• Published 25th Mar 2013
  • 2,911 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.

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Prologue Part 3 - The Tempering of the Samurai

Lady Fluttershy sniffed the air. It was traveling from the battle that was taking place a great distance from the Everfree Forest; however, she could still smell the telltale signs of a true battle between House Earthborn and House Moon & Star.

"Blood," she said to Iron Will, who stood next to her. "Arcane magic. Gunpowder. Gore. I can practically smell every pony, every injury, every death in this wind."

"Your sense of smell is amazing, but," Iron Will said, rubbing his chin, "can you tell who's winning the fight?"

Fluttershy closed her eyes and focused again. The leader of the minotaurs watched her, sensing the power of nature radiating from her.

The trees rustled towards her, even against the wind. Blades of grass pointed towards her, and the clouds up in the sky drifted around as if caught in a gentle cyclone. Iron Will could almost smell the fight now, as he flared his large nostrils.

"House Earthborn… has retreated," Fluttershy said. "They are more than likely heading back to New Ponyville… but why I do not know."

"Are their numbers that low?" Iron Will asked. He narrowed his eyes. "Those stubborn earth ponies usually wait until the vast majority of their army has been crushed; they are stupid like that."

"No, their numbers are fine. Maybe when our scouts return, we could get some answers."

"If you would like, Lady Fluttershy, I could send some Iron Bulls out there to take prisoners and crush some opposition. When the enemy starts to pull, you send in the bull."

"No, it's not necessary. And you made that up that saying just now," she chided him, though she smirked as well. "I sense House Moon & Star is heading off too… I am rather curious, but I do not want to chase either of them, not when they both are injured.

"The unicorns have a long way to run if they want sanctuary," she pondered, tapping her chin..

Iron Will crossed his arms, growling out, "Redheart's Refuse is the only place close enough for a real, tactical retreat, unless they plan on camping out."

"If that is the case, our scouts will report back, and you have my permission to use Iron Bulls and some of our forces to shred that encampment. We could easily finish what House Earthborn started, especially at night.

"Twilight Sparkle believes her troops are strong at night because they believe in Luna," Fluttershy spat at both names, her eyes flaring with green magic. "I have shown her delusions of nighttime safety are not only false, but costly."

Iron Will chuckled. He remembered Centurion Lunar Eye had led a hundred House Moon & Star against a growing expansion of the Everfree Forest. The leader of the minotaurs had led the strike, and the results had been one-sided: Lunar Eye was crushed under Will's hoof, and ninety-six unicorns died with minimal casualties to House Everfree.

Fluttershy took in another deep breath, and then halted. Iron Will watched his leader with some concern, especially when she ground her teeth. Turning away, she started to trot back into Everfree Forest.

"Is everything alright, Lady Fluttershy?"

"I wish to go contact the Everfree Liege," she said. Her tone made it clear that it wasn't up for debate. "If the scouts come back, you will make the call, Iron Will. Take what forces you desire, if you deem attack necessary."

"Of course, Lady Fluttershy. But again, I wish to ask, what is wrong? Why must you contact the Everfree Liege?"

Fluttershy lowered her head. Her pink-coral colored mane draped down, covering her face from the sides. She spoke with such a mixture of emotions, he couldn't guess which one was most prevalent.

"I sense something, something or somepony out there, that is triggering something I haven't sensed in years," she admitted. "It's… impossible to explain."

She walked off without another word. Iron Will glanced out in the direction of the battle, and wondered what in Tartarus could have shaken the Lady of the Forest like that.

Trixie Lulamoon hated to retreat, especially when her side was clearly winning. The Sunray Cannon they had brought had worked very well, it was worth bringing so many slaves on such a long trip.

Still, she had her orders. The two Centurions she had brought were managing the troops, helping to attend to the wounded. The slaves were kept in close proximity of the Knights, to ensure they did not act up as night started to set; the stupid earth and pegasi ponies feared the moon, Princess Luna's reputation still instilled fear after all this time.

Luna was a symbol of power and reinforcement to the unicorns of House Moon & Star, and the sign of an iron hoof over all other races. Trixie wished she could have met Luna, she would love to know how well the princess carried herself in front of others.

Trixie vented her frustrations over the retreat by kicking a slave, right in the scar where his Cutie Mark used to be. She snarled as she passed by the Sunray Cannon, observing the dials. "There's barely any power in here," she exclaimed. "Why in Tartarus has The Great and Powerful Trixie's Sunray Cannon not been set to absorb moonlight?"

"Grand Inquisitor," Centurion Zen Dream said, approaching her with a graceful bow, "they have been. The moon is only a thin crescent tonight, and the clouds are too thick, blocking our princess's night blessing.

Trixie ground her teeth in her growing exasperation. "House Stormwing, it has to be, the cloud pushing bastards! They seek to hamper our most powerful tool. Trixie will not allow this. Gather every Seraph we have, and we don't have enough, make some! Trixie won't have clouds stopping her plans tonight!"

Centurion Zen Dream blinked in surprise. "Plans for tonight, Grand Inquisitor? I thought we were stopping to make camp for the night."

"We are going to move at the top of the hour, Centurion, so get ready."

"But… the wounded-"

"If the medics cannot help them, then we will carry them. Trixie has her orders, and you have yours. Now go!"

As he walked off, Trixie rubbed her chin in deep thought. To top off all the problems she was having, one of her special strike teams has still not reported back. The intel that the leader of the resistance from House Earthborn would be here was good, but could her proud unicorn forces had been caught?

She was getting rather fed up with losing troops. Unicorns were the most capable being in all of Equestria, they did not get picked off like a dumb, diamond dog pack. Trixie felt like setting something, or somepony, on fire.

Glancing at the slaves, she wondered if she would take to her Inquisition troops' way of relieving stress. But reason settled in before she started conjuring up a fire spell, realizing their losses were too great to sacrifice more, even slaves.

"Whatever," she said to herself as she turned away from the slaves. "Maybe Trixie will burn some earth ponies when we get to where we are aiming for tonight."

The Arqueteer trotted into a cave, dug rather slapdash but effective enough to provide a quick retreat. With no torches, he illuminated from a spell radiating from his horn.

Eventually he met up with the group of ponies who had travelled with him. He had to resist scowling when he saw them, as they were laughing and exchanging stories; this wasn't a war to them, it was a game.

"I wonder how much I could pay this bastards to shoot each other," the Arqueteer thought as he approached. "They'd do anything for gold. Maybe I could convince them to shoot themselves in the hoof for the right amount of bits."

"Hey, Fine Shine," the leader of the Ponies of Fortune said, waving his hoof at the Arqueteer. "Bag any? Me and the boys had a bet on who shot the most."

A diamond dog holding a torch nearby nodded and cackled. "Yes yes, they did! And none of them bet on you."

"Oy, shut up!"

One of the mercenaries of House Whitegold pelted the diamond dog with a gold coin. Three of the mercs, including the one who threw it, dove for it. The leader shook his head, glancing back at Fine Shine.

"Gotta say, it was a little bit like open season out there," he said. "Shooting fish in a barrel, if you know what I mean."

"I fail to see why anypony would shoot a fish in a barrel," Fine Shine said. He glanced at his arquebus, which he carried in a sling on his side. "Rifles do not puncture through water that well."

"It's a metaphor, just think about it!"

"Do you mind just telling me your casualty report, Golden Shot? It is growing late, and I'd like to leave this battle area just in case we have late night visitors."

Most of the mercs were busy fighting over the gold coin still, the diamond dog trying to claim it too. Hooves and fists flew, pained shouts and bloody snouts resulted. Fine Shine was now fully convinced House Whitegold could have won that fight if he threw a bag of coins in the middle of the battlefield.

"Sorry, but we don't have a certain number," Golden Shot said. He juggled a throwing dagger in his hoof, though he was staring at his own rifle that he kept nearby. "We just used those amazing hoof cannons that House Whitegold generously provided, and let fire into the troops from afar."

"You do know that your pay comes from how many casualties and injuries you cause, don't you?"

One of the mercenaries stood up, staring down Fine Shine angrily. "Hey now, fancy boy, don't you start thinking of stifling our pay! Or we may use these rifles on you!"

Golden Shot held up a hoof at the disobedient merc, and looked back at Fine Shine. "Okay, we'll come up with a number for you soon, and we'll be generous since we cannot prove. But pray tell, did you get any enemies of your house? Hate to think you're lecturing me when you ain't got anything."

"I managed to injure some troops, if you must know, including a hoplite from House Stormwing."

"You shot one of those flying buggers? Now that's impressive!" Golden Shot juggled his throwing dagger once more, adding, "I have yet to claim a kill on one of them."

"They're too damn fast to get," one of the ponies of fortune exclaimed. "I may be a pegasus, but I think they're a right lot of cowards; flying fast and striking like scorpion stings. It ain't sporting."

"Sport has nothing to do with it," Fine Shine snapped. "You are paid by our Mistress Rarity to do what is best for our city and house. If you cannot handle House Stormwing's troops, or any other troops, we'll just send you for reconnoissance on, say, House Everfree. Or a changeling hive."

The threat would have been intimidating for any normal pony, but the mercenary shrugged. "Meh. You pay me enough, I'll find out where the Bitch of the Forest is for you."

Golden Shot laughed at his colleague's gusto. "Well, if you could shoot a Stormwing troop like Fine Shine did, maybe I'd believe you. I would have liked to have been there when he placed a round in that pegasus!"

Mentioning the event trigged Shine's memory. He rubbed his facial hair in thought, murmuring to himself.

"Something wrong?" Golden Shot asked.

"It may be nothing, but when I was scouting and shot that Stormwing pegasus, there was a pink earth pony running from them, from the battlefield. She seemed… terrified, out of place. She was screaming things I didn't understand."

Golden Shot frowned in concern. "Cultist?"

"I hope not, I was hoping they wouldn't be out here; we have enough trouble at Baltimare."

"I just hope they ain't sending pink ponies out into battles; I hate having to kill mares."

The mercenary leader of the bunch then proceeded to deck his fellow mercs and the diamond dog to get that gold coin, claiming it for his own.

Fine Shine pursed his lips. Sometimes, he did wish House Whitegold had a real army. He'd be much more happy fight like a soldier, instead of babysitting a pack of greedy mercenaries.

The Laughing Mare wasn't happy.

It was the most horrifying thing to her followers. In that dark room, they all tried desperately to make the situation funny. Jesters of Baltimare juggled anything they could find. Revelers danced and fiddled with Smiling Dolls, Laughing Dead put on rather dark displays of how much they could damage themselves. One pony turned on a tune on a Macabre Music Machine, trying one of the mare's favorite songs on the organ.

The Laughing Mare sat on a throne that was made entirely out of various body parts of many beings, mostly pony. Her head leaned down into her hooves, which she rubbed together relentlessly, as if trying to start a fire. She hadn't stopped for a couple hours now; some of the cultists were worried she might set her hooves ablaze.

The cultists laughed for her. They guffawed, they howled, they giggled incessantly, they snorted and wheezed. Laughter was the reason they had all joined up, and laughter was what kept them going.

And most of all, they feared what The Laughing Mare would do if they stopped laughing.

The Jesters of Baltimare stepped up their game. They started dancing on their hind legs as they performed, added more items to their juggling, more juggling items. One of them was successfully juggling a chain saw, a sickle, a bone saw, and a glass vase when The Laughing Mare spoke.

"Starry eyes have tapered," she exclaimed, ceasing her fore hooves movement. "Ethereal has moved its second knight into play."

The cultists all stopped to hear the words of The Laughing Mare. It must be important, as they were the ones chosen by her to try and entertain her when she had fallen into a funk.

The Macabre Music Machine stopped playing music immediately, and the Jesters of Baltimare dropped their juggling toys; the one with the most impressive juggling set resulted in his left foreleg being amputated by the sickle, and he fell down covering the bleeding one. He was let out peculiar noises that were a combination of pained whimpers and hysterical giggles.

"Is the king's movement solely for me?" The Laughing Mare whispered to herself. Her head bobbed down, the bells on her jester cap jingling. "What of the sib-bishops? Am I receiving views over this?"

The red glow in those empty eye sockets amplified, until they were bright lights, like amplified coal stones. She was grinding her teeth, the gum-less mouth twitching in its seared smile.

"Must protect the queen at all costs," she continued to plan. "The first knight will move out soon, dangerous to fight head on. The cheater and the rabid possum will hunt, the rat will fight, and no pony cares what the rock does.

"Which is precisely why I will keep an eye on the shiny. Members of the Cult of Laughter!" She shouted the last part, making all the ponies, even the one bleeding to death, flinch. Without moving anything but her right foreleg, she flicked her hoof and a snapping sound echoed throughout the hallways.

