part of her eyes. And she was violently striking Apple Bloom with magic.

"No! Mah little sister," Applejack screamed in horror.

The image was gone in a heartbeat, transparent with Celestia staring at them from the other side. "In that world, Twilight was part of an ancient prophecy of evil rising from a long time ago. I had failed to properly warn her, her friends tried but failed as well to quell the evil, and thus it overtook her."

"No," Twilight whimpered. "No, I was…"

"It is okay though," Celestia said. "Apple Bloom survives the encounter, and, in fact, plays a major role in restoring you, Twilight."

"Thank goodness," Pinkie Pie commented, slurping on her non-existent drink. "That red part of her eyes was most unnerving… only Dashie makes red eyes look good."

Twilight was still recovering from such a horrible vision. Applejack nuzzled her, rubbing her shoulders with a hoof until the unicorn calmed down. Glancing at her friend appreciatively, she said, "Thank you, Princess. I know now that, despite the mistakes I made, and the ones I will more likely make in the future, I am still a good pony."

"I am glad to hear that. I just want to ensure you all you are good ponies," Princess Celestia said, beaming at them. "And you all mean a lot to many other good ponies out there. Despite the worst universes out there, which I will not show you, because of how traumatic they would be, you are wonderful, and unique. And thus-"

The screen buzzed with an odd burst of visional slapdash objects. Celestia blinked at this as it happened once, twice, and on the thrice buzz, a rather glorious stallion was visible.

"Why, dear Celestia," the alicorn stallion said, grinning at her, "you're showing your subjects the other worlds and universes, and you didn't think to introduce them to me?"

Celestia's smile, which was usually a playful one, seemed to be even more teasing than usual. "Prince Solaris, just because you are one of the few of us who has mastered the Astral Screen, doesn't mean you need to be introduced every time."

"Oh, but I do," he exclaimed, flicking his flowing mane that glowed like gentle flames behind his strong neck. "After all, you and only a hoofful of Celestias have really learned about this, and if we're going to keep tabs, I might as well have my say in it.

"Lest you forget that when visitors from a Solly world nearly unmade my kingdom?"

"They did no such thing," Celestia responded in a playful tease. "You said so yourself then, stop trying to guilt-trip us Celestias!"

Prince Solaris laughed, thumping one of his powerful hooves against his equally sturdy chest. "Oh, but I am the one who has to be tough, with several alicorn mares who try to use their charm; which, I must add, is unique among you all. You have that playful but motherly side to you that separates you from all the others, like you were just teaching your little ponies here."

"Prince Solaris, you should know better," she said, raising an eyebrow, "than to intrude in a lesson with my students. You wouldn't like if it I intruded in a lesson with yours?"

"Those young stallions would have hearts dancing in their eyes if they saw you, my dear. Kind of like some of your subjects are with me."

Princess Celestia glanced at her subjects to see what her male counterpart was talking about. Indeed, most of the mares staring at Prince Solaris, in all his masculine, royal stature, and were almost shameless in their attraction.

Fluttershy was hiding her face again, using her forelegs and her wings to make sure the prince didn't see. Rainbow Dash was openly staring, mouth open, saliva building in shameless lust. Twilight Sparkle was staring with wide eyes and a red face, and sparks shot from her horn in a mortifying display that she tried to hide. Rarity was openly swooning, fanning herself with her hipster beret.

Only Applejack and Pinkie Pie weren't openly drooling like this. "Will y'all get ahold of yurselves?" Applejack scolded them. "He's just Princess Celestia, but a stallion! Y'all wouldn't be like this with male counterparts, y'all didn't drool over male Twilight!"

Prince Solaris glanced back at Celestia. "Was that my Dusk?"

"Another one, one that's living a more bizarre version of our world."

Pinkie Pie was just waving at the prince, until he eventually waved back. "How did my Pinkie, or your female Pinkie… Pinkie in general, how'd I almost unmake Equestria?"

"You didn't, my little pony."

"Was it with the Party Cannon? The Pinkie Cannon? Did you have your towel when the world was unmade? One should always have a towel in case the world is unmade."

Prince Solaris chuckled. "Oh my, Solly, you must have your hooves full with this one."

"She's a treasure," Celestia assured him, "just like Bubble Berry."

"You hear that?" Pinkie exclaimed. "I'm a treasure! Pirates are gonna wanna plunder me for booty! Yarr!"

She began miming swinging a cutlass around with her right foreleg, hobbling on a pretend peg leg with her left one. As she did this, Prince Solaris laughed some more.

"We should have done this sooner, Solly," he said. "I mean, I don't know why we haven't introduced ourselves to our subjects in other worlds more. Maybe it'd solve some of the more grisly worlds we've seen-"

His words were cut off when his image, and the sound, wavered violently, an irritating buzz cutting off his voice. When he spoke again, the buzz and static grew stronger, drowning him out.

"Prince Solaris?"

Princess Celestia's mirth was gone, concern that worried everypony present now in her voice. She used her magic, golden light surrounding the screen. Then she closed her eyes and let out a strained grunt.

Twilight and Rarity recognized the look immediately. When a unicorn is stuck casting a spell, it is like getting a hoof or a wing caught in the door. It's a painful squeeze that one cannot escape from without "yanking" the limb out, but with magic, you have to focus when your mind is ringing with pain.

Princess Celestia stood on all fours to focus on the magic. The static was filling the screen, and the buzzing noise growing in pitch. The princess's magic became stronger, but nothing was calming down fast.

"What's happening?" Twilight shouted. Fluttershy was hiding behind her, clutching the unicorn in fear. "Princess Celestia, what's wrong?"

Rarity clutched Applejack in terror, and the farm pony tried to hold her. Rainbow Dash was glancing between all her friends, Captain Rallying Cry, and the princess.

Pinkie Pie was staring at the screen, her lips wrapped around the straw to her drink. Her blue eyes weren't even blinking, rather traveling back and forth across the garbled rectangle, as if she was reading something.

Then a scream burst from the screen, startling everypony except for the struggling princess. They all saw it: a pony with razor sharp teeth, howling up at the sky in rage. The pony had been wearing furs and a headdress, almost completely covering her yellow coat and pink mane.

The screen flashed again, and a blue eye amid dense crystals narrowed. They could sense the emotions: hatred, determination, lividness. The long lashes on the eye seemed vaguely familiar.




The princess strained, growling in concentration. When she opened her eyes, the glow of goldenrod magic was radiating from her pupils.

The screen flashed again, and the ponies all saw the imagine of an armor-clad pegasus, so horribly burned on one side that they couldn't see anything recognizable but a flicker of prismatic mane, dive-bomb another pony. The image was simply the pegasus stabbing an earth pony through the chest with a spear.

The room was starting to shake. The Ponyville ponies clung to each other more, panic rising in them. Pinkie hadn't moved, she was staring with wide eyes at the screen.

A violent shake bucked almost everypony off their hooves. Rainbow crashed in Captain Rally, knocking them both down. The princess stayed firm, Pinkie didn't budge.

The screen roared to life, as an army of charging earth ponies barreled towards a smaller army of unicorns. Magic shot from the unicorns struck dead earth ponies, but they stampeded forward. One of them screamed, static ruining his voice, "F-r Co--a-der A-pl----k!"

"Stop this," Princess Celestia growled, then shouted, "whoever this is, desist!!"





Cackling ponies leapt at a terrified soldier pony, violently beating her and even dancing atop her. One of them was wearing a mask that would have been comical in a normal situation, but she was the one leading the beating.