"Fetch me the Prophets! This war has been amplified a grand deal, and we will not falter! The time for laughter," she grinned, narrowing her glowing, eyeless eyes, "is now."

The cultists all in the room burst into laughter and cheers. The Laughing Mare grinned, drinking in the noise. She glanced around at them: the undead members trotting about merrily, the psycho and the insane and those that perfected both, the fun machines of death, and the one jester rolling around laughing as blood pooled from the amputated leg.

"So you think you can defeat me this way, sister?" The Laughing Mare whispered to herself, her voice a sinister, delighted hiss. "I see your move, and let me tell you, it's so cliché, I saw it coming a mile away. There are badly written stories by magical kindergarten drop-outs better than your plan; thusly, I will crush it, then you.

"Now then," she said, aloud this time, "somepony want to put Bounce Clutch out of his misery? He deserves to go down laughing. Have to say, Bounce, your last performance was delightful, never seen a pony juggle a chain saw and a glass vase."

"Three casualties?" Rainbow Dash shouted furiously. "Three? Sweet Celestia, do you know how damaging that is to our ranks?"

"We don't know how it happened, Force Commander Supreme," Wing Captain Cloudchaser exclaimed, bowing to her leader. "Our patrol… they were ravaged by Everfree Wraiths! And we only have a vague idea what happened!"

The prismatic maned pegasus paced on the cloud. Her armor was still stained with blood, earth pony blood from the soldiers she and her band had picked off when they had been separated from the fight. She glanced back at them, then at the returning wing patrol.

"Commander, I must say now that my wingpony, Bladed Wingtip, will survive his injury," Cloudchaser insisted. She ran a hoof through her mane, grinding her teeth as she endured her leader's stare. "But if I may, I think I know who is behind this."

"Then tell me! Is it Everfree? Moon & Star? The Cult?"

"It was a pink earth pony. She traveled through the battlefield on some weird contraption, and managed to fight with objects we couldn't see coming!"

As Rainbow Dash's good eye widened in shock, the Wing Captain rubbed her mane more. "It," Cloudchaser admitted, terrified to say what was on her mind, "felt eerily familiar. Something… that I think-"

"Say no more," Rainbow Dash exclaimed. "Where are they heading? Scootaloo!"

The other Wing Captain marched up on the cloud, saluting to her leader. "Rainbow Dash, we saw the group taking a few prisoners to New Ponyville! We did not engage, as House Earthborn is taking careful security to their caravan.

"We also believe the Apple General, Apple Fritter, is with this group. This may be incredibly important, if I do say so myself."

Rainbow Dash stared at Scootaloo, seeing some of that impish, foalish excitement that sometimes shone through her hardened, full-grown exterior. The battle scars, though not as numerous as her own, that Scootaloo sported helped Rainbow look over this giddiness that would have received a hoof across the face for most any other pony.

"Scootaloo, Cloudchaser," Rainbow Dash said, turning her head in the direction of New Ponyville, "prepare all the Wing Captains. Summon Gilda and any other gryphon captain or Valkyrie that is within range.

"I want to find out what House Earthborn is up to, I want to know," she snarled and stomped at the cloud, "who killed two of my soldiers. Because if this is as serious as I think it is, our farms to the north are in danger."

"Understood, Force Commander Supreme," Cloudchaser said, saluting.

"Bucking Tartarus below, if they found a way to pull us from the sky…"

Rainbow Dash observed all of the pegasi around her, narrowing her eyes. The burnt eye may have had no pupil but it seemed as focused as her normal eye. "We may have House Moon & Star on the run, we may have killed a fair share of our enemy today…"

"But if House Earthborn is planning something, I want to know what that orange, ground-bound traitor is up to."

Applejack was sitting in a large room, one that was made for the leaders and army ponies of House Earthborn for this city. When New Ponyville had been claimed for their house years ago, this building was immediately made for war and planning. It was delightfully well-designed architecture, as even being inside this war room made Applejack felt powerful.

"All of Equestria could be conquered from here," she thought to herself with a smug smile. She glanced around at the towering walls, the ceiling with the supports that could endure boulders being hurled at it. "This is tha most impressive view Ah think exists. And Ah've been in the Halls of Stone. That says something."

The Supreme Commander of House Earthborn rather preferred New Ponyville, for many reasons. One of those was this, the Hoof Down Tower. Another was to get away from politicians in her house and actually govern a war, not a political show.

The biggest reason was that, it was New Ponyville. When she glanced out the windows around the high room, she saw the large city outside. Ponies, normal ponies, were trotting about on normal business, selling food and goods, being with family. She could see out at Equestria, see how beautiful it still was.

It made her remember the home she lost, how much she had lost, and how much she had gained and won too. This was always enough to keep Applejack focused, no matter how dark the next day was.

All this was just enough to prepare her when Apple General Apple Fritter came in. Applejack was known for keeping a calm demeanor, but her family knew that these days, how much rage could grow in her chest.

"So," Applejack said, trotting to Apple Fritter, "you retreated. We followed tha plan, we crossed tha river, an' met House Moon & Star head on. And you retreated."

Apple Fritter saluted as if nothing was wrong. She spoke formally, like a true soldier. "If you would allow me ta explain, Supreme Commander Applejack, Ah had very good reason to-"

"Ah also heard y'all brought prisoners." She paced around her cousin, keeping her voice down though her anger was rising. "That was against mah orders. We have been pushed, once again, back.

"Do you understand how much we lost because of your actions, Apple Fritter?" she barked, pushing her face right into her's. Green eyes of different shades were locked together, neither backing down.

"How many times have Ah had ta argue with tha Council that you were right fer tha position of Apple General, an' how many times you have allowed tha enemy to push us all back, because you were afraid ta let more soldiers die?

"We are at war, damn it! WAR! Soldiers will die! We have lost family an' friends an' loved ones, an' we will continue to lose them if you continue ta try an' save as many troops as possible!"

She paced around the large war room, then stopped at a window that allowed her to see Shattered Care River, running nearby the glorious city. "You have been there for me as much as my immediate family, Apple Fritter," she said, her voice lowering but her tone as solid. "You helped me, you helped us all, get through the darkest hours of Equestria…

"Please give me a reason to justify yur actions to tha Earth Council. With the lack of progress in the war, there is talk about what our leaders will do to commanders in war who fail to push our agenda."

Apple Fritter spoke, undaunted. "Supreme Commander Applejack, do you really think tha Earth Council will approve fully of executing tha leaders of our army if we don't make more progress? That's beyond senseless!"

"Politicians don't see madness in anything they do, Fritter. To them, we are all, including me, expendable. Another war hero will come up, they will praise them, then dismiss them if they aren't making them look good."

"You are not expendable in any way, Applejack."

The orange earth pony glanced over at Fritter, then trotted over. "Then please, tell me why mah decision ta allow you ta lead this charge has led ta this."

Apple Fritter took off her helmet, setting it on the table. It had felt so heavy on her since she had walked into New Ponyville. "There were three major reasons, not just a simple one as Ah didn't want soldiers ta die.

"The first was that House Moon & Star brought with them a Sunray Cannon. It was devastating, and we did'ant 'ave the proper way to counter it. Our troops were being incinerated, an' tha unicorns were defending it by havin' their slave troops kept our troops in play…"

She grimaced as she thought back. "House Moon & Star literally uses earth ponies an' pegasi as meat shields. And they too become incinerated when the cannon fires."

Applejack snarled, punching the table with her fore hoof. "So it has come ta this, has it? Ah would think unicorns with their so-called superior intellect would realize how that's as wasteful as it is cruel!"

"Ah believe Grand Inquisitor Trixie Lulamoon was leading; while House Moon & Star's generals are all ruthless, only she would be so destructive."

"Either way, ya could have fought against them, Fritter. What were the other reasons?"

"My party on the hill was attacked by cultists, and then by a shock attack patrol of House Moon & Star unicorns. We all could 'ave died then, and we overheard them saying they had received intel about our position."

"Even so," Applejack said, "you didn't have to call off the fight because your situation was compromised. You could have… wait, what?"

The military leader of House Earthborn paused, and stepped up close to Apple Fritter. "Y'all almost died? What exactly happened?"

"The unicorns used their magic-amplifying devices to cast a stun spell that dazed us all. Ah lost several troops, until we were saved by a mare… a single mare…"

Apple Fritter swallowed hard. She could barely look into the eye of Applejack, who was studying her so hard that Fritter felt like her bones were being scanned. Part of worried that, despite being family, an Apple General, and somepony so close to Applejack, she was going to be executed for saying this.

"A mare with a pink coat and mane," she managed to say, "who spoke and acted exactly like Pinkie Pie."

The silence was deafening. So long and hard was Applejack stare, that Fritter worried she might catch afire from how fierce the look of her superior was. Finally, the Supreme Commander barked out a bitter laugh.

"It's a ploy. A trick by the Cult of Laughter, or one of the other houses. They simply found a pink pony ta act like her."

"She had Pinkie Sense," Fritter continued. "She dodged something being thrown down at her head when her tail twitched."

"It's just a damn good impression then, Apple Fritter," Applejack shouted, clenching her hoof in a manner that implied possibly hitting her. "There is no way on Equestria that could be Pinkie Pie!"

"And yet this pony, that was attacked by both cultists and House Moon & Star," Apple Fritter said, "looks the same age as Pinkie did when y'all went off to Canterlot because the liars disappeared."

Applejack growled in fury, and finally swung at Apple Fritter. Her cousin was too fast, jumping back and shouting, "Do you think Ah say this without conviction, Applejack? You think Ah just saw this pony and thought, 'Hurr, hey y'all, it's Pinkie Pie'? No!"

"You are suggesting the impossible!"

"And yet, if our enemy is remaking Pinkie Pie to such detail, we need ta know more," Fritter reasoned. "This could be our greatest threat, Applejack!

"They are making replicas of yur dead friend! And why would they do that? Why do ya think they would?"

"Ah don't know, what do you think, besides trying ta make me and the other leaders all confused?"

"Ah can think of one good reason. Maybe they want ta reactivate the greatest power that died all those years ago."

Applejack stopped advancing on her cousin, and then ground her teeth harder than ever. She thought back the Halls of Stone, to a secret chamber that was constructed for her in private. In that room was a box, decorated with an orange apple insignia, and it contained something that had once been the key to saving Equestria from terrible times like these days.

"Ah want to see this fake," Applejack said, staring at Apple Fritter with her rage subsiding and reason setting in.

"She's in the jail, unconscious."

"Then we'll wait for morning. In tha meantime, Ah have to think."

Applejack trotted out of the room, her body language screaming while she remained silent. Apple Fritter watched her go, then rested at the war room's table, burying her head in her forelegs.

"Is this really a move from tha Cult, or another House?" she thought. "If she is…"

She knocked her hoof against her head, remembering what she heard from the pink mare on the hilltop.

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

"Then it doesn't make any gosh-darn sense!"

The jails in New Ponyville were a classic prison: tiny windows, bars, cots, and a chamberpot in each one. The only reason they seemed like such a primitive sight to the unicorn prisoners was that there were very few prisons or dungeons in Equestria.

None of the Houses, and certainly not the Cult, were keen on keeping prisoners of war or criminals. Any being that violated laws or opposed a House, even their own, would usually be executed.

The three unicorns were in a cell each, a tight iron wrap around their horns. It was a primitive, but very effective, way of preventing magic from being cast. The unicorns could not remove the locks no matter what they tried, and it was too tight to allow any magic to be cast without excruciating pain; that in itself was enough to break the concentration needed for magic.

Luster Mind had collapsed on the cot in his cell, wanting a good night sleep before his inevitable fate. Psy Coat paced back and forth until she collapsed, trying to think of something, anything, to escape.

Light Barrier was staring down Pinkie Pie in the cell across from his. She was sleeping on her back on the cot where she had been placed, no restraints on her. Her leg was twitching in her snooze, her mouth wide open and tongue hanging out as she openly snored.

"How can you sleep?" he grumbled. He was bitter, as he was the kind who, since a foal, was not able to get a wink of sleep if he was uncomfortable. The horn brace was keeping him up, and he wanted to vent.

"And what are you?" he snapped as well. "We're all going to die tomorrow, and you're sleeping like a… well, like how I always thought how earth ponies slept! Like a hog!

"I guess you don't have to worry about what is going to happen, as much, because you don't have a horn," he snarled. "And they're going to execute you even though you saved them! Why would you do that? Why?"

His shout woke Pinkie. She examined her jail cell, blinked a great many times, then rushed over to the bars. Wrapping her fore hooves around the bars, she shook them and shouted, "No! Did I have an energy drink again? I swore I wouldn't after the last time!"

Light Barrier groaned and rolled his eyes. "Oh my Celestia, are you a cultist? Were you dropped as a foal, repeatedly?"