"-ow d--e y-- ha-- - par-- --- N-T inv--- us, t-- cl-wns?" was all that could be made out from the jester pony. "BR--G --T TH- CLOW-S!"

Princess Celestia ground her hooves into the floor. So determined was her resolve, that her magic had spread to her hooves, causing the ground under her to burn with her intense magic. The vibrations being sent around the room were horrifying to everypony in the room.

Everypony except Pinkie, who started to walk towards the screen. Rainbow Dash saw her stepping forward, and reached out to stop her. In a brief moment, she saw her friend's eyes were not their normal blue.

They were the same blue as the Astral Screen's original form.

Rainbow was knocked down by another humongous tremor, and the dazed pegasus tried to think of how an earthquake could shake her in the air. Though she didn't wonder long, as she saw Pinkie still heading towards the screen, which was bursting with so magic energy, sparks and bolts shot from the edges.

"Pinkie, what the feather are you doing?" Rainbow screamed. "Pinkie!"

The screen was then filled by a lavender unicorns face. It was difficult to tell exactly who it was, as there was so much malice in her eyes, mana-touched runes dancing violently on her face, and a thick hat covering her head. The amount of magic pouring from her lengthy horn, brimming in her eyes as she focused at the spell, that Rainbow Dash had to shield her eyes.

"Feathering hay," she shrieked. "Was that-"

"This is my destiny," the lavender unicorn spoke in a husky voice none of the ponies in the room recognized.

"Stop," Celestia ordered, her eyes now brimming with goldenrod magic. "Who is that? Who are you?"

The static and buzzing were now so powerful, the ponies had to cover their ears to dampen the migraine effect it was having on them. Celestia was in agony as she fought, but didn't back down. The room shook as if a giant had picked it up and was trying to, rather aggressively, figure out what was inside by rattling it.

Pinkie Pie didn't stop as she walked towards the screen. At the same time, her friends managed to look over at her, as she reached out with her free foreleg towards the screen.

"Oh wow," she said, as naturally blissful as any normal statement from Pinkie would be, "do I want to start a new game? Yes!"

Her friends screamed at her to stop, but it fell to deaf ears. When Pinkie pressed the Astral Screen, a musical note played, almost as if to acknowledge the touch. The static cleared up in the touched area, and a bright light shone from the entire screen, illuminating the whole room.

And when the glow was gone, and the Astral Screen stopped fighting Celestia, Pinkie Pie had vanished without a trace.








Pinkie Pie blinked her eyes, her mind sharply coming to focus again. She remembered seeing the Astral Screen buzzing out like a bad TV screen, then there was beautiful music and images on it. The party pony didn't even realize she was approaching it at first.

It had been… it was hard to explain, but it was like the screen was displaying something to her, and maybe just to her, images of what she could desire most, and it be touchable. Thus, she couldn't resist touching it, and agreeing to playing a game; she did love games after all.

Pinkie smiled at the thought of playing a new game, then blinked in astonishment. Princess Celestia would probably be mad that she had touched the screen, she would have to apologize for that; once she went back inside.

Oh. That was something Pinkie noticed once she stopped pondering what she would say to Celestia about inappropriately poking the Astral Screen. The party pony noticed she was outside, and the bright blue sky was above her. And grassy green ground was below her.

About a little over a mile below her, that was.

"Oh," she said, and then gravity seized control. "Bird fe-eeeeeaaaatheeeeers!"

Pinkie screamed and flapped her forelegs wildly. Panic was leading right now, as not even the random party pony could understand how she was in a room with her friends, her princess, and a magical screen that her see a male version of her princess, and was now plummeting to her death.

"Bad word, bad word, bad words I've heard Dashie use when she thinks no pony is looking," Pinkie screamed, flapping her hooves more. She could see the ground rapidly approaching, the wind racing through her mane and screaming past her ears.

Pinkie struggled to stay conscious, blacking out as the velocity started to become too much. She reached into her mane, pulled her towel out, and tried to parachute with it. It yanked right out of her hooves.

"Bird feathers again," she screamed.

She was halfway to a very messy death, and a real feeling of mortal peril sank into Pinkie's mind. Though the wind was carrying her voice away from even her own ears, she cried out to Rainbow Dash to help, Celestia, Fluttershy, anypony she could think of.

Frantically searching through her mane, she had only a split second to see the pegasus flying beneath her. He had one second as well, which was used to glance up at the noise he had faintly heard, and say, "What the f-"

Pinkie Pie bounced off the pegasus, at an angle that helped to faintly slow her fall. She had managed to body-blow his helmet off, as well as fracturing several of his wing bones, his skull, and jaw. They both were now plummeting, but his wing mate was nearby enough for the conscious one of the two.

Pinkie, unable to ascertain what she had just impacted with, reached out and grabbed the pegasus that was still flying. This pegasus, armored and holding a spear in its forelegs, suddenly felt herself being yanked down to the earth by the earth pony clinging to her hind legs.

"Feather Tartarus," the second pegasus screamed as the unexpected weight made her drop her weapon. She desperately tried to shake off Pinkie, flapping her wings in an impossible attempt to stay flying. It succeeded in slowing down their fall.

When the fall lessened in speed greatly, the violent shake of the pegasus shook Pinkie off her hind legs, kicking the earth pony in a small arc upwards and then tumbling down again. The party pony hurtled down towards a gathering of trees, and one of the tallest was right at the front.

Branches smacked into her, slowing her fall again but much more painfully now. Trying to grasp one, she felt the leaves whipping against her like cruel lashes. One of the more sturdy branches bent when she impacted it, and then snapped when she hit the soft, grassy ground.

Every part of her body felt sore as Tartarus, the pain was mind-numbing. Pinkie Pie lay there, listening to herself breathe. This eventually helped her dawn on the fact that she was still alive.

"Systems check," she muttered to herself.

She wiggled all her hooves. No shooting pains there, so she very slowly tried to pick herself up. The burning sores were still there, but no strong agony that would signify to her if she had broken something. Pinkie had one broken a leg, which was when she was trying new tricks on a trampoline, and no similar pains were there.

Pinkie pulled herself up, stretching her limbs. She let out a loud, relieved sigh, and then giggled. She snorted, and laughed. "I survived that," she exclaimed to herself. Pumping her hooves up in the air, she let out the greatest laugh a survivor of something like that could.

That was her towel drifted down and covered her face. Pinkie removed it, and giggled with equal gusto over surviving. "Hello, towel! Never leave home without it!"

As she tucked her trusty towel back in her mane, a song started to kick in from… nowhere. Pinkie reached up to adjust her headphones, and then realized they weren't there. Her hyperactive mind tried to track back to when they fell off, where her gicPod could have gone; she didn't recall losing them, they weren't even on when she appeared a mile up back there. After all, she knew this music, and it had been on her gicPod.

She tapped her head, which was where the music seemed to be coming from. The song haltered, then changed with another knock to the noggin. It changed with a third knock, then turned off after she gave her head a little shake.

It took a lot to confuse Pinkie; this is a lot. "What," she muttered to herself, "the… well, it's cool, but what the b-"

Crashing noises in the trees behind her. She turned around to see the two pegasi she had impacted into on her way down dashing against the branches. The mare was holding onto the stallion, trying to guide them but rather futile now.

When they hit the ground, Pinkie noticed just how bad they were. The stallion was unconscious, bleeding from his mouth, with several broken bones from his wings to his jaw. The mare, bleeding from all kinds of scratches and cuts due to the trees, had broken her wings and left foreleg.