Pinkie stopped shouting long enough to recognize the unicorn across from her. She knocked on the bars, tried to open the door, then let out a defeated sigh. "Oh no… I'm really here, aren't I?"

She slammed her head against the bars, whining, "No-oooo, I really thought this was all a dream! This is so wrong! Celestia, Luna, graham crackers!"

"What in Tartarus is wrong with you?" Barrier shouted. "Do you have any idea how bad things are?"

"No," whimpered Pinkie. She drummed her hoof on the bars as she collapsed on her stomach. Her mind was racing again, trying to comprehend everything that had happened.

Celestia wouldn't do something as cruel as send her to another reality; Pinkie had now dismissed the "lesson" theory. Did she fall asleep and, against all logic, was feeling all pain? Why did she feel like she was trapped in a video game?

Her ears perked up. She practically felt the gears clicking in her head until the idea rang perfectly. Her heart soared so high from relief, she worried for a second that it would come out her mouth. That was it! She was stuck in a Coltari game!

Pinkie Pie hadn't played many video games in her life, but the Coltari games she had played were rather fun. She mostly preferred to play with friends (though not Rainbow Dash, she got too competitive).

"That's what happened to me! I'm stuck in a video game," she exclaimed joyfully. "It's so simple! That's why I keep hearing music in my head that was on my gicPod! I wonder what genre I'm stuck in!"

Light Barrier stared at her, jaw dropped, eye twitching.

"What's your favorite game, mister?" she asked innocently. "Just Prance? Super Mareio Sisters? Ponycraft? I love Ponycraft, especially the sequels! Do you?"

She grinned at him as she mimed pressing buttons. "For Flaiur, for the Pegatoss!"

"What," was all Light Barrier could say at first. She shook her head and managed to actually say, "Okay, look, why are you asking me? I thought you thought we were 'murderers,' when you came at us at the camp."

Pinkie tapped her chin. Right now, in her head, she had multiple selections to choose from. Dialogue selections were a fun part of the game for her.

1.) "Well, DUH! But you obviously aren't, since we're in a game!"

2.) "Sorry, I just am not the biggest fan of violent games, like Maretal Kombat!"

3.) "lol, noob, i can pwn u with such epicosity, ur not even wurth the exp 4 my leet dps! lol lol lol lol *snort* lol lololol rofl!!11!"

After mentally choosing option 3, Light Barrier watched her roll on the floor laughing. The unicorn felt his worries melt away listening to that chortling, even though he knew what lay in store for him tomorrow. He let out a heavy sigh, then rested on the cot in his cell.

"I never got to play Coltari," he admitted. He felt defeated in that he was being casual now, but he didn't care anymore at this point. "Never had time to play anything, really. I was drafted into the army when I was young, managed to bring up my magic to be good enough for special forces."

"You must be a real power leveler," Pinkie said as she stopped rolling around. "High magic skills? What are your professions?"

"Well, the magic amplifier I brought is something that most unicorns have trouble with, because it requires great concentration and aim," he said. "Guess that would be like a profession?"

"No no no, professions are skills that aren't directly related to combat," Pinkie said. "C'mon, buddy, you know cooking? Dancing? I would have a high skill in baking, singing, and creating fun tools!"

Light Barrier raised an eyebrow. "Creating fun tools? Like weapons?"

"Well, I would say my party cannon is not a weapon, but I guess I weaponized it. Do you know about creating weapons?"

"The magic amplifier is like a very complicated tool; sometimes you need to fine-tune it. It takes very delicate magic to tune them, and I am good at them. It's why Luster trusts me with the amplified shots."

"Sounds neat! Magic enhancement! But you know what?" Pinkie grinned and clopped her hooves. "All that tuning talk makes me think you're a musician! Do you know how to play?"

Barrier shook his head, then glanced to the side. "No… but I always wanted to try."

"Never too late, Barrier! My sister, she's a musician! And one of my close friends knows all about music! She's amazing!"

As Pinkie Pie rambled on about Vinyl Scratch, Light Barrier sighed to himself. "I shouldn't even be talking. I should hate this pony, she's why I am here… but what the Tartarus. Gonna die, might as well try to enjoy myself while I can."

"Ponyally, I think the ninja class is overpowered," Pinkie was gabbing, "but I'd really like to make my main a samurai, now that I've seen the history of Equestria. You know about samurai, mister?"

"No, but tell me," Barrier said, letting a small smile creep across his face. "I always did like to learn about other cultures, even if it was forbidden."

Pinkie was rather confused why that would be forbidden, but she continued to talk to Barrier. And talk she did, they were up for hours with her talking all about Equestria's history, Coltari games, the best mix of sprinkles on frostings, and family.

Barrier didn't have much to say about his family, he barely remembered them since he was drafted. Though when Pinkie encouraged him to recall the times they had, he felt his shoulders slump, not to mention his heart plummet.

"Oh no," he said. "I was resigned to my fate… until now. I want to see them again! I want them to know I went down fighting, not like this!"

"What are you talking about?"

Before he could answer, the door into the jail cells swung open. Armored earth ponies, carrying black bags and rope, entered and started to unlock the jail cells. Light Barrier tried to fight back, but a blow across his face laid him flat.

Pinkie watched as the earth ponies slipped the cloth bag over his head, blinding him. They tied the rope around his neck, not enough to choke him but securing the bag on his head. She could hear the same happening to the other unicorns.

That's when the earth ponies opened her cell, and headed for her. One of the armored ponies started to say, "Don't try anything funny-"

"I always try something funny!"

Pinkie's exclamation caught the pony-at-arms off-guard, and he took a hoof right under his jaw. She stomped on his left fore hoof, which wasn't armored. The chain mail and plate he was wearing didn't leave her much option, but she was working well with what she had.

With a back hoof attack, she knocked him to the side of her cell, against the wall. Bouncing off him, she back-kicked the second guard to try and suppress her, sending him sprawling out of her cage.

"That's right! You noobs are giving cheap experience, but I'll take it!"

A third guard, wearing leather armor, came rushing at her. The party pony watched her spin around, then she felt her eyes flutter in unison.

Unaware of what this Pinkie Sense meant, she leaned away from the bucking pony. Good thing too, she almost took a couple hooves to the face. With a victorious cackle, Pinkie brought her forelegs down on the pony's backside, and pinned her down.

"Buh-bye now!"

She leapt over the third guard, but failed to swish her tail out of grasp. Using her teeth, the third guard chomped down on her tail, and yanked Pinkie back towards her. Forced to the ground, the other ponies pounced on her.

"Aw drat," Pinkie cursed. "I hate quick-time events!"

"Can we gag her too?" one of the guards grumbled.

The soldier ponies did indeed tie a rope around Pinkie's mouth before putting the blinding hood back on her. She couldn't see where she was going, as the guards forced her along the way by tugging at the rope tied around her neck. The humor she had managed earlier felt like it was melting with every tug.

"Not good, not good," she thought bitterly to herself. "You let yourself get caught so early on, Pinkie, and you aren't a princess, so no pony's going to come rescuing you."

The walk was long, and soon, she heard ponies talking from close by. Pinkie couldn't make out their words exactly, the hood muffled her hearing as well; however, she could tell none of it was pleasant.

She heard jeering, then the sound of food splattering. Unlike the sound of her dropping it carelessly back home, this sounded like it was violently hurled at somepony. The pony in front of her was hit, and Pinkie could smell watermelon in the air.

Her Pinkie Sense let her duck when something was going to hit her head, but when her guard tightened his grip on the rope on her neck, she was hit by an orange. She could feel a dull throb of pain, stinging from the juice left over.

Pinkie wanted to tell the ponies to stop wasting good food, then ask why they were throwing it at her. She would have if she didn't have this rope around her mouth. It was hard for her to choose which was worse due to the gag: that she couldn't talk to the ponies, or that she couldn't eat the food thrown at her.

The forced walk was starting to hurt her feet, not used to trotting normally on such a rough, dirt road. The angry crowd at all sides was growing louder, and then she felt herself being led on a grass field. Before she could enjoy the cool feel on her sore feet, she was led up a wooden stairway.

When she trotted on what sounded to be a wooden platform, she was aggressively pushed down on her rear knees and formed to raise her forelegs. Ropes were tied around her forearms, raised her up in a submissive pose. Pinkie started to feel a cold sweat gathering on her brow, especially with how loud and awful the crowd in front of her sounded to be.

Pinkie Pie waited, and waited, and waited. She tried humming herself to calm down, but that wasn't working. She tried twitching her head around to turn the music back on, if that was indeed where it was coming from. She wanted something, anything, to drown out the jeering cries of the audience.

Then the music turned on inside her head. And she tried desperately shook her head to make it stop…

The crowd stopped jeering and shouting cruel taunts, and then started cheering. Before Pinkie could wonder what was going on, the hood was untied and yanked off her.

As her poofy mane sprung free, she quickly examined her surroundings. She was kneeling on her hind legs on a large wooden platform, one that was stained rather badly with a dark red substance. Her forelegs were being held up and wide open, tied to a couple posts with very strong rope.

The enormous crowd of ponies, the vast majority earth ponies with some pegasi speckled among them. Some were wearing armor, some casual clothing, all looked thrilled. Pinkie Pie could see a large city in the distance; was that where she was being held before, in the jail?

When she glanced to her left, she saw pastures of green, and a wide river, one she had failed to hear until now. The water coasted at a gentle pace, seemingly out of place in this hostile area.

Looking over at her right, the three unicorns were tied up and held in position the same way she was. They were glaring at either the crowd, or the small collection of earth ponies that were standing on the platform with them. One of those ponies was Apple Fritter, wearing armor but no helmet. Another pony, also armored, was one she didn't know.

She did know the one waving to the crowd, and it made her heart skip a beat. The crimson plate armor with chain link, the armored version of a cowpoke's hat, even the eyepatch couldn't hide who it was.

"Ahffulffkk!" Pinkie Pie screamed, struggling to free herself from her bonds to go to Applejack. When she attempted to stand, one of the guards pushed her down.

"Applejack, it's you," she thought. "That has to be you, I'd recognize those freckles on that orange face anywhere! Even with your mane down, I know it's you! Are you okay?
"Oh no… what happened to your eye, Applejack? What happened? Did you hurt herself? You look like a pirate farm pony now… heeheehee! Applejack, hybrid classes are tricky in these games, you know? Pirate farmer, how fun!"

Applejack silenced the crowd after a few more seconds of cheering, a simple gesture that calmed a crowd of what looked to be thousands of ponies.

"Members of House Earthborn," she shouted, her voice loud and proud enough to reach even the back of the crowd, "citizens of New Ponyville! Ah am sure y'all are aware of tha battle that is going on currently!"

Positive shouts and battle cries rippled throughout the audience. Applejack again motioned for silence. "Currently, Apple General Big Macintosh and General Cloud Kicker have chased after House Moon & Star, and we will not allow another set back! We will crush tha self-appointed unicorns, an' any pony or monster that stands in our way!"

The audience roared again. Pinkie stared in confusion at Applejack. Her mind raced so hard over all this new information, she couldn't mentally comprehend Applejack was speaking like that.

"And yet!" Applejack shouted, gesturing at the four ponies tied up on the platform. "They continue their cowardly attempts on our leaders, on our family! We lost many good soldiers today, an' Ah will not stand fer this."

From the audience, one of the ponies hurled a rock at Luster Mind, hitting him in the face. The earth pony, with tears in her eyes, shrieked, "That was for my brother, you horned monster!"

"Settle down, please," Applejack called out. A couple guards headed over to the earth pony, but AJ motioned for them to stop. "It has occurred to me that you all crave blood, vengeance, and most of all, justice!

"After all, who is it that burns our troops alive like if it was a hobby? Who enslaves earth ponies and pegasi, who insists on being superior as they tear our world apart? As they rape Equestria and claim that we are inferior?

"WE ARE EQUESTRIA!" Applejack bellowed, slamming one of her hooves on the platform.

"WE ARE EQUESTRIA!" The audience replied so fervently and loud, Pinkie felt her mane being blown backwards.

"And that's why Ah want all of you to watch this," Applejack declared. "Ah want all of you to see what happens, to refresh your drive for this war. We will not win it until every pony and buffalo is behind our cause one hundred percent!"

Applejack approached Luster Mind, with Apple Fritter and the other pony not far behind. The leader of the unicorn trio snarled as the orange earth pony trotted up to him, never losing eye contact with the one-eyed Apple General.

When they were face to face, Applejack raised her right foreleg and twitched it around a quarter rotation. A metal blade, smooth and oiled slick, slid out from under her armor. It seemed to rest comfortably on top of Applejack's foreleg, as she brought the point dangerously close to Luster Mind's eye.

"Name and rank, unicorn," Applejack said, her hoof blade circling in front of Luster's eye, outlining his pupil.

He pulled back to avoid the blade, and she brought it closer. Finally, he strained to say, "Luster Mind, special forces to Grand Inquisitor Trixie Lulamoon."

"You are aware of what happens to unicorns in our territory, are you not, Luster Mind?"

Luster was brave enough to frown at her. "I do."

"Then Ah would like you to tell me, and all these ponies something."

Applejack tapped her hoof blade on the iron wrap around his horn. The vibrations must have been painful, as Luster Mind winced as if having a nerve pinched. He managed a snarl at her, before she continued.

"Tell everypony here just how you got the information on my Apple General," she ordered. The tapping increased, and though Luster managed to keep a strong face, the pain and annoyance were in his eyes.

"You really think I am so stupid?" he spat at Applejack. He glanced at the hoof blade, saying, "All that awaits me is death, one way or another. I'm not telling you pack of rampaging barbarians anything. You hear?"

"Ah hear."

And she punctured his eye with her hoof blade.

Pinkie Pie screamed against her gag, trying to free herself again. She had just seen Applejack stab a pony in the eye. Her heart, mind, and pulse were all racing so fast, she was afraid the rush would make her pass out.

Luster Mind screamed in agony at first, then hissed in air several times. He was trying to stay firm, letting out moans and grunts, but managing to keep his remaining eye on Applejack's. Blood and fluids oozed freely down his face, down his neck, staining his robes.

"You… will not," he hissed in-between pained gasps, "get anything from me, traitor to the throne. Heretics like you… don't deserve… anything."

"You're going ta use that word, are you?" Applejack said with a sneer. She turned towards the audience, waving the stained hoof blade in the air. "This unicorn calls us heretics! Tell me, House Earthborn, is there any god or deity to which we should bow down to?"


"No, there is not!" she bellowed. "We were the ones lied to, misled! And here you have a member of House Moon & Star, telling us that we are sinners for believing in the greatest hoax of them all."

"Heretic!" Luster Mind shouted. "Celestia will burn you to ashes when she returns-"

Applejack spun around and stabbed him through his foreleg. He strained not to scream, but she twisted it, and his cry of agony was released. When he threw his head back, shrieking as Applejack twisted the blade further, blood flew from his punctured eye.

And the audience was applauding and cheering all the while.

Pinkie was glancing between Applejack torturing Luster Mind, and the happy audience. "No no no," she thought desperately. "Stop applauding, stop laughing, STOP CHEERING! This is not a good thing! This is evil!

"Applejack! What are you doing?! Stop! STOP! This isn't you!"

Psy Coat was shrieking at Applejack to stop, to leave her squad leader alone. One of the Earthborn troops bucked her in the stomach, knocking the wind out of her. "I tire of your insults," the guard spat as Psy tried not to pass out herself.

Applejack shanked Luster Mind in all of his legs, careful not to hit any arteries. His light blue coat now seemed dark, with how much blood had seeped into it. He let his head hang, his crimson life force still dripping from his split eye. The mage hat on his head fell off, and Applejack stomped on it.

"Ah am going to ask you one more time, ya filthy unicorn," Applejack shouted. Her available fore hoof grabbed his mane and yanked him up to stare into her eye. "Tell everypony here how you knew about our attack! Tell us, and Ah'll make this quick on you, an' yur troops."

Luster Mind licked at his blood that had trailed into his mouth, then spat it in her face. Applejack didn't even flinch at this, nor did she stop staring at him when her hoof blade flashed twice.

Pinkie hadn't even seen AJ's hoof move, there was just a glint of steel twice over, then nothing. Then Luster Mind's horn fell off his head, and blood started spilling from a deep cut in his neck.

He fell forward, gasping and gurgling in pain, flinching violently. His horn rolled underneath him, as if to taunt him that it had been severed. As blood flowed down his chest, Psy Coat and Light Barrier averted their eyes, and the audience cheered loudly.

Applejack grunted in annoyance as she stepped away from the dying leader, flicking the blood off her hoof blade. "Next one, then."

When she approached Psy Coat, the unicorn screamed at her. "I will never tell you anything either! Glory to Celestia and Luna! Though I die today, I know one day, you will die by the fires of righteousness!"

Applejack stepped forward, and Pinkie felt her heart hammering inside her chest. The party pony had felt the world had stopped when she saw Applejack murder a pony, so ruthlessly too. Now she was mentally chanting for AJ to stop, to not hurt this unicorn.

"You say righteousness?" Applejack asked Psy Coat.

Before the unicorn could answer, Applejack jammed her hoof blade into Psy's chest. She cried out, ground her teeth to stop from making more noises, and tried to stare down Applejack.

"You are evil monsters," she spat.

"We are tha evil ones?!"

Applejack stabbed deeper into Psy Coat, as the unicorn screamed, unable to hold back. "Who was it," the earth pony commander shouted, "that lied to us all our lies?"

She pulled the hoof blade out, and shanked Psy Coat again. "Who was it that cast away tha other Elements of Harmony, destroying them?"

Another puncture in Psy Coat made the unicorn spit up blood. "Who was it that enslaved our kind, tortured our ponies, and ripped the Cutie Marks frum our flanks?"

Applejack didn't stop stabbing the unicorn, even as Psy Coat's eyes rolled up into her head and sank into the fatal, impalements.

"Who is it that's tearin' apart our world? Who destroyed Ponyville? Who are tha real monsters?!"

Applejack paused for one moment in the midst of her skewering flurry to lop off Psy Coat's horn. She was dead by now, unable to feel the loss her magical appendage. Applejack pulled her hoof blade from the body, and turned to the audience; they were in a combination of giddiness and shock.

"Let it be known here an' now," Applejack, blood splattered all over her, cried out to the pony crowd, "that what we do is because our enemy has no honor, no dignity, an' are tha true monsters of this war!"

The Earthborn audience burst into roaring agreement. Pinkie felt tears stinging her eyes, then run down her face as the audience's approval seemed to echo forever in her head.

Applejack turned back to the prisoners, marching up to Light Barrier. The unicorn had lost a great deal of color in his face, staring at the suspended bodies of his former soldiers. When the earth pony commander forced his head to turn with her hoof blade, he flinched at how much blood was on her face.

"Now, final member of this little patrol," Applejack said. "Tell me what Ah want ta know, an' Ah may make this gentle on you."

Pinkie let out a muffled scream of, "No!" shaking her head back and forth. Applejack gave her a moment's glance, then returned her gaze to Light Barrier.

His eyes kept darting between her and his dead comrades. Seeing them hanging on the ropes, bleeding from fatal wounds. He was picturing himself like that now, and it broke him.

"The… the plan came from…"

He stammered, swallowing nervously as he glanced up at the sun. "Oh, Celestia, forgive me…"

"No mentioning her," Applejack ordered. Her hoof blade left a slender cut on his foreleg. "Now tell me what I want to know."

Wincing at the slice, he breathed deeply as he prepared to talk. With one glance at his dead comrades, he began to say, "We learned that…"

Then he glanced at Pinkie Pie, who was still fighting her bounds. The tears in her eyes, the frantic movements to be freed, it seemed to stop his words. When he spoke again, Applejack had to lean in to hear his whisper.

Then he swung his head up at her, trying to catch her one eye with his horn. It was a clutch shot, but she had been expecting it. Applejack leapt back to avoid the attack, and the horn passed by without harm.

"You know, Ah think you may talk," Applejack said, as she lifted her left foreleg, "after Ah've ripped tha truth out of you."

A hoof blade extended from Applejack's other armor sleeve, and both of her weapons gleamed in the sun. She began slicing and slashing at Light Barrier, the damage not visible at first.

Then Pinkie saw blood on him. Cuts were spreading all over his body, his coat becoming spotted with his life fluid. Applejack was cutting him apart, very slowly and meticulously.

Light Barrier began thrashing in pain. He twisted and writhed against his bonds, gasping and screaming. Pinkie Pie was shrieking against her gag for Applejack to stop, so desperate that she scraped her tongue raw against the rope; her throat was giving out on how hard she was screaming muffled

He felt apart in front of her eyes. His ears were sliced off, bits of his mane and legs were cut away, and then, as blood stained his coat all over, the gashes spread to more fatal areas. His chest and throat were cut open, leaving him gasping hard to breathe.

Applejack stopped her cutting then, and retracted one of her hoof blades with a quarter-inch rotation in the other direction. "Now tell me, unicorn! Tell me and Ah will ease your pain."

Light Barrier raised his head slowly. Blood seemed to cover his face, Pinkie couldn't recognize him in a physical sense anymore. As his life force was escaping from an uncountable number of cuts, he managed to choke out some words.

"M-my parents… wuh-were Shiny Orb and… P-Pearl Drop. I was born in Canterlot… and I fight… for House Moon & Star.

"Although… I always wanted," he said, glancing up at the sun as Applejack raised her hoof blade, "to be a musician instead."

She stabbed him through the throat, then slashed off his horn. He died within seconds of the two attacks, and the audience cheered loudly again. Pinkie collapsed, as much as she could in her restraints.

Applejack again flicked off the blood from her blade, holding it up to the audience as they stamped and shouted their approval. Finally, she walked over to Pinkie Pie.

It was only then that they could truly see each other, and Applejack boggled at her; she wasn't able to hide her own shock, even to the terrified, pink prisoner.

Applejack was much older than her, that was obvious. Pinkie's face was stained with tears, and not the kind of tears she let fly when something emotional was happening, but the true kind that came when there was real pain, real hurting. Pinkie right now wanted to crawl up in a ball and sob for hours.

"Who are you?" Applejack asked.

Pinkie didn't even look at her. The commander growled in frustration, but then realized that Pinkie was still gagged. Trying to hide this blunder of hers, Applejack faced the audience.

"Ah'm sure most of you do not know who this mare is trying to represent," she declared. "After all, most of you were not citizens of Ponyville, an' no pony has seen the alleged leader of tha Cult of Laughter."

Confused murmurs ran through the crowd. Applejack hung her head for a moment; this wasn't going to be easy, even for her, to say.

"This mare, who was found attacking the same outpost as those unicorns, is imitating Pinkie Pie: tha former Element of Laughter, and alleged leader of tha Cult of Laughter!"

Gasps of shock could be heard, and then shouts of outrage. Every pony in the crowd knew full well about the Cult, and every single one of them feared as well as hated the abominations that had followed. Applejack decided to feed that hatred.

"Y'all know what tha Cult of Laughter is capable of. Necromancy, brainwashin', torture, sadistic experiments, and atrocities that make the enemy houses look like child's play, even House Moon & Star!"

She stomped her free foreleg, pointing at Pinkie with her hoof blade. "Is this tha work of tha sadistic Cult? Is it tha work of anothur enemy, tryin' ta undermine our morale? Ah don't know myself, but together, as one, we will force tha truth out o' 'er."

Applejack nodded to one of the guards, and he untied Pinkie Pie's gag. She coughed and spat out the sour saliva in her mouth that had been building up.

"Now," Applejack started, "impostor-"

"You're not Applejack," Pinkie shrieked, startling everypony around her. "The real Applejack doesn't murder ponies! She wouldn't kill her fellow pony! Who are you?"

Applejack blinked. She really had not been expecting this. "Well… it seems you are a member of tha Cult," she said, "or yur average deranged pony."

"I'm not talking to you, Fake AJ! I want out of this game! I want back to last save! Restart! Reload!"

Pinkie struggled at her bonds, including trying to gnaw at the ropes. The guard nearby held her still, as she continued by shouting, "I don't even own a Coltari, but I sure as sugar cookies am not going to buy one now! If you're an example, maybe there is too much violence in games nowadays, Fake AJ!"

Applejack blinked some more. She turned to Apple Fritter and the pony Pinkie didn't recognize, and asked, "Do either of you have any idea what in tarnation she is yammering about?"

They shook their heads, and the commander let out a frustrated sigh. She approached Pinkie again, and lifted her hoof blade at her throat. "Who are you?"

"I'm Pinkie Pie, Fake A-"

"Ah am going to cut out your eye," Applejack hissed, circling the blade around Pinkie's right eye, "if ya keep up this farce. Now tell me, who are you?"

"I am Pinkemena Diane Pie, a.k.a Pinkie Pie," she exclaimed defiantly. "You want proof, Fake AJ? You're Applejack of Sweet Apple Acres! You have a big brother named Big Macintosh, and a little sister named Apple Bloom who is desperately trying to get her Cutie Mark with her friends Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo!

"You lost your parents when you were little, and you've been running the farm ever since! You once tried to harvest all the apples yourself, you were so stubborn; you even gave me baked bads when you were punch-drunk loopy!