Pinkie quickly approached them, until the mare stood up on shaky legs. Her furious breathing was accented by the hissing of lost teeth. When she glared at Pinkie, the amount of blood on her face, and even her body where the armor wasn't covering, terrified the party pony.

"You," the pegasus spat out, blood flecks flying from her mouth, landing on the crest on the front of her armor. The hoplite hobbled towards Pinkie, squinting in a mix of pain and hatred.

"Please, I'm so sorry," Pinkie exclaimed. "I didn't mean to-"

"You're dead!" The hoplite shouted, taking more unbalanced steps towards Pinkie. "House… Stormwing… owns the skies… not… you!"

Though her hissing words were fierce, she could barely stand. Pinkie stared at her in confusion and worry, especially when she heard her snarling. But when the hoplite almost collapsed, Pinkie realized the guttural growling wasn't coming from the mare.

The party pony realized, like the music from before, it was coming from nowhere; this time, though, it wasn't just inside Pinkie's head.

Something… Pinkie couldn't even describe it, it was just something, leapt out from deeper in the woods, at the hoplite mare. And it wasn't alone. At least three more of the monsters pounced from the dark part of the woods, onto the two pegasi.

The monsters ripped apart the ponies, right before Pinkie's eyes.

It almost felt like a slow-motion experience to her, seeing ponies being murdered in front of her. Pinkie had never seen a pony die, and now, the most brutal of deaths was happening only a couple yards from her.

The stallion pegasus was lucky to be unconscious, because he didn't feel when his throat was torn from his neck by a blue monster's teeth. His legs were ripped the sockets, followed by the wings, draining the blood on his armored body. The three monsters tore at him, and the smell of gore clouded the air; Pinkie felt sick immediately, but was too locked up to throw up.

The mare stallion wasn't so lucky to be unconscious. The leading monster stomped on her with its hooves, then bit at her face. Shrieking and attempting to fight back, the pegasus swung at her attacker as her ear and a good portion of her scalp was ripped from her head.

When the monster tore it away, the blood was flung through the air. Some splashed on Pinkie's face, and she flinched as if struck.

The hoplite mare screamed in agony, but managed to throw a decent punch with her good foreleg. When the beast growled from the impact, it twisted its head. Pinkie saw then what the monster was.

It was a pony. A pony with razor-sharp teeth, lizard eyes, scaly skin, and horns, but a pony nonetheless. And it was eating another pony.

The hoplite's punch was the last blow she managed to deal. The monster pony dropped the patch of skin it had torn from its prey, then lunged at the mare's throat. When it sunk its predatory teeth into her neck, it shook its victim around savagely.

The hoplite's choked scream warbled, then gurgled as blood shot from the mortal wound. Her eyes rolled up in her head as she went into shock, and then became a rag doll in the monster pony's jaws.

With the most sickening crunch and rip one could imagine, the monster pony broke its victim's neck to finish her for good, then ripped out a sizable amount from her neck. Chewing it, blood dripping from its mouth, it then swallowed and let out a long howl of victory.

The three monster ponies behind it also let out howls, pausing from dining on the other hoplite. The woods echoed with their cries, and it seemed nature approved, as many noises of the wild could be heard in the distance in agreement.

Pinkie just stood there, frozen, breathing hard. Her mind and heart were racing so hard, felt like she was going to faint at any moment. She had to fight doing so, even if the intense fear was encouraging her to. She also had to fight throwing up, bursting into tears, and exploding in outrage at the murderers.

Pony murderers. Ponies had murdered fellow ponies. They didn't stop there, they ate fellow ponies. The thought of such a thing made Pinkie's stomach dive so hard, she gagged and struggled hard to not lose her lunch.

That was when the monster pony saw her. It growled, feral, and started to walk towards her like a wild cat. The monster pony had green scales growing from its yellow coat, its lizard-like tail swishing behind it as it moved. It regarded Pinkie with bared teeth.

"Stay back," Pinkie desperately tried to say, but her primal fear made the words come out as a muffled whisper. She trotted backwards, her heart pounding so hard that it felt like it was trying to escape her chest. "Please… stay back!"

The monster pony licked its chops, cleaning the blood from its jaw. A magenta feather from the hoplite mare drifted from its maw as well. It almost seemed to be grinning as it stared Pinkie down; she was easy prey to the monster pony, scared and helpless.

"No, stay back," Pinkie shrieked. She reached in her mane, and chucked the first solid thing her hooves came upon: Twilight's juicer. The small but still weighty appliance was hurled at the monster pony with a desperate cry.

It bounced off the beastly equine's forehead. The monster would have dodged an attack like that normally, but it had come from seemingly nowhere. It regarded the juicer with a slightly puzzled look, then snarled again and glared at Pinkie.

The monster pony positioned itself like a cat ready to pounce. Pinkie had seen cats, especially Rarity's kitty Opal, do this before they gave somepony a vicious scratching. Only after what Pinkie had seen, she was sure a scratching wasn't in the beast's mind.

"I said," she declared, summoning all her courage to defeat this wide-awake nightmare, "stay… BACK!"

As the feral pony leapt at her, Pinkie pulled her party cannon from wherever it was that she kept it (and only she knew). With a click of a button, the monster equine was treated to a powerful blast of confetti, brightly-lit tablecloths, and plastic cutlery.

The cannon's blast sent the feral beast flying backwards, howling as it was tangled up in tablecloths and streams. It slammed against a tree and fell to the ground, a thrashing, festive mess.

The other pony monsters saw this happen, and then turned towards Pinkie with narrowed, lizard eyes. The party pony felt mortal dread seize her up again, but managed to escape it when she heard the first monster pony rip through the tablecloth.

"I'm leaving this so-not-a-party," she exclaimed, cranking her party cannon's power level up to its highest. She hopped on top of it, and kicked the button, adding, "Byes!"

The maximum level of a party cannon is designed to fully dress up a room as big as the main hall of Canterlot Castle. It is said by the designers that a pony should not use this setting, as the sheer force of the cannon would send it flying back into the user.

This was why Pinkie was now on top of it. Her cannon shot out enough decorations to blind and daze the monster ponies, and send her careening out of the forest. Pinkie clung to the shaft of her cannon, as it carried her away from the cannibal ponies.

And straight into a battlefield.

Technically, the fight was just starting. Earth ponies were charging at unicorns, the former bellowing war cries. The clinking of their chain mail and plate sounded like a giant machine galloping rather than ponies. The unicorns kept their position, and charged up magic in their horns.

Magic shot across the battlefield, striking down earth ponies. Some of the blasts were deflected or shrugged off by the ponies-at-arms, but most blasts were fatal. Earth ponies were struck in the face and chest, killed instantly. Limbs were blown off, one was decapitated by a well-aimed blast, a few were penetrated through the eye.

Pinkie was traveling straight down the middle. A magic blast reflected off her party cannon's side, another one singed the top of her poofy mane. She screamed but didn't dare let go of her cannon, until she collided into the side of a charging stallion.

The earth ponies met the unicorns in full force as Pinkie and the large stallion rolled and crashed to the side. Powerful hooves, clad in armor similar to Captain Rally's metal shoes, bucked and kicked at unicorns. Tails with weapons tied to them swung at lethal force, daggers on the brim of helms thrust forward.

Pinkie saw it as she landed from her party cannon wipe-out. Unicorns were teleporting, blinking as it was called with fast-paced teleportation (from what Twilight had told her). The magical ponies were evading the physical attacks, but not all were fast enough. She saw unicorns being bludgeoned and hacked, stomped to death by fierce earth ponies.

Ponies were killing ponies. Right in front of her, again. Only now, it was a mass killing, a war. She was in the middle of a war. Her brain threatened to lock up on her, unable to comprehend this all at once.