"That's your cousin over there, Apple Fritter," Pinkie carried on, a small head nod towards the green-maned pony; Fritter blinked at being addressed. "She lives in Ponyville too! She's a little sweet on Cloud Kicker, even though she really hopes that Blossomforth will grow some guts and admit her true feelings for Kicker!"

Fritter gasped in shock, covering her mouth with her hoof. Applejack glanced between her and Pinkie Pie, also confused, her mouth hung open slightly.

"And speaking of love lives," Pinkie exclaimed, looking back at Applejack, "even if you're Fake AJ, you would know that Big Mac was dating Cheerilee!

"And you! You, my fake impostor murderer, you had a crush! You had a crush on a certain somepony that we all knew about, but you didn't-"

Applejack punched Pinkie Pie across the face. It was the hardest blow Pinkie had ever received, it left her mind reeling and dazed. A couple teeth had been knocked out, she tasted blood in her mouth.

And the Supreme Commander didn't stop there. With her hoof blades retracted, she decked Pinkie, over and over again, slugging her in the face, the chest, the head. Pinkie could only feel pain, and yet, the worst part of the pain was that it was somepony resembling Applejack that was doing this to her.

Applejack finally stopped when Apple Fritter pulled her back. Pinkie slumped as much as she could when tied up like she was. Teeth and blood filled her mouth, and she spat them out; she had no idea how many she lost, she couldn't even see properly, or even count.

Her chest and face felt like somepony had taken a sledgehammer to them, and the throbbing agony was making her shiver. As she ran her tongue against her teeth, trying to guess how many she had lost, Apple Fritter was desperately trying to calm Applejack.

"Stop this, Supreme Commander, yur gonna kill 'er," Apple Fritter shouted, pushing her leader back.

Applejack fought against her, until eventually, she collected herself. Breathing heavily, she glanced at the audience. All of the ponies were staring in shock and confusion, not entertainment like it had been for the unicorns. This was not a good position for her, but she knew how to recover from this.

"House Earthborn, subjects and soldiers," she shouted out as she walked to center stage, "Ah am sorry, but Ah lost mah composure there. Because this mare, this awful being has fully convinced me that she is a diabolical impostor, a wicked attempt to undermine mah confidence.

"We know what happened," she continued, "on that fateful day when Twilight Sparkle messed with magic she never should have set hoof and horn on. And so, she, or the Cult, or sum' other force has decided to make a mock representation of a friend of mine, a good pony!

"But Ah am not so easily tricked!"

She unsheathed her hoof blade, and approached Pinkie Pie. "Because Ah know that this is some kind of sick joke, and only a sick joke find this funny!"

Applejack lifted her foreleg. Pinkie Pie stared at her, pain and confusion evident in her eyes. The Supreme Commander didn't hear Apple Fritter call out to her, pleading with her to wait.

A flash of steel, and suddenly Pinkie Pie felt a kind of suffering like she never could imagine. Her left forearm felt like it was on white-hot fire, and she screamed, once. Panting hard, she glanced to see how bad it was.

Her foreleg was dangling on the post that had been holding her up. Pinkie stared at it, unable to fathom what she was seeing, even as blood ran down the stump on her side. She started to black out, breathing hard to endure the terrible pain.

Then a strange goo was applied to the critical wound. It stung worse than a thousand bees, burning against the bleeding stump. She shrieked in agony, as it felt like acid eating away at her. Pinkie collapsed against the post she was still tied to, sobbing uncontrollably.

A guard pony near her, holding a jar of the green salve, applied it generously to the awful wound. It was helping to heal the amputation, but, like most medicine, stung when applied. The bleeding stopped, and the nerve endings stopped sending intense messages of pain to the brain; however, the feedback of the salve, as it were, was almost as great as the injury.

"Twice as good as cauterizing, our healing salve," Applejack noted, with a sneer. "Ya wouldn't believe how long we've worked on this, a natural solution of first-aid ta beat those bastard unicorns. Actually, we shouldn't be wasting this precious salve on ya, but Ah wouldn't want ya ta die too soon; Ah still have questions fer ya."

"Supreme Commander Applejack," Fritter exclaimed, approaching her leader, "please! This isn't right!"

"You want mercy fer this impostor?" Applejack asked her, her eye not leaving Pinkie. "She is an evil tool."

"She saved tha life of mah soldiers, and mahself! Why would an enemy agent save us, then be captured?"

"Because she wanted ta see me."

The commander glanced at the amputated, pink foreleg. "This way, Ah would have to see her face-to-face. Whoever did this wants me to falter. Apple Fritter, you know just as well as Ah do, this isn't Pinkie."

"It isn't The Laughing Mare either," Apple Fritter said, narrowing her eyes, "or any Cultist. They are a crazed bunch of lunatics, not like that!"

She approached Pinkie Pie, who was shaking in agony, sobbing, looking close to either fainting or throwing up. "So then, what have you ta say 'bout that, "Pinkie Pie"?"

Pinkie's mind was a spinning mess, all the emotions in the world trying to dominate. Anyone who knew Pinkie knew that she, in her darkest hours, would subvert to being as goofy as possible to hide the pain she was going through.

Whether it was the frustration of babysitting two rowdy twins, under the impression her friends hated her parties, fear of being sent into a magical pool by accident, terror of dangling on the side of a cliff by a single branch with a unicorn hanging onto her legs, or believing she had ruined her sister's band, Pinkie Pie would always be Pinkie Pie.

1.) "I always knew you had a disarming disposition, Pinkie Pie!"

2.) "You said you were going to take out my eye! Bait and switch doesn't suit you, AJ!"

3.) Quote it. You know you want to.

"This is," Pinkie managed to choke out, glancing between her amputated arm and Applejack. She gagged, coughed, and then managed the smallest of smiles. "Tis' but a scratch!"

Applejack's good eye twitched, and she pointed her hoof blade at her. "Cultist! Foul, disgusting monster! Ah am going to take you apart piece by piece!"

"No, wait," Apple Fritter pleaded. The other pony held her back, and she shouted, "General Tree Branch, let me go!"

"House Earthborn," Applejack shouted to the audience, "we are going to dispose of tha sick cultist who has infiltrated us today! If tha Cult of Laughter finds pain so funny, let's see if they find their own amputations humorous!"

"Only a flesh wound," Pinkie babbled, eyes rolling around in her head, unfocused and loopy. Her pain, even if it was subsiding, was making her delirious. She giggled in her unbalanced state.

"If you think it's so funny," she advanced on Pinkie while saying, "then let's see how much ya like more of it!"

Pinkie hiccuped, and her delirium faded when she saw the one-eyed, furious version of her close friend advancing on her. "No, Applejack," she whimpered, humor gone and replaced with shock. "No, don't do it!"

Applejack pointed at Pinkie Pie's left hind leg, and lifted her killer blade. The audience let out cheers of anticipation.

"AJ, don't do this!"

"Begging now?" Applejack spat out with a smirk. "Ah knew cultists can be schizophrenic, but not so quickly-"

"Don't let yourself do this!!"

The air seemed to split from her desperate cry, causing Applejack to flinch. Pinkie swung her remaining foreleg at her. The wooden post it was tied to cracked in half, and the rope split at the strands. Pinkie's hoof whacked Applejack in the side of the head, sending the Supreme Commander sprawling across the stage.

As Pinkie stumbled back, Apple Fritter and Tree Branch helped Applejack up. Before any of them, the guards, or the audience could react, the sound of whipping wind could be heard above them.

One guard, the one that had been suppressing Pinkie when she was struggling, glanced upward. A spear imbedded into his eye, cutting all the way into the brain. The pegasus yanked out her weapon from the dead pony-at-arms, and spun it around.

"Go for the generals," Scootaloo shouted, as more pegasi came darting down. "Eliminate the enemy leaders!


"Pegasi attack," Apple Fritter shouted. "House Earthborn, defensive positions!"

Loud horns sounded off nearby and up in the sky, belonging to both Earthborn and Stormwing. Earth ponies, the ones armored, leapt to action as the unarmed earth ponies fled back to the city.

"Air raid," Applejack shouted. "House Earthborn, stand yur ground an' bring them down!"

One of the pegasus hoplites dive-bombed at the leader of Earthborn. She received a vicious bucking from Apple Fritter, knocking her to the other side of the platform. Pinkie Pie scrambled away from the pegasus, who struggled back to her hooves.

All around them, pegasi were attacking earth ponies, and winning. The earth ponies swung and bucked at the flying attackers, but they were too agile to be struck. Ponies-at-arms were being slain, being stabbed in vital areas that their armor didn't protect.

Applejack glanced all over the now-battlefield, and settled on Pinkie Pie. "Stop her," she shouted. "Do not let that impostor get away!"

Scootaloo, who had killed another Earthborn trooper as Applejack shouted, glanced over at where the leader was pointing. The Wind Captain's eyes widened as she saw the pink mare. "Wha… what? Is that-"

A mass of brown feathers and armor landed on the platform, splintering the wood. The gryphon raised her head as she stared down Applejack and the two generals. It let out a feral snarl, and leapt at the supreme commander.

General Tree Branch intercepted the attack, deflecting the gryphon's steel-like talons with his own hoof blade. Even with its size and strength, the gryphon was being parried swing for swing by the Earthborn General. The battle continued as Apple Fritter hurried Applejack away, keeping her leader safe.

The pegasus hoplite had recovered from the bucking, and was now staring down Pinkie Pie. As the Stormwing warrior started to bear down on the three-legged pony, Pinkie felt mortal fear nearly paralyze her body.

"No no," she cried out, "stay away from me!"

"I don't know why they're executing you," the hoplite said, holding up her spear, "but let me finish that job, earth pony."

Pinkie had reached the edge of the platform, fearing to fall off. Her eyes narrowed on that spear, the steel gleaming wickedly, the wooden pole secure in the pegasus's hooves.


Pinkie Pie reached into her mane, and pulled out what looked like a shoulder-mounted party cannon. The pink metal had a particular luster that was blinding even without the sun shining on it. It was large enough, but just barely, for a pony to squeeze in there. Pinkie had her remaining foreleg on what looked like a trigger.

"You wanna use a pointed stick? Say hello," Pinkie exclaimed, "to my little, anti-pointed stick device!"

"The hay?!" the pegasus shouted, freezing where she stood.

Two Earthborn soldiers, who were defending the platform, noticed this. "What in Tartarus," one of them declared. "You told me you frisked her before we arrested her! How did you miss that?"

"Miss that? How in Tartarus did she store that anywhere on her?!"

Applejack saw it from far off. Her eye widened, jaw dropping. Even with Apple Fritter and her soldiers helping her away to safety, she could see this.

"No," Applejack thought. "No, no pony could pull something… that thing… out of nowhere… except… NO!"

"Stand back," Pinkie half-shouted, half-begged. "I'm warning you, I turned up the Pinkie Pie Bazooka to the max, and if I have to shoot you, I will!"

The pegasus hoplite hesitated, then scoffed. "Yeah, right, you couldn't have any ammo in that thing if you stored it in your mane! Nice bluff!"

With a flap of her wings, the pegasus launched herself at Pinkie, and unknown to both of them, a second pegasus was dive-bombing the pink mare from the side, hoping to catch the pink mare in a side attack. Pinkie squeezed the trigger.

And a plushie imitation of Pinkie flew out of the bazooka.

The fake Pinkie Pie impacted with the pegasus hoplite, exploding into confetti, balloons, and other random party decorations. The real Pinkie was catapulted backwards, off the platform and crashing against the riverbank. The second pegasus attacking her crashed into the platform, unable to stop when his target had rocketed away.

The pegasus hoplite blasted by the bazooka's unusual round was sent skidding across the platform, dazed out of her mind. She couldn't even tell what way the sky was after a hit like that.

As the horns that echoed with the explosion sound died down, Pinkie Pie tried to sit up. "Oh Celestia, what a launch… my anti-pointed stick device is more powerful than I remember… that's good bazooka…"

She struggled on three hooves, but before she could assemble herself, she was yanked upwards and into the air. Pinkie's bazooka vanished when its owner was taken away.

The pink mare was lifted skyward, the speed of which she was being carried giving her a touch of vertigo. When her kidnapper stopped the ascension, she was slammed against a tight-packed cloud, thick enough to support an earth pony.

"Oh, no more," Pinkie cried out as the impact jarred her. "Stop! Please, whoever you… are…"

Pinkie Pie found herself staring at another of her friends with only one good eye. Rainbow Dash, dressed in shining armor, was squinting hard at Pinkie with both eyes, though the red orb that was a mass of scars was twitching uncontrollably.

"D-Dashie?" Pinkie exclaimed in surprise. The claw scars over Dash's left eye was just as horrifying as the burn-scarred side of her pegasus friend's face. She glanced down that horrible side, which disappeared into her chest armor, highlighted with a lightning bolt emblem.

The wind blew around them, the frigid air ruffling the crest of Rainbow's helmet and her prismatic tail and mane. Her jaw had dropped, and the hoof holding her spear quivered.

"No," Rainbow Dash said, shaking as she stared at Pinkie Pie. "No, you can't be-"

"It's me, Dashie!"


Rainbow screamed at the top of her lungs, jumping away from Pinkie. Her expression went from incredulous shock to primal outrage. With a furious war cry, she flew back at Pinkie, spear at the ready.

Pinkie tried to stop the attack, which wasn't easy on her back. Her stump wiggled as she tried to lift the foreleg that wasn't there anymore. Thus, she only managed to smack the spear upwards with her other foreleg.

It wasn't a fast enough parry.

Pinkie felt an intense pain up across her face, and blood splashed her. Her vision went blurry, then narrowed. She couldn't see through her left eye.

Her face was bleeding so badly, her mind started to chant, "Gonna die, gonna die!" She tried to crawl away on the cloud, as Rainbow Dash landed on it. "Gonna die!"

"Get back here," Dash screamed, spit flying from her mouth in her outrage. She charged at Pinkie across the cloud.

"Dashie is trying to kill me! DASHIE IS TRYING TO KILL ME!"

With a mighty push, Pinkie heaved herself off the cloud and down towards the earth. She saw the sky above her as she fell, Rainbow Dash chasing after her. Her own blood leaving a tiny trail, falling down after her facial wound.

The fall would have been fatal or incapacitating at the height Rainbow Dash had taken her, but she landed in the river. Pinkie was almost knocked out from the impact, but the cool water seemed to wake her up too. She saw a spear head stabbing into the water, but missed as Pinkie paddled down deeper into the river.

Pinkie allowed the current take her away, the water stained with her blood. She held her breath for as long as she could, which was a rather long time; it was one of those things that baffled her friends, how Pinkie could hold her breath for an unordinary amount of time.

When she submerged, Rainbow Dash was nowhere in sight. She was far away from the platform where she lost her foreleg. The earth ponies and pegasi were still fighting and killing each other. Even though it was far away, Pinkie saw two earth pony guards beating to death somepony on the platform; it was probably the one she had hit with the Pinkie Pie Bazooka.

"I let another pony die in my place."

That realization was enough for her to lose consciousness. She floated on her back down the river, carried away from the violence and death, or at least just this battle.

House Stormwing retreated with a blast of their war horn, gone as fast as they had come. Three of their warriors were dead, which was disastrous, even compared to the twenty-one dead Earthborn soldiers.

Applejack, Tree Branch, and Apple Fritter had retreated to Hoof Down Tower, where the guards all set up a secure defense in case of a second attack; Stormwing was known for psyching out their enemies, tricking them into letting down their defenses and then flying back down for another strike attack.

Rainbow Dash and her soldiers had flown off. When Scootaloo tried to talk to her leader, all Dash would say was, "It couldn't have been her, it couldn't have. What in feathering Tartarus is going on today?!"

Applejack was saying something similar, punching a table as she cursed her frustrations. Apple Fritter tried to calm her down, even though she was in as much turmoil as her leader.

"That had to have been a cultist," Applejack tried to reason. "There's no other reason! That's why she was flip-flopping emotionally!"

"But," Apple Fritter stammered, "when she was begging ya ta stop… it didn't seem like that."

"There's nothing else it could 'ave been, Fritter," her commander shouted. "Ponies only beg you ta stop hurting them because they don't want ya ta hurt them anymore!"

As Applejack stormed off, cursing, Apple Fritter sat down on her flank, staring at the floor. "Unless," she thought to herself, "it was not because she didn't want you ta stop hurting her… it was that she didn't want ta see you doing it."

Pinkie was still drifting down Shattered Care River on her back, the left side of her face submerged in the water. Her face had stopped bleeding, and the cut had, though lightly, sealed up. Her eye was a white orb with a thin scar across it, pupil gone.

Shattered Care River, most ponies did not know, shared a connection with the Everfree Forest. The natural remedies, powered by Lady Fluttershy to keep her troops healthy and strong, were coursing through the river. It was like a healing potion being poured into the waters, causing a light healing effect over time.

Though this caused two beings to be rather aware of Pinkie's presence. Lady Fluttershy, who had finished talking to the Everfree Liege, could sense what was floating in the river that had been named after her own actions.

"No," Fluttershy hissed, glaring down at the floor. "No, it must be something else! There's no way it's her!"

The other being to sense Pinkie was Starswirl the Bearded. The ghost of the great unicorn sensed the magical, lingering touches from the earth pony, as if they were fireworks during a pitch black night.

"Egad," he exclaimed, bringing Twilight Sparkle's attention to him. "Gadzooks! Methinks the impossible hath happened!"

"What?" Twilight asked. "What has you so riled, Starswirl?"

"Thou would think I wood, but… belike, the Astral Plane has brought us a visitor hither."


The Archmagister practically galloped to where the ghost was being held. "Starswirl, you mean to tell me a being from the Astral Plane has come here? To Equestria?"

"Nay, not a being that lives in the Astral Plane; the sensing would be much stronger. It is somedeal waning, like something touched by my plane."

"How is this possible?"

"I must inform thee, I have no idea. But, this magic touch has been amplified by the magic of Shattered Care River, making it like a neon sign powering up enow for me to sense."

"I must learn more about this visitor!"

Twilight Sparkle sat down, and magic began to hum around her horn. It grew, more and more powerful, until the magic glow itself was larger than Twilight.

"Careful, do not overdo the spell, Twilight," Starswirl cautioned her.

"I am fine, Starswirl… let me hunt for our Astral Plane guest in silence, I need to focus… this could be the key to everything!"

She continued to channel her spell, hunting for that touch of Astral Plane imprint. Her mind was now a powerful eye across Equestria, peering and staring, hurrying towards Shattered Care River. She began at the start, at Dragonpoint Mountain, where the waters first started flowing.

Scanning down the river, she began her hunt. Twilight focused with all her mind and heart, part of her allowing hope to rise. Thoughts of Celestia and Luna filled her mind, and she wondered, briefly, if this would help her find the princesses.

For a couple hours, Pinkie floated down that river. She drifted into a wooded area she wouldn't have known, called Springtime Forest, and then was washed onto the muddy shore. There she lay, barely breathing, her damaged body splayed like if she was a casualty of war.

As she was unconscious, no pony knows how long she laid there. She was only discovered when a young foal wandered over to the river bank, hoping to find some frogs.

"Doop-dee-doo," he hummed to himself. He was so absorbed in his own song he was making, he didn't noticed Pinkie Pie until he tripped over her.

When he saw the pink mare, he mistook her for a dead body, and screamed. His shrill cries of horror brought several ponies over.

"What's going on?" one adult pony asked. "Is he okay?"

"Stop the boy from screaming," another pony exclaimed. "The diamond dogs will hear!"

"Is that pony dead?"

"Oh dear, I think she is!"

"Wait… is she pink, with a pink mane?"

The ponies, foals and adults, nervously trotted towards Pinkie. When she moaned in her unconscious state, the ponies freaked out.

"Is that one of the undead ponies?"

"Oh no no no, they wouldn't invade here, would they?"

"I'm sorry, mommy! I just wanted to catch frogs!"

As the ponies fretted, some of them running away, one pony swerved through the crowd. "Move," she barked. "Move! Every second counts, ponies!"

She approached the pink mare, her horn glowing with mint-green magic. "There's a pulse," she stated, squatting down next to Pinkie. "She's still alive, but barely. This poor thing… what in Tartarus did she go through?"

"Are you out of your mind?" one of the ponies shouted. There were still a great deal of ponies nearby, some armed with tools and whatever they could get their hooves on. "Do you see who that could possibly be?"

"Excuse me?" the unicorn snapped, narrowing her golden eyes at the pony. "What are you saying?"

"Pink mane, pink coat, mangled body, undead like," the pony listed. She was shaking in fear when she shouted, "That's… that's possibly one of the cultists! It looks like Pinkie Pie!"

"Pinkie Pie?" several ponies exclaimed at once. They clung to each other, or held their tools up like weapons.

"No no no," one pony shouted hysterically. "She came here? The Laughing Mare?!"

"The Cult wouldn't come all the way here, would they?" the young boy asked, clinging to his mother. "Are we in danger?"

"We need to kill it!" A stallion raised a shovel, declaring, "We do it, or the diamond dogs!"

"Everypony calm down," the unicorn near Pinkie barked at the crowd. They did settle down, slightly, and watched as she leaned over the pink pony's body. Her mint green hooves inspected Pinkie, checking out the stump, the slash mark on her face that was poorly healed, and then, her Cutie Mark.

"Balloons," she said to herself, "two baby blue, one yellow." She inspected Pinkie's one good eye. "Blue… the hair… is this… but… what…"

"Hey, Lyra!"

The mint unicorn looked up at the crowd of ponies, who were advancing on her. One in particular dared to trot a little closer. "What are you doing?" Berry Punch asked. "Get away from it! It could be undead or something!"

"No, she's alive," Lyra said. She glanced between her friend and Pinkie. "Please help me out, I need to get her to the emergency room."

"Are you crazy?! Lyra, you know what could happen!"

"Berry, please calm down, you're upsetting the others."

"Yeah, I'm damn right to! A representation of Pinkie Pie shows up, and you want us to bring her into the village? You're crazy!"

"When have I steered you wrong?" Lyra shouted. "Now please! Somepony? Anypony? I need help, I don't want to carry her alone!"

No pony stepped forward. All of them were staring at Lyra, wondering if she had lost her mind. Another pony stepped forward, staring at the unconscious, pink mare.

"Lyra," Colgate said, "we know you are intent on saving others, and bless you for that, but-"

"Please! If I don't get her out of here, she is going to die!"

Berry Punch exchanged nervous glances with Colgate. "Maybe," the blue unicorn said, staring down at the ground, a mixture of guilt and fear in her voice, "it would be best if she did. It could be a blessing to go out without much pain."

Lyra stared back at them, desperate anxiety raising in her. Pinkie let out a feeble moan, as if pleading for help. "Everypony," Lyra called out, "please don't do this! Berry! Colgate? …Bonbon!"

The pale yellow pony trotted through the crowd, coming closer than any of them. She had heard the news when ponies had retreated back to the village, and when she first looked for Lyra, she realized she would be where the injured pony would be.

Though when Bonbon saw Pinkie Pie, she recoiled. "Oh no," she exclaimed. "No no no! Lyra, you cannot be serious!"

"She's going to die!"

"Do you have any idea who or what she could be?"

"She's a dying pony, I know that! What?" she snapped, glaring Bonbon then at the others. "You all think The Laughing Mare is out to attack our town?"

"With all that's happened-"

"Bonbon, I am begging you! Please, I don't believe she's evil!"

Lyra placed one of her hooves over her heart, as if to protect it when she asked, "Don't you trust me?"

Bonbon stared at her for a few seconds. She glanced at the other ponies, some shaking their heads at her. After a few seconds of contemplation on her part, which felt like hours to everypony else, she let out a long sigh.

"With how you've trusted me over all these years," she said, trotting over to Lyra, "I would be a hypocrite not to return it."

Lyra used her magic to hoist Pinkie Pie on Bonbon's back. As they started to walk towards town, the mint-colored unicorn gave her earth pony lover on the cheek. "Thank you."

"This is a mistake," one of the ponies said. She stepped forward, pointing at Lyra. "If anything happens because you brought her in-"

"I will take full consequences."

"Don't forget we have children here! If one so much as gets hurt-"

"Marigold, calm down," Colgate snapped, coming face-to-face with the angry mare. "Lyra has accepted the responsibility. I think you are forgetting how much she has done for us."

This temporarily silenced the mare, and most of the others stared down in shame. Colgate trotted over to Lyra and Bonbon, saying, "If they are going to risk it, then we should have faith in them."

"Hey wait," Berry exclaimed. "A minute ago, you were entirely against this!"

"I am entitled to change my mind," Colgate replied, a slight smile on her face as she walked away with Lyra and Bonbon. "All or nothing, that's what I've always said."

Berry and the others watched them go head back to the town. The magenta earth pony stared for a while, and let out a sigh. "Aw, buck me and my conscience," she muttered to herself before trotting after them.

(In Pinkie Pie's home universe…)

"I do not understand, Sister!"

Princess Luna stomped her hoof in frustration, glaring at the Astral Screen. "Surely, detecting Pinkie Pie should be easy around the universes! How could there be more than one in this many universes?"