As she saw a unicorn get his head smashed to a bloody pulp under the hooves of an earth pony, she heard a rather vicious snort. The stallion she had careened into was standing up, and glancing at it, she felt a similar terror to the one the cannibal, monster pony she had encountered a minute ago.

The massive stallion, as large as Big Macintosh, was covered in plate mail from head to flank. Large steel daggers on its helm were formed like a horn and tusks, the points gleaming in the sunlight. Pinkie could see the stallion narrowing his eyes at her through the rather limited eye sockets that helm had.

When he kicked up dirt, she briefly saw a horseshoe symbol on its shoulder. Despite her predicament, Pinkie wondered for a brief second what that was.

"It's stampeding time," the juggernaut stallion roared.

"No," Pinkie screamed. "No it isn't!"

The plate-covered stallion bellowed as he charged at her, the sound almost amplified by the grating at the bottom of his helm. She hopped back on her cannon, and pressed the button again. The intense force of her party projection hit the juggernaut full force.

He was knocked back, somersaulting with loud impact noises. Then, as the confetti and balloons cleared up, the honking noises that the cannon made barely heard over the battlefield, the juggernaut stood right back up.

It reared, and charged again. Pinkie was already wheeling backwards, clinging to the cannon as it was hurtling towards the charging earth ponies. The armored equine shifted and split to avoid taking a cannon to the face, some glancing back to wonder what in Tartarus that was.

"Is that a Cultist?" she heard one puzzled mare shouting to her fellow soldiers.

Pinkie was staring backwards to tilt the cannon in the proper direction, avoiding hitting anypony. When she glanced back in the direction she was retreating from, she saw the juggernaut stallion closing the distance between them.

"Do not want," she cried out, desperately trying to push the button again with a scrambling hoof, panic and the intense speed making her fumble. "Do not want stampeding!"

She failed to hit the button in time, and the stallion crashed right into the front of her party cannon. The horn and tusk spikes on his helm almost locked around the muzzle, pushing her improv ride as he tried to gore her with those blades.

"Get off," Pinkie shouted. The momentum of the ride was coming to a halt, as the juggernaut plowed the cannon downwards so that the wheels ground into the dirt. He started to position himself, preparing to flip the cannon with his incredible girth.

Pinkie whimpered at the realization of what would happen if he succeeded. Her hoof finally found the button for the party cannon, and hit it again, her mind calculating that with this last burst, she was going to be out of ammo.

It was enough though, as a point-blank, full power party cannon blast sent the juggernaut flying backwards, crashing into several ponies-at-arms and knocking them all down. The soldier ponies tried to get the juggernaut back on his hooves, but he was so dazed that he was having trouble remembering his name and how could he remove the pound of confetti stuck in his eyes.

Pinkie's third trip on the party cannon was rushing through back of the army, practically pinball'ing against ponies-at-arms near the back. Pegasi, armored and wielding spears, dive-bombed her but missed; she could feel the sharp rush of wind every time.

Wheeling to a stop at the base of a tall hill, she all but fell off the party cannon. Her mane was creased forward from all the wind power, almost covering her eyes. Still, she could see the armored ponies running after her.

The battle was still going on, with the shouting of earth ponies and magic blasts of unicorns echoing around the plains. Once in a while, the pained cry of a fatally struck pony pierced the war zone, deaths physically felt as well as heard.

Pinkie could barely grasp it all, though it hardly mattered when she saw angry soldiers charging at her. Ditching her party cannon, which vanished as the earth ponies made their way towards it, she galloped up the hill.

"This cannot be real," she thought to herself, her buzzing mind faintly agreeing. "This cannot be happening… ponies don't kill ponies! They don't eat ponies! They don't-ACK!"

She ducked as pegasi troops dove-bomb her. Her reactionary skills paid off, as the pegasus hoplite who had attacked her missed and careened over her. The earth ponies behind her weren't so lucky.

"It's House Stormwing," one of the soldiers shouted, right before a spear made its way into his throat. He was flipped onto his back as the hoplite pressed the attack, shanking him as blood geysered out of the mortal wound.

The other earth ponies swung at the pegasi, swinging ball-and-chain tail maces and thrusting their steel shoe hooves at the pegasi. The hoplites were too fast, however, and countered as well as dodged.

Pinkie had always admired Rainbow Dash's agility and style, the pegasi athleticism something enchanting to behold when done well. This style of combat, that mixed fighting with aerial prowess, was almost as hypnotically impressive.

The party pony almost admired how graceful the pegasi hoplites were in dodging the attacks of the earth ponies, avoiding blows that surely would have shattered their bones if they had made their mark. But the impressiveness stopped when the hoplites used their spears, tridents, and daggers to stab the earth ponies to death.

The earth soldiers were dead in a manner of seconds, and the pegasi were in the air again. All of them glancing at Pinkie, the party pony started to run again. Considering her an easy target, they started to fly at her.

An explosive bang echoed around the hillside, and one of the pegasi fell to the ground, a bloody wound in his side that the armor didn't cover. His comrades flew down and surrounded him, searching for the attacker.

"We've got a shooter here," one of them barked. "Get him to safety, fan out and find the bastard, now!"

Abandoning the hunt on Pinkie, the pegasi shot off with lightning speed, there one second and gone the next. The party pony glanced all around, trying to ensure they wouldn't attack her again.

When she was looking, she spotted a rather posh pony hiding behind a tree, holding what appeared to be a long, slim version of her party cannon. He was wearing fancy clothes, including a hat that Pinkie, under normal circumstances, would have liked to try on.

The posh pony spotted her staring at him, and he moved his hoof to his mouth in a "shush" motion, glancing back up at the sky. The wind rustled, as if to remind Pinkie of a group of murdering pegasi around; it also made the posh pony's tabard, which bore the symbol of a pristine diamond, flutter rather tellingly.

Pinkie nodded at who she assumed was the shooter, and continued to gallop off. The posh pony watched her go, raising an eyebrow.

While Pinkie tried to reach the top of the hill, she tried to reason with herself again. "Killing… each other… I cannot understand this! Ponies are supposed to be friends with each other! Why is this happening? I was just with my friends… oh no! Where are they?
"Are they here too? Did they get sent here when that big screen start shining? Shining so bright that the next thing we knew, we were here? Because fuzzy pickles and… and…"

She stopped for a second to take deep breaths. Her mind was fizzing out on her, and that was not something Pinkie was used to. After halting for a much needed breather, she tried to make sense of this senseless world.

"Okay, maybe Princess Celestia is just showing me some kind of war-torn reality," she thought. "Yeah yeah! She wants to show us how bad it is! Maybe she noticed I thought those swords were cool… and wanted me to learn a lesson?"

"Alright, Princess, I see it now," she said, under her breath as she was still worried about the pegasi hoplites. "Please bring me back now, I don't want to be part of this! I don't want to see any more killing!"

A sound unlike any Pinkie had heard came from the battlefield. It was like a powerful hum, a bumblebee on some serious adrenaline and one of Vinyl's powerful amplifiers. When she turned, a bright light that reminded her of the sun could be seen on the ground.

It was a beam of light, fired from a larger cannon than her own. The white-hot ray was a straight line of death, and she could see earth ponies falling to the ground, parts of them burned off or incinerated.

"No," Pinkie screamed. The cannon fired again, unicorns safely out of the way due to blinking to the side as earth ponies tried to part their ranks in time. The smell of burning flesh and melting metal was carried in the wind, as well as the screams of those burned horribly.