"I'm afraid a magical scan for multiple Pinkie Pies is futile," Princess Celestia said with remorse. "This subject has cloned herself with the Miracle Pool, which makes that kind of scan obsolete."

"You mean Pinkie Pie cloned herself in almost every alternate universe?" Twilight asked, her voice falling with the realization.

Celestia was many centuries old, but she was not immune to a pony's suffering. Hearing her favorite student's hope fall and crash, so evident in her voice, was making it hard for the princess to focus.

"I am afraid so, Twilight Sparkle," she said with a sad nod. "Luna, please keep trying to scan the alternate universes, see if you can isolate the Miracle Pool and eliminate it from the scanning. I'll try to narrow down the search to just two, if the spell can be crafted to such a way."

Princess Luna's black magic swirled around her horn. To a magically talented mind like Twilight, the editing and crafting of a spell was evident, even if it was so complicated that Twilight was completely in the dark.

"Has thou never attempted to edit this spell before, sister?" Luna asked.

"No, I considered myself lucky that I could even scan through infinite universes; to complicate a spell that took me so long seemed frivolous. Until now."

Luna nodded, then focused on her magic again. She could practically feel a pair of purple eyes scanning her as she worked. "Staring at me isn't going to make it go by faster, Twilight Sparkle."

"I know, I'm sorry. Just… is there anything I can do to help?"

Celestia answered this. "I'm sorry, Twilight, but again, this spell is incredibly complex. I would rather scan as much as I could, just in case your friend has arrived in a dangerous, alternate reality."

"Is… is that common?"

Again, the princess felt a slight stab at her heart over Twilight's distress. She sighed, and decided to be blunt with her. "From what I have seen, a great deal of our universes are safe, Twilight. The worst a pony would have to deal with there are the turmoils of everyday in Equestria; Pinkie's worst problem there would be ponies confused why there are two of her.

"However, there are some universes that are exceptionally dangerous. Which is why I need to focus."

Twilight opened her mouth, then closed it. Celestia realized her student wanted an example, as the lavender unicorn usually was not satisfied until she could fully grasp a situation.

"Imagine," Celestia spoke, "a world where I am a cruel, evil leader like King Sombra was. Or just imagine one where Sombra succeeded, and spread his hateful magic across all of Equestria. There are places out there where evil reigns, and thus, I want to find to Pinkie as fast as possible."

Twilight nodded, bowing to her princess. "I understand. I'll go talk to my friends, try to calm them down."

"Try to keep yourself calm too, Twilight Sparkle." The princess managed a positive smile, and added, "Luna and I are both on this."

Twilight managed to smile back, then left the room. When she was out of earshot, Luna glimpsed at her sister.

"You have not told her about the subject known as Pinkie Pie's biggest problem that you have discovered?" she asked. "Surely, that would be the greatest predicament we are facing."

"It seemed unnecessary to tell her what her friend is not here. I only pray she never finds out about that malady."

"For what Pinkie Pie has done in other universes, she has been dealt with by the alternate versions of us. If she wound up there, not only would our scan not pick up two Pinkies because-"

"I know that, Luna, but this is already too complicated!"

Celestia's words came out harsher than she meant. She sighed, and said, "The complications have all come to mind. I know how big of a problem I have created, reminding me isn't going to help my focus in fixing it."

In the hallway, Rainbow Dash was pacing a great deal, with Rarity pleading with her to stop. Fluttershy stared at the carpet, with Applejack trying to comfort her. When Twilight came out, they all looked at her in anticipation; the hope fell when she shook her head.

"Sugarcube," Applejack spoke up when Twilight Sparkle sat next to her, "Ah have to know. What exactly are they doing?"

"They're using a magic scan that will see if there are more than one Pinkie Pie in an alternate universe."

"You mean ta tell me the sisters' have enough power to search a whole world?"

"It requires a great deal of magic, so intense that only someone as strong as them could do it," Twilight said.

"Well that makes sense," Rarity spoke up. "I mean, they lift the sun and the moon, I can picture them being able to scan the world in search of a pony."

"The way the scan works," Twilight continued, "it is searching for a pony's soul… think of it like looking through a library, searching all the books, and trying to find two of the same copy."

"Ah ain't much of a reader like you, but Ah got it," Applejack said. "So they're looking for a universe with two of Pinkie's soul?"

"Yes, and no. Remember the Miracle Pool incident, when Pinkie cloned herself?"

"Hard ta remember a thousand Pinkie Pies bouncing around squawkin', "Fun! Fun! Fun," sugar."

"Well, Pinkie didn't lose her soul or anything like that to the Miracle Pool, but the way the magic works is that it magically makes a copy of somepony's soul. The problem with the pool is that it doesn't have the magic potential to, and there's nothing in this world that can, make a proper copy of a pony's soul."

"Is that why," Fluttershy asked, "the clones were pale imitations of Pinkie?"

Twilight nodded, as Applejack struggled to follow this as best she could. "So basically, tha magic scan tha princesses are using cannot tell the difference between this copy the Miracle Pool has stored innit, an' a real Pinkie Pie?"

"It's a very delicate scanning spell that Celestia is still learning, which tells you how complicated it is. Scanning an area for somepony is incredibly complex and intricate.

"If I tried to do a scan for a pony in, say, Ponyville, it could take me an entire day of non-stop focus. Twenty-four straight hours, or more, to scan Ponyville. And even then, I might not find them."

"Why not?"

"Because as strong as the soul of a living being is, it takes the strongest magic to discover its presence. The scan would work much better if your target was tagged or marked with something magical."

"Can't the princesses do somethin' like that?"

Twilight nodded, staring hopefully at the doors to the alternate universe study room. "Celestia told me that Pinkie may have traveled through the Astral Plane, and thus may have lingering, magical touches from such a journey. With that, they should be able to find her."

"I think I found her."

Archmagister Twilight Sparkle opened her eyes, which were glowing with such intense magic that it illuminated the room. She grinned as the magic around her horn, now considerably bigger than her, flashed several times.

"Aha! Yes! Here she is! The markings are still on her! The river's amplification is still there!"

Starswirl the Bearded stroked his facial hair, watching her. "Prithee, what doth thou plan to do?"

"I have studied how to scan a pony's mind to. I will mentally interrogate her for answers once my magic focuses on her mind."

"Will that not be dangerous?"

Twilight shrugged. "For her, maybe."

"What? Why doth thou not care for the safety of this Astral Plane guest? Thou puissant magic could split her mind in twain!"

Sighing regrettably, she muttered, "I know, I know. You are right, Starswirl, I will be careful."

Twilight strained hard, her magic making loud crackling and popping noises. It felt like her mind was being squeezed, like if she was physically trying to stuff herself into a box far too small for her. She struggled, fighting mental inch by inch.

It was at this point that the box, if it were made of cardboard, would have broken from such a powerful force pushing it out from the inside. Twilight wasn't aware, at first, of the great pain she was causing the pony she was scanning.

"No, damn it," she cursed. "Stay still! I don't have much time!"

"Thou cause her teen. Peradventure thou will slow down?"

"I'm trying, but I'm running out of the time! Without her being in the river, the amplification that allows me to reach her this far is fading fast!"

Starswirl could sense those touches, and thus could feel how hard Twilight was trying to get into the subject's head. Many, many miles away, Pinkie Pie was thrashing around in pain.

"Bonbon, help restrain her," Lyra shouted, keeping any trace of panic out of her voice as her patient appeared to be having some kind of seizure.

Twilight forced herself as hard as she could, and then felt her mind enter inside the subject's. It felt like wearing a jacket that was a couple sizes too large, but the unicorn didn't stop at this.

[Who are you?] she asked. The words echoed around Pinkie's head, reverberating so strongly that her voice came out garbled and slow. When Twilight repeated the question, louder, Pinkie experienced somepony shouting in her brain; it was like somepony shrieking right in her ear, ten times worse.

Bonbon was trying to hold Pinkie down, a little easier than normal considering she had three limbs. The pink mare's shout distracted her, almost allowing her to struggle free.

"Head," the delirious Pinkie shouted. "In… my head!"

[I need to know who you are,] Twilight insisted. [Now tell me. Do not make me forcefully search, it could be bad for you.]

Pinkie tried to grab her head, to make the voice that she somewhat recognized stop talking. Lyra pulled her foreleg down, trying to stop her from injuring herself.

[I am warning you, I cannot tell where you are, and thus this is necessary,] Twilight continued to telepathically speak. [I was barely able to follow your astral touches from the river, but where you are is beyond my powers. Please help me, I wish to know more about the Astral Plane.]

"No," Pinkie shouted, struggling against Lyra and Bonbon. "Stop! It's hurting my head!"

"We're trying to help," Bonbon snapped at her.

Twilight sighed, which sounded like a hurricane gust in Pinkie's head. [Okay, I'm trying to be social here, but I want to know. Who are you? Tell me!]

Pinkie was trying to remember where she heard the voice before, then her eyes widened in horror. Her mind raced. "Is that… no! No! Not you too! Augh! Meanie fakey! Go away!"

[Don't be like that, now.]

"The astral touchings' amplifications are nigh gone," Starswirl warned her. "Thou wilt lose thy connection."

Twilight ground her teeth. [I tried to play nice, but I can seriously do some harm when you have these amplified touchings still on you. You may not understand magic like I do, but I think you'll agree that something trying to force its way into your mind sounds rather painful, don't you?

[Now TELL ME!]

Twilight amped up her power, and the effect on Pinkie was terrible. Her facial wound reopened from the strain her body was going through, and Lyra desperately tried to hold her still. Blood was spilling down Pinkie's face.

Pinkie shrieked. She could feel her left eyeball splitting open, slowly.

[I need to know! Who are you?! Why are you here?]

The pink mare collapsed on the table she was being restrained on. She panted hard, and then sobbed bitterly.

"I'm," she choked out, "I'm Pinkie. Pinkie Pie. Pinkamena Diane Pie. Pinkster. Pinkalicious.

"Just… stop… hurting me…"

Twilight Sparkle, for the first time in a very long time, was shocked beyond senses. So profound was her amazement, she lost her focus on the complicated magic she was maintaining.

The spell snuffed out like a candle hit by a bucket of water. The glow around her horn and in her eyes vanished completely. She sat there, listening to what had been said echoing in her mind.

"Alas, the astral touchings," Starswirl lamented, "have faded too much for thee to grasp. Did thou obtain any information?"

Twilight didn't answer at first. She continued to stare forward, as if the wall on the other side of her study was fascinating. After a minute, she managed to shake off her shock.

"I think," she said, "that the impossible has happened… either that, or I'm confused. And I don't like being confused."

Starswirl raised an eyebrow. "The impossible? Belike, this shalt be verily interesting."

Pinkie Pie hadn't remembered when she passed out after the assault on her mind. It felt like her mind was burning, something trying to claw its way and burst out of her skull, then it was gone instantly.

When she awakened, her body was sore all over. Dull throbs were resonating throughout her body, and her mind still hummed as if suffering feedback from a wicked shout into her ear. Even her mouth felt like awful, like she had been chewing on rocks.

Straining to sit up, she managed to do so only after a few minutes of willing her body to move. When it did, she mentally compared herself to a metal spoon being bent back into the shape: it didn't feel right, and felt weaker as a result.

Pinkie shook her head, groaning at the horrible headache. "What in the name of Celestia, Luna," she muttered, "sugar and spice did I do last night?"

"No no no, don't sit up!"

Pinkie saw then a mint-colored unicorn hurrying over to her side. After staring as hard as she could through slightly blurry vision, her peering squint widened enough to make her eyebrows disappear into her mane.

"Lyra?" she asked, letting hope show in her voice.

"Please, don't get up!" Lyra insisted. "You could-"


Pinkie Pie was still Pinkie. She, despite being terribly injured, sore as Tartarus, and exhausted, had launched herself off the small cot and onto her friend. The hug last for a couple seconds, before Pinkie burst into tears.

"What's happened?" she whimpered. "What's going on? What kind of game is this? What… what…"

Pinkie stopped this as it dawned on her that she only had one foreleg wrapped around Lyra. She glanced down at herself, and saw her left foreleg was wrapped up and tucked into a sling.

"Oh, my arm grew back," she stated, then smiled at Lyra. "I knew it wouldn't stay away forever, having one arm would make the adventure too hard!"

Lyra blinked in confusion, then shook her head. "Pinkie, sweetheart, at least sit down. You're scaring me."

"I'm scaring you?" Pinkie balked. "Do you want to know what I've seen since I got here? I was attacked multiple times, and then… wait a minute…


Pinkie's shriek woke Bonbon, who had been napping on the sofa in the adjacent room. She hurried in to see what the commotion was, to see Pinkie staring down at herself with the utmost incredulousness.