"No, stop! Princess! I don't want to see any more!" Pinkie shrieked. "They're dying! I cannot bear this! Please make it stop!"

She covered her eyes as tears flowed from them, sobbing bitterly and uncontrollably. Pinkie didn't know how long she was up there crying, she just knew that she stayed there until the tears stopped coming.

Then the part of her that she was trying to ignore, trying to avoid, and hating with every fiber of its being, came creeping back at her. That part of her had been thrilled, eating up the adrenaline-pumping moments of chase and parry, the part that could get behind combat.

"No," she defiantly told that part. "No, I do not care if part of me likes it, I will not allow it to define me. I am Pinkie Pie! I make ponies smile, I throw parties, and I enjoy seeing my friends happy. I do not kill ponies!"

"You seem like you have a lot on your mind."

"I do," she said to the mysterious voice. When she turned, she saw a pony wearing a cloak and hood, a chain with a spiked club at the end draped over its shoulders.

"That's nice, I could help you with that," the cloaked stallion suggested. He had a monotone kind of voice that suggested he had no idea of understanding of the situation.

"I'm sorry, but," Pinkie stammered, "who… who are you?"

That's when a big smile spread across the pony's face. It was so wide and seemingly uncontrollable, it could have split his face apart. He pulled the chain off his back and started spinning the flail in his hoof.

"I can take whatever is on your mind off," he suggested in a cackling voice, "the hard way!"

Pinkie shrieked as she leapt back, avoiding the fatal swing of the chain. The cloaked stallion gave chase, and she continued to run up the hill.

"Come on, everypony," the insane pony shouted. "Let's put a smile on this one's face!"

Pinkie reached the top of the hill, which sported many trees and boulders, like some kind of nature scenic spot. Other ponies popped out from behind those trees and boulders, all of them wearing shoddily-stitched cloaks and hats, sporting sadistic grins or cold-blooded scowls.

The party pony skidded to a stop as she realized she was surrounded, the insane pony walking up behind her. That's when something skittered out from around the rock, on spiked feet that made metallic clicks on the stone.

"Hey, look, our Smiling Doll wants a hug," one of the crazy ponies exclaimed. She cackled, and added, "Give 'er a 'ug, ya big lug!"

"Hug her," the ponies chanted. "Hug her, hug her, hug her!"

Pinkie was as terrified as she was confused. When she saw what exactly the Smiling Doll, the one that skittered on top of the boulder, was, she felt herself lock up in even more fear and perplexity.

The marequins that Rarity used had a strong resemblance to this creature. It appeared to be a moving marequin or a big toy, designed by a sadistic mind. In the shape of a pony and moving like a spider, it walked on blades rather than hooves. Spikes dotted up its forelegs, and jutted out from its maneless head.

As it moved closer to Pinkie, she saw its skin was stitched up, as if making a painfully tight-fitted suit with its own skin. Its mouth was sewn up with bloody wire, and its eyes were covered with large buttons.

The Smiling Doll was bobbing and skittering, as if trying to find its prey while blind. As it searched, a small opening in its chest, decorated like some vicious maw, was dripping tiny bits of blood and gore. The macabre creature shook its flank, displaying a Cutie Mark of a red sickle.

Then it stopped moving, so suddenly that Pinkie thought it was just a puppet, its strings having been dropped. The Smiling Doll lifted its head, staring right at her. When she gasped in fear, it scurried towards her.

"HUG," the hooded ponies exclaimed and cheered. "Hug her!"

The Smiling Doll leapt at Pinkie Pie, bladed forelegs spread, button eyes appearing to be staring at Pinkie's soul. It was a do-or-die moment for the party pony, and one second off would result in being scissored in half and shredded.

Fortunately, Pinkie had fought the daze of violence and death long enough to react in that one second. Many have accused Pinkie of not being observant; it's quite the opposite, in that she can be so attentive to details, she can miss something obvious.

Pinkie swung left foreleg into the mareiquin monster's chest, impacting hard in that maw-like design. She followed up with a blow to the shoulder, right above the deadly blade of the monster's foreleg, and then, with a bellowing shout, she uppercut the Smiling Doll into the air.

When it fell back down to the ground, it crashed against the boulder. Its legs clanked around like a shelf full of metal cutlery.

It stood right back up. Pinkie stared at it in amazement, wondering why it wasn't showing any signs of being in pain or dazed. Its head was bobbing around loosely, like a broken stuffed animal, but that was the only sign of damage.

Before Pinkie could wonder if the Smiling Doll was alive or not, the hooded ponies were all shouting again. "Hey, that was cool!" they exclaimed. Some were stamping their hooves in applause, some were grinning, some were glaring hateful daggers at Pinkie.

Pinkie returned the eye daggers with her own. "How dare you all," she declared. Her face scrunched up in fury as she shouted, "Hugs are a beautiful, wonderful thing! Hugs are for friends and family and loved ones! How dare you try to taint hugs by turning them into a weapon!

"I," she cracked her hooves, and took a fighting stance, "may not know what is going on here, I may be lost and dazed and confused, but I know one thing! No pony is going to make hugs a bad thing while I'm around!"

The hooded ponies exchanged glances, confused, even though some of them were nodding or shaking their heads. Pinkie wondered why they were all acting so randomly for a bunch of crazy hooded ponies. She had even noticed some had gone from maniacal grinning to furious frowning, and right back again.

Before any more violence could ensue, one of the ponies let out a loud whistle. "House Earthborn troops," she shouted, pointing to the side at the large collection of trees at the hilltop. Armored earth ponies were charging from the wooded area, on a beeline towards the mad ponies. "Retreat! Fall back! Move your flanks, ya pack of bastards and fellow weirdoes!"

"We get it," another hooded pony declared back, as the group of insane equine started to run down the side of the hill. "We'll see you next time, mares and gentlecolts!"

The earth pony warriors were still running at the hooded ones, one of them shouting, "Cultists! Get the cultists!"

Pinkie didn't know what to do. The earth pony warriors had attacked her earlier without warning, and the hooded ponies, which she guessed were cultists, were even worse. But as she saw the Smiling Doll skitter off, heading bobbing around like a broken plushie, she realized she had better luck reasoning with the earth ponies.

Holding her forelegs up in surrender, the earth ponies that the cultists had called House Earthborn, were upon her in a manner of seconds. Some of the soldiers stopped at the hillside, watching the cultists flee into a small wooded area near a river. They abandoned the hunt, and turned towards Pinkie.

"Who are you?" one of the stallions asked her.

The scars on his face intimidated Pinkie. It appeared as if some creature had clawed him, and the wound hadn't healed properly. His armor was better in appearance than him, as it shone like polished brass; that horseshoe insignia she had seen earlier was stamped at the front of his armor.

Distracted by her observations, Pinkie didn't realize she was making the soldier mad. "I asked you a question," he shouted, prodding her in the chest with his armored hoof. The poke hurt slightly, and Pinkie winced.

"Hey now," she chided him, "it's impolite to poke, you know that?"

"She's a cultist, Captain," one of the soldiers declared.

"If she is," the stallion in front of Pinkie said, "then why didn't she retreat with the others?"

"It's a trick! You know how crazy and diabolical the cultists are."

"I'd advise you stop using words you don't know the definition to, even if they are the right words," the captain snarked. "Now then, what do we do with you?"

"Why not ask the Apple General?" one of the soldiers asked. "She said that we should come to her if there was activity up here."

"Why don't we just execute her?" another soldier asked. "Weren't that our orders?"

Pinkie stared at all of them, shaking in worry. She had seen them charge the cultists, and even if that armor of theirs was slowing them down, she wondered if she could outrun them. She raised her hoof timidly, and said, "I want to see the Apple General. That's sounds good!"

"And somewhat familiar too," she thought ominously.

"Don't push your luck, stranger," the captain snapped. "Search her for weapons, Cadet Lucky Stomp."

One of the mare ponies-at-arms inspected Pinkie's mane and tail, under her legs, and even inside her mouth. As the party pony wondered what that was about, the Earthborn soldiers roughly pushed her forward.

They walked through the trees into a large clearing, where several tents were set up. Pinkie wondered why it appeared that they were having a camping trip, when she spotted one pony peering through a looking glass at a gap in the trees. From this angle, Pinkie guessed that they must be observing the fight.

Only a few ponies were there, moving about the campsite. They glanced at the party, especially at Pinkie, and continued their business.

At a small table, three ponies were gathered around and studying a map, moving small figures. The leader was wearing a steel hat shaped like a cowpoke's, rather similar to Applejack's cloth headwear. She was spitting angry, Pinkie could hear her shouting from their distance.

"A Sunray Cannon," the armored hat wearing pony exclaimed, pounding the table. "They brought one of those abominations! They must'ave known we were coming!"

"There's nothing suggesting that," one of the other ponies at the table said. "Maybe they had planned on attacking in the morning?"

"Attacking New Ponyville in the morning is suicide, especially crossing tha river! They wouldn't bring this unless they were prepared!"

"Our enemy always does," the third pony at the table said. "We must get a message to General Cloud Kicker!"

The hat wearing pony nodded, walking away from the table. Pinkie Pie, and her entourage of soldiers/kidnappers, watched as she approached an armored pegasus, who saluted at attention.

"Fly over to tha general, an' tell 'er," she pointed with a bright yellow hoof, "to have tha troops scatter, scramble 'round an' try ta avoid lining up fur that cannon ta incinerate them. We need ta think smart ta destroy that horrid thing!"

"Should the pegasi auxiliaries swoop in to handle it?" the pegasus asked.

The hat wearing pony shook her head. "It will be well-defended, as they kinnot move fast. Any surprise attacks from the air will be shot down fastur than'a clay pigeon at a rifle convention; they have learned that lesson after years of fighting House Stormwing."

"Yes, Apple General," the pegasus exclaimed, saluting again. "General Cloud Kicker will not fail you, we'll crush that cannon."

"We're all in this together, succeeding or failing as one. Report back here once you've spoken ta her. For Equestria."

"For Equestria!"

The pegasus flew off, and the Apple General glanced at the captain holding Pinkie captive. "Captain Double Kick," she said, "yur report on yur patrol?"

"Cultist activity, but we chased them off," Captain Double Kick exclaimed, also saluting. "The area seems fairly secure, though we found this pony. Possibly a lost civilian, a spy, a cultist, we do not know."

"What?" the Apple General barked. "You find sum random pony, an' ya don't know anything about her?"

She approached in a huff. "Ah'm trying to fight a battle here, an'our soldiers are dying out thar. They are being incinerated by one of Twilight Sparkle's evil machines, and y'all want me to handle a lost civilian?"

"W-with all due respect, Apple General," the captain stammered, "your orders were to consult with you on major issues, and we don't know what to do with her; we couldn't just kill her, she's an earth pony."

The Apple General sighed and peered from under the brim of her helmet. Her light green eyes inspected Pinkie, saying, "Well, who are… you…"

Both Pinkie and the Apple General went wide-eyed, their jaws dropping. Pinkie knew who this was. Up-close, it didn't matter if she was wearing a steel hat, thick and polished armor, and was somewhat older. She knew this farm pony who was being called Apple General."

"Apple Fritter," Pinkie exclaimed. "Thank goodness I found you! Everypony around here is crazy! And this captain of yours poked me rather rudely!"

Apple Fritter stared at Pinkie still, unable to speak or act. Pinkie wondered why Fritter appeared older, not too aged, but definitely not as young as she remembered her; she appeared at least a decade older. Maybe it was the fact that her grass-green hair wasn't in playful pigtails, but cropped shoulder-length.

"Apple General Fritter," Captain Double Kick asked. "Do you know this pony?"

When no pony said anything else, the captain spun Pinkie around, grabbing her shoulders and shaking her. "Who in Tartarus are you? Tell us now!"

"I… I am…," Pinkie stammered.

"Tell us, or I'm going to start breaking your legs one by one!"

"Now there's no need to get violent!"

Pinkie glanced back at Apple Fritter, who was still staring at her with the utmost incredulousness. When the party pony turned back to the captain, movement in the back caught her eye.

She could see, at the edge of the clearing from the direction they had entered from, a trio of unicorns. One of them was attaching a device to his horn, and taking aim at the camp. The way the device was glowing, Pinkie felt it wasn't going to be good news for those on the receiving end.

She frantically gestured at the unicorns, spitting out, "Look out! Over there!"

"Oh really?" Captain Double Kick scoffed. "Like we're going to fall for that-"

A magical blast from the unicorn struck the whole camp, like a huge gust of wind. Pinkie Pie felt it impact her, a dizzying effect that made her limbs grow weak, her head spin, and her mind go numb. She collapsed, and then Captain Double Kick fell on her.

The incredible weight of the stallion pinned her down, knocking the air out of her. Captain Kick was out cold, and Pinkie heard the earth ponies around her falling down like bags of sugar.

"Nice job," Pinkie heard somepony say. It had to be the unicorns, she could hear them trotting towards the campsite. "It never fails to amaze me how easy it is to stupefy earth ponies with a stun spell."

"To be fair to them, it was amplified," another of the unicorns said. "Wait, what am I saying? I don't want to be fair."

"Okay, let's take care of them now. Light Barrier, Psy Coat, take care of them."

Pinkie could hear the three walking towards them, then stopping. The sound of something being unsheathed came twice, and then she heard… oh Celestia…

Two ponies were gagging and gurgling, their thrashing bodies thumping against the ground. Pinkie couldn't see well, because she was still trapped underneath Captain Kick. She could barely move her body, much less get out from under him to stop the unicorns from what they were doing.

That's when she saw one of the unicorns kneeling down next to the fallen form of Cadet Lucky Stomp. The unicorn was using her magic to levitate a long dagger that was stained with blood. With as much emotion as spreading jam on bread, the unicorn slit Stomp's throat.

Lucky Stomp started thrashing as her body tried desperately to breathe. Pinkie closed her eyes, tightening up. "No no no," she thought in a panic. "No! Please! Somepony help her! Stop this! She's going to die!"

The unicorn started to approach Pinkie and Captain Kick. The dagger, now stained with Stomp's blood, was gleaming in the sunlight. As the unicorn stepped forward, her eyes glanced to the right, and she stopped.

"Is that," she said aloud, then gasped. "It is! Light Barrier, Luster Mind, come here! Look who we caught up here!"

The other two unicorns trotted over, and both gasped. "Oh my," the leader of the three exclaimed. "The Apple General, Apple Fritter!"

Apple Fritter was squirming feebly, fighting the spell that had hit her full blast. It was like her body was keeping her down, betraying her.

"Our intel was more fruitful, pun not intended," the lead unicorn said. "An Apple General… who would like the honors?"

"You kidding?" Psy Coat said, nudging the struggling Apple Fritter with her hoof. "You're the leader here, you get the honors of killing her, boss!"

"Are you kidding? She needs to go back to our Archmagister alive! The information we can pump from her will be priceless! I mean…"

Luster Mind pulled a long dagger from a sheathe, and this blade had teeth like a saw. "We don't want her running or bucking. Who wants the honor of amputating one of her back legs?"

Apple Fritter struggled more, and Psy Coat put her hoof on her side. "Let Light Barrier, I will hold her down."

"No," Pinkie growled, almost a whisper. As she saw Luster Mind levitate the serrated knife over to Light Barrier, Pinkie felt a desperate panic like none before.

Her mind started flashing. She knew Apple Fritter so well, the Apple family member was one of the closest to Ponyville. She loved to cook food for people, and she would always give treats to everypony. Fritter was always smiles and care, and would come help Applejack and her family if they had a massive deed to do, like raise a barn.

Pinkie saw that serrated knife being brought down towards Apple Fritter's back leg. She felt a rush of adrenaline, so powerful that she shrugged Captain Kick off her like it was nothing.

With a scream that she couldn't seriously tell if it was hers or not, Pinkie leapt at Light Barrier. The unicorn had absolutely no time to react before the pink hoof smashed into the side of his face, sending him sprawling and crashing head-first into the rock circle of the camp's fire pit.

Psy Coat tried to draw her knife, but Pinkie swung around and bucked, trying to remember how Applejack would do it. Though this wasn't an apple tree, her back hooves did a good job at bucking here.

The female unicorn went sailing back a few yards, then lay in a crumpled heap. Luster Mind managed to jump back in time to avoid a follow-up swing from Pinkie.

The two ponies standing stared each other down, one levitating a dagger, one putting her hooves up and snarling viciously.

"You aren't Earthborn," Luster Mind noted, not moving except for his mouth. "You would be wearing armor… unless you are special forces like me… but even House Earthborn's special forces wears armor. So tell me, who are you?"

"My name is Pinkie Pie," she snarled, "and I am Apple Fritter's friend. I will not let you touch her, you… murderer!"

Luster Mind stared at her, blinking a great deal. Shaking his head, he let out a small laugh. "Oh my, you have to be a cultist. There's no one so demented… wait."

The unicorn stepped towards her, knife still raised. "Is the Cult trying to replicate its leader? Is that… no, don't answer, guessing the actions of you abominations is pointless."

He used his magic to swing the knife at Pinkie, a wide arc that she barely dodged by leaping back. Staring each other down again, he narrowed his eyes and said, "Might just break your neck then."

The amount of magic radiating from his horn picked up, and Pinkie felt an arcane pull to her head and neck. He was trying to break her neck, twisting her cranium against her will. She struggled, straining hard against the powerful grasp.

With a loud shout, Pinkie yanked her head the other way, freeing herself from the grasp. Luster Mind's blue-gray magic stopped with a burst of spell sparks.

"Okay, seriously," he spat, pointing the knife at her, "who are you?"

"I am," Pinkie announced, staring at him with ferocity in her blue eyes, "the pony who is going to kick your flank!"

The music that seemingly came from nowhere started up again, in full force now. Pinkie recognized it as music from her gicPod, but how it was playing, seemingly inside her head, was something she was still very confused about.

Didn't matter now though, she had a friend to save and a flank to kick.

Pinkie Pie feigned jumping at Luster Mind, and he swung his knife at her. With this wide open stance, she actually leapt at him this time, kicking him in mid-air. He fell back, clutching a bloody nose.

Snarling, he slashed at her again. She leaned back, and part of her curly bang was sliced off. Using her momentum, she back-hoofed him, his nose suffering from more damage. He collapsed on his knees, desperately trying to stop the bleeding.

The knife shot towards Pinkie, and she had to roll to the left to avoid it. It shanked into the ground, then cut through the dirt to slice towards Pinkie. She managed to dodge again, but she could feel the sharp wind breezed by her face.

Pinkie was banking everything on martial arts she had seen, plus her own energy. With another opening, she leapt at Luster. When he jumped back, she turned her jump into a cartwheel the moment she hit the ground. Her back legs clobbered his face, bringing him down.

She was about to punch him, when she felt her tail violently twitch. Realizing her Pinkie Sense was more vital since a flower pot was the least of her worries, she zipped backwards. Luster's dagger shot down where her head had been moments ago, and plunged into his right foreleg when he couldn't stop his own magic momentum.

Screaming in pain, he yanked out the dagger with his teeth, and turned to run towards the unconscious Light Barrier. Rummaging through his pack with his magic, he pulled out the device Pinkie had seen them use earlier.

As he used hoof and magic to attach it to his horn, she galloped towards him. "Oh no you don't," she shouted as she sprung towards him, front hoof pulled back.

Luster's magic powered up the device, making it glow brightly as the humming of arcane energy started to charge. With Pinkie closing in, he fired off the spell early, shouting, "Stun Splash!"

"Pinkie Punch!"

Mauve hoof met blue-gray forehead, just as a blast of stunning magic hit Pinkie. Luster Mind was sent careening into a tent, knocking it down on him. Pinkie collapsed on the ground, barely conscious.

She struggled desperately to stay awake, but darkness and exhaustion were settling in. The stunning spell felt a lot like a sleeping spell, something she had once seen Twilight cast, but felt more forceful; it was not a spell that gently willed a pony to comply with the magic, but a dominating attack on her senses.

Pinkie couldn't keep her eyes open, inviting the grass as her mattress. Before she fell asleep, the music dying down too, she murmured to herself, "K.O. … I win."

The soldiers of House Earthborn managed to shake off the stun splash spell after a couple minutes They first checked those that had their throats slit, and grieved; none of them had survived.

Apple Fritter was helping to move the bodies of their fallen when Captain Double Kick approached her. "The unicorns are ready to be executed. We have them in one of the tents… which was knocked down, for some reason."

"Don't kill 'em, captain. We need ta question them."

"But the Supreme Commander said-"

"Ah know what she said, but things have changed. They said they had intel, we need ta see if we can git anything from them. Now… what of Pinkie Pie?"

"Apple General?" Captain Kick balked, staring at her. "You don't think for a moment she's-"

"Ah don't know what ta think!" Apple Fritter snapped. She glanced at the unconscious, mauve mare, as three soldiers stood around her. "We need ta… we need ta see the Supreme Commander about this."

"Is that wise?"

"If there're any repercussions, Ah will gladly take them. But this is more important than anything else."

Fritter trotted towards her tent, saying, "Gather everything, we are moving out. We're heading back ta New Ponyville, and we're taking our prisoners too. … Y'all know what ta do with tha dead. We will wait until our messenger returns from the battlefield ta give specific orders on a tactical retreat."

"We might lose the fight-"

"They brought a Sunray Cannon, Ah should have ordered a retreat from the start!"

Apple Fritter made her way into her tent, throwing off her hat and letting it clang to the side. Collapsing in a chair, she ran a hoof through her green mane, staring up at the ceiling. Her mind was spinning so hard, she didn't notice when Captain Kick entered.

"No offense, Apple General," he said, "but we are going to lose troops in any fight. A Sunray Cannon is not enough to pull back."

"It is when we kin force it out of commission by drawing the fight to nighttime," she said without looking at him. "Ah know how to fight, but Supreme Commander Applejack wants to be more aggressive. Ah am more defensive."

"If we pull back now, the Sunray Cannon would store up energy; we've seen them fire at night. They could use it to attack New Ponyville."

"No, we have more troops coming up shortly, bigger and better options. Besides, we have cultists around here, like yuh said. And Ah'm getting a terrible feeling that tha other Houses aren't sitting this fight out."

Captain Kick nodded. "Aye, that is true. If we pull back, House Moon & Star will have to deal with them. But Apple General, what of this mare who calls herself Pinkie Pie?"

Apple Fritter narrowed her eyes. "Applejack will know what ta do with ‘er."

(Meanwhile, back in Pinkie Pie's home universe…)

"Pinkie?" Twilight said. Her voice raised considerably, as did her panic. "Pinkie! PINKIE PIE!"

She frantically looked all around the circular room, as her friends were doing to. Princess Celestia was rubbing her head, the headache from struggling with the Astral Screen having done a real number on her. Captain Rallying Cry was standing up, helping Fluttershy to her hooves.

"Where are you?" Twilight continued to cry out. "Where… where are you?"

"Pinkster, if yur hiding, this ain't funny, sugarcube," Applejack shouted. "Come on, no pranks or jokes or anythin'! Show us yur smiling face, girl!"

Fluttershy, still shaking from the intense experience, glanced around at the ceiling. It would have been silly to search there for a non-pegasus pony, but it was Pinkie Pie. "P-puh-please, Pinkie?" she whispered as loud as she could. "Please, come out!"

"Where is she?" Rainbow Dash hollered. She was flying around the room, wings buzzing with how hard she was flapping. "Pinkie!" She opened the door to the room, glancing outside. "You step out? PINKIE!"

Rainbow flew out, calling out to Pinkie. Twilight started to shake, tears forming in her eyes; she almost collapsed, but Applejack caught her.

"Princess Celestia," Rarity approached their leader, lightly touching her side. "Your Royal Highness, are you okay?"

"I… I am fine," Celestia managed to say. Shaking away some of the magical feedback headache she was suffering, she glanced at the Astral Screen. "What… Pinkie Pie…"

"She's gone missing, your Highness!" Rarity gestured at the Astral Screen. "She walked up, touched the screen, and with a flash of light blue magic, she was gone!"

"What? But the Astral Screen doesn't teleport, it is just that, a screen!"

Princess Celestia sounded like she was talking to herself more so, and immediately, her horn lit up with magic again. She was straining, it appeared rather painful to Rarity, who knew how agonizing using magic when exhausted could be.

Twilight Sparkle managed to calm down, and found her voice again. "Princess," she said, staring at her mentor with all the hope in the world, "what happened? Is Pinkie Pie just pranking us?"

Celestia was silent for a minute, then the magic in her horn faded. She hung her head, rubbing at her temple. "I… I don't understand. I cannot sense Pinkie Pie's presence in the castle. She couldn't have made it that far in a manner of seconds."

"No," Twilight whimpered. She stared at Applejack, as if willing her to answer, then she cried out. "No! You mean she was sent to another universe? An alternate universe?"

"The Astral Screen doesn't work that way!" Princess Celestia rubbed her temple harder, looking at the screen. After the flash of cyan light, it had stopped making noise and light, and had reverted back to its basic, light blue state. As they spoke, it started to curl back up into an orb.

"Pinkie touched it, though," Twilight exclaimed. "Could she have triggered something? Princess-"

"Twilight Sparkle, I am telling you, it cannot do that!"

The princess stared long and hard at the Astral Screen, which finished folding up into an orb. "You cannot send ponies, or objects, or anything but an image through the Screen! Not even I could use it as a doorway. It takes the most powerful of magic to make the trip to another universe."

"But Pinkie touched tha screen," Applejack said, "and she was gone!"

"Oh no," Fluttershy whimpered. "Oh no no no… this is bad… Pinkie…"

"Everypony, please calm down," Princess Celestia ordered. "I know this looks bad, but I cannot focus if you are panicking. So please, calm down, and allow me to study the Screen."

When she tried to use her magic on the Astral Screen, the same kind of static came back. A sharp pain in Celestia's horn made her flinch, and release it. "Something," she gasped as she rubbed her horn, "something has thrown off the ley lines."

"But, but," Twilight stammered, "that would require large amounts of magic, wouldn't it?"

"Indeed it would, and I was trying to stop the Astral Screen from overloading and crashing."

The princess stared long and hard at the blue orb, and then glanced at her honorary student. "Twilight, dear… you didn't cast anything, did you?"

"No, no! I didn't! I swear!"

"Calm down, I'm not accusing you. I know that unicorns sometimes use magic when terrified or panicked, I just need to know-"

"I didn't, I swear I didn't, Princess Celestia! Please, believe me."

"I do, my dear."

She trotted over and wrapped one of her brilliant wings around Twilight. "Just please calm down, Twilight Sparkle."

"I didn't cast any magic either," Rarity spoke up. She glanced between Celestia and the Astral Screen, then heard Fluttershy sobbing. "Oh darling…"

"Pinkie Pie vanished," Fluttershy whimpered, tears in her eyes. "Pinkie… she was there, and then she was gone. After all that horrible noise… oh no… no no no!"

"Darling, please!" Rarity wrapped her forelegs around Fluttershy, pulling her close to her. Fluttershy shivered and shook against her friend.

"She just walked up and touched the screen, and was gone," Fluttershy bawled. "Who's going to tell Gummy? Who's going to tell Octavia? I can't do that, Rarity! Oh, Pinkie Pie, where are you?"

Princess Celestia stopped her wing-hug with Twilight to walk back to the throne in the room. She sat down on it, and focused all her magic again. The orb crackled defiantly, and Celestia squinted in pain and concentration.

"It's fighting me," she muttered. "It's overloaded and possibly damaged. This could take a while."

"Princess, you're in pain," Twilight said. "Your… your horn…"

She pointed at her leader's head, and though Celestia couldn't see it, her horn was singed black. Every now and then, sparks shot out uncontrollably. The princess merely shook her head.

"I showed you the Astral Screen, therefore this is my fault; I must fix this."

"I… I can help."

"No, Twilight Sparkle. It took me years and years to master the magic of this device. I could not explain it to you in so short of time… but I still could use your help."

"Whatever ya want, princess," Applejack said, bowing politely, "we kin help! Just help us help ya git Pinkie back ta us!"

"Please fetch Princess Luna, if you can rouse her at this time of day. She knows all about the Astral Screen. And if you can fetch the medical staff, I require a special remedy to help me fight this pain, for better concentration."

"I will fetch Doctor Bedside immediately," Captain Rally said, bowing to his princess. "Is there anything else we can do?"

"Yes. If you can tell Rainbow Dash to…"

She glanced down, a guilty look flashing by her regal face. Twilight felt damaged, seeing her beloved princess like this.

"Tell Rainbow Dash to stop yelling for Pinkie Pie. Pinkie is not here, and… I can hear Rainbow Dash from here. It is sadly distracting."

"Yes, Princess Celestia," Twilight Sparkle said, bowing.

Applejack left with her, galloping down the halls to find Rainbow Dash. Captain Rallying Cry hurried off on his own way. Rarity was still holding Fluttershy, petting the sobbing pegasus's back, as she herself tried not to cry.

Princess Celestia focused her magic on the Astral Screen, and it sparked so aggressively against her that it caused a splitting pain in her horn, adding on to the agony. It stopped her for a few seconds, and she went right back to concentrating.

The pain she could endure. What was unbearable was hearing off in the distance, Rainbow Dash shouting, "Pinkie! Pinkie, where are you? Come out here right now! It's not funny! Pinkie! … Please? Pinkie?"


> YES. NO.

Author's Note:

If you are curious as to which stories are being referred to, a.k.a. glimpsed at from this reality, in the Astral Screen's flashes, just ask! If you already know them, major kudos to you!

Also, let me know what you think of the music selection. I think I'm gonna have a lot of fun with that. *wicked grin*