"It's a little complicated to explain," Lyra said, "but let me try: it's a bio-prosthetic limb. You attach it to a missing limb, and after using some powerful restomancy, it fuses with the owner. Over time, it will feel like nothing happened, but it might be a little bit more flexible than normal."

Pinkie ooo'ed at this. "That sounds neat! Like I can bend it the other way?"

"Not exactly, the bones are going to form normally too. I just mean that your hoof and limb may be stronger, as bio-prosthetic limbs like replacing a limb with the strongest version of a limb you can imagine."

"They cost a fortune," Bonbon said, frowning at Pinkie. "We don't have any here. In fact, that may be the only one we have left."

"We have two more, Bonbon," Lyra said, glancing pleadingly at her. The earth pony sighed and looked away.

"Sorry," she grumbled, "just that… we're going to have to justify all this. We used one of our bio-prosthetic limbs and several pints of blood, and our friends are not happy."

"They're not happy?" Pinkie asked. "Well, if they need cheering up, I could-"

"No, you don't. One, you're in no condition to go prancing about," Bonbon snapped. "Two, you're the reason they are unhappy, because three, we don't know who you really are!"

Pinkie felt an invisible hoof buck her in the gut at these words. She almost collapsed, but Lyra caught her.

It was then that Pinkie managed to get a good look at Lyra. She was older, like everypony else she had run into. She was still the same size and build of the Lyra she knew, but age had done a number that a friend like Pinkie would know; it was in Bonbon's stature too.

Their body language, their eyes, everything about them had shown a pony who had been through more than one ever should. It showed fatigue, frustration, sorrow, and strain. Pinkie felt sad just by staring at them long enough.

Her right eye watered at all that was happening. That's when she remembered about her injury to her face, and lifted her good hoof to check. Medical tape, stitches, and an eyepatch could all be felt; Pinkie wanted to check in a mirror, but there wasn't one around.

"Your eyeball may never fully recover," Lyra admitted, wincing herself at how blunt that had come out. "I did my best with all my restoration magic, so maybe it won't be so bad; you have to understand, the eyeball is the second-most complicated part of a pony, only the brain is more complex. The scar is also kind of deep, it may stick around."

"Scars usually do," Pinkie muttered bitterly.

"Well, you haven't seen Lyra at her best," Bonbon said. Despite everything, the hint of bragging was in her voice. "She has become quite good at restomancy. You may notice all your teeth are back."

Pinkie ran her tongue around in her mouth. Sure enough, as if the beating from Fake AJ never happened, all of her teeth had been restored. They felt tender, but they were there.

"Wow! She's that good at healing spells? Lyra," she stared at the unicorn, who slightly blushed at the attention, "I don't remember you ever studying that."

"It happened after Ponyville."

"When did you two leave Ponyville? I know we're not there, are we at your new place? I mean…"

She failed to see Lyra and Bonbon exchange concerned glances as she peered around the building. Pinkie winced as she tried to think of complimentary words for what appeared to be a shanty house. The walls were poorly constructed, with gaps that could make peeping in possible.

Pinkie then realized the amount of tables that didn't appear to be for dining. One had some blood on it, and she remembered that that was the table she had been on. "Is this a hospital?" she asked.

"Yes," Lyra answered flatly, staring at Pinkie with confusion all over her face.

"It's… not bad, honest! But it's not like Ponyville's! Still, if you're a doctor now, Lyra, it's probably the best in all of Equestria!"

She beamed at her friend, and was surprised to see Lyra was still frowning in concern. Bonbon was staring too, and she muttered, "Did you check her for concussions?"

Pinkie Pie swallowed hard. "Oh. Oh dear, I'm afraid this is the part where I explain who I am, right?"

"That'd be really nice," Bonbon said. Lyra merely nodded.

The pink mare nodded back, then took a deep breath.

"I think I am from an alternate universe. Princess Celestia was showing the girls and I this thing called the Astral Screen, which was showing us all kinds of crazy universes out there, like ones where the mares are stallions and vice versa. Then it got all wibbly-wobbly, and I may or may not have touched it, I don't remember. And no, I'm not denying that suspiciously, I don't recall if I did that or not.

"Then I found myself here, and I saw freak ponies eating other ponies, and ponies kept trying to kill me, and there was a spikey marequin that tried to give me an evil hug, then there was Apple Fritter, then Applejack…"

She felt her foreleg in the sling throb, as if sense memory was bringing the agony back. Wincing, Pinkie continued, "This mare I am calling Fake AJ tortured and killed these unicorns, including a new friend of mine called Light Barrier, and then Rainbow Dash, or I'll call her Fake RD because she cannot be the same Dashie…

"She slashed my face with a spear, and that caused my facial injury, then I wound up here, and I heard Twilight Sparkle, or I'll call her Fake TS even if that doesn't sound appropriate for some reason, and she was in my head!"

Pinkie knocked on her head. "I could hear her as if her voice was right in my brain! Then I woke up, saw you two looking like you are a decade older than me, and I…

"I am so! Bucking! Confused! That my brain hurts like if I had been banging it against the wall for several hours! I've never done that, but I'm sure it would feel the same!"

Lyra and Bonbon stared at her. They continued to stare, until Pinkie Pie realized they hadn't followed, or believed, a word she said. The pink mare was used to this look, but now, it was painful to see.

Bonbon was about to say something, then the door to the antechamber opened. In walked Colgate, who was saying, "Lyra, Bonbon, we have a problem! The others… oh!"

She stopped short when she saw Pinkie sitting on the floor, awake and bandaged up, waving at her. She awkwardly waved back. "Hi… um, how are you?"

"That's a complex question right now, Colgate, but I can safely say without Lyra, I might be a little bit more... deady-weady. So things do look good in that sense… though I have been tortured, amputated, and abused. How has your day been? Are you still a dentist?"

Colgate blinked a few times, then glanced at Bonbon. The earth pony rolled her eyes, and muttered, "She thinks she is from an alternate universe."

At this state, Colgate let out a most incredible gasp; it started everypony in the room. The blue unicorn was right in front of Pinkie in a heartbeat, cerulean magic springing from her horn to the pink mare's forehead. When Pinkie started shivering in panic and fear, she raised her hoof and soothingly whispered to her.

"No no, it's okay, I'm not going to hurt you."

"E… everypony so far has."

"Lyra and Bonbon haven't, and I won't. I swear to you. Pinkie Swear."

Pinkie managed to calm down long enough for Colgate to study her head. Then she released her magic grasp around Pinkie's head, and she said, "You say you are from an alternate reality?"


"Has anypony asked you if you were before me?"

"… The voice in my head earlier, the one that sounded like Twilight. It was asking me if I was from the Astral Plane-"

Colgate's second major gasp startled everypony again. "No! Oh no no no! You didn't tell her where you were, did you?"

"N-no! I didn't!"

"Oh thank goodness, that means she doesn't know where you are."

Bonbon cleared her throat. "Explanation, Colgate?"

"Okay, when I was in college, studying dentistry," she gestured to her mouth with a soft smile, "I did some studies on time and space. I figured since my Cutie Mark was an hourglass," she pat her flank with a smile, "I should know some things about it, you know?"

"You always are an overachiever, aren't you? Wait," Bonbon rubbed her chin and asked, "Your Cutie Mark is about time travel and alternate universes?"

"What? No no no, nothing like that! Jeepers, Bonbon, how long have we known each other?"

"Sorry, but I guess I just never asked," the yellow earth pony admitted. "I assumed it was about time."

"It's about punctuation! I'm a timely pony, and I guess that's why some of the studies came easier to me than most."

"How so?" Lyra asked.

"Well, Lyra hon, unlike your incredible self-teaching skills, I had to do quite a bit of reading to get something into my head. Like clockwork up there, my mom would say. Anyway! The major studies of Time and Universe in Equestria believed in something called the Astral Plane."

"I've been hearing about that," Pinkie Pie exclaimed. "Is it like the Astral Screen?"

"I don't know what that is, Pinkie, but it might be related. See, the Astral Plane is a like a world, a world we cannot travel to physically, without some powerful magic.

"Some say," Colgate waved her hoof in an all-encompassing motion, "that it is where magic originates from. Some say it is where the dead live in an afterlife. Some say it is the reality that monitors us… it's hard to say, no pony truly knows. Starswirl the Bearded and Einsteed both studied it to their dying days, they never found a true answer."

Lyra stared at Pinkie Pie. "She's from the Astral Plane?"

"No, if she was, she'd be radiating intense magic that even Bonbon could sense."

"What?" Bonbon asked, not sure if she should be offended or not.

"Unicorns are very much in tune with magic, especially ones who use it so much like Lyra and I," Colgate explained. "To you, if Pinkie Pie was from the Astral Plane, it would be as obvious as a big, neon sign. To myself, I can only sense it because there is a minuscule trace of astral magic lingering on her."

"Like some pony who had been there recently and not long?" Lyra asked. "I didn't sense it on her, though."

"You weren't looking for it. Twilight Sparkle must have been able to sense it, one way or another, but it's so small now, she couldn't even track it from Canterlot; I wouldn't be able to track it from the front door, even if I was looking for it."

"Well, thank goodness for that," Bonbon said. "Twilight bearing down on us is the last thing we want."

"What? How could you say that?" Pinkie declared. "Twilight probably would know most about this Astral Plane, wouldn't she? Unless… you mean Fake TS?"

Colgate, Lyra, and Bonbon exchanged looks, not sure what to say. Lyra was the first to try something, for at least her own sake.

"Pinkie, if you're really Pinkie," Lyra asked, "let me just ascertain for certain, okay?"

"Oki doki loki."

"… Who am I?"

"You're Lyra Heartstrings. You've been dating Bonbon for more than three years now, and we all are pretty anxious to see when you'll finally get married," Pinkie said. "Your birthday is Octoburr 3rd, your Cutie Mark was when you discovered how you can play the lyre so wonderfully (and that, by the way, is how Bonbon first met you), and you like to form hands with your magic to get things done.

"You also believe that the mythical creatures known as humans existed in Equestria once, you love wheat shakes, and Bonbon once told me that you're ticklish behind your right ear."

The three older versions of Pinkie's friends stared at her. Bonbon was blushing, and Lyra stared wide-eyed and open mouthed.

"You told Pinkie about that?" she exclaimed to her marefriend.

"I didn't mean to, and I thought… wait," Bonbon said, glancing between her marefriend and Pinkie. "Dating her for over three years?"

"Yeah, last time I checked, you two had been going out for three years, two months, one week, and five days."

Bonbon blinked a great many times, and exclaimed, "Okay, what in Tartarus is going on? Even I don't know how many years we've been dating, not even back then!"

"'Back then'?"

"One thing's for certain," Lyra said, "there's no way any pony could fake all this."

"And she definitely came from the Astral Plane, from another universe," Colgate added. "That was always a major theory, that the Astral Plane connected all of our universes together in an improbably large plane of space."

"Did I pass the test?" Pinkie asked, glancing between the three mares. "Um, if I didn't, how about Bonbon? Your birth name is Sweetie Drops, but everypony calls you Bonbon. You were born on Jufly 25th, and your Cutie Mark is about how you can make special candies. When you make them, they sometimes cause weird side effects like temporary voice changes, like the time you ate one and sounded like a grizzled fisher-stallion.

"I imagine that wasn't fun for Lyra that night. 'Yarr, ye landlubber Lyra, come on ovah and kiss mae like if tha ship's a'sinkin!' Yeah, that would have been weird-"

She was cut off when somepony hugged her. It was the most affectionate thing she could remember in what felt like an eternity. Lyra held Pinkie as tenderly as possible, making sure not to squeeze any of the areas that would be sensitive. The party pony returned it with her good foreleg.

"It's okay!" Lyra exclaimed. "We believe you! Oh you poor thing!" She stroked Pinkie's back and nuzzled her. "You have no idea what's going on, do you?"

"N-no," Pinkie stammered. She felt tears sting her eyes, as a rush of emotions hit her. "I… dang it, I'm crying so much, I feel like Rarity reading one of her very special romance novels!"

Bonbon swallowed, and Colgate let out a very suspicious, "Uhmm…" Lyra did not release the hug until Pinkie stopped shaking from her emotions.

"Sweetheart, Pinkie Pie," Lyra cooed, rubbing Pinkie's mane. It was only then that she realized her mane had gone flat, having lost the poof to it that symbolized her happy nature.

Pinkie didn't know when it deflated, maybe even when she was unconscious just before; it made her wonder how depression could have hit her that much when she was out.

"What's happened?" Pinkie asked. "I mean, besides my mane. It may return to normal when you all tell me I'm in a Coltari game, and I'm just doing a really bad job in the first level?"

Lyra shook her head. "Hon, tell us. In your world, what was the last major thing that happened in Ponyville?"

Pinkie tapped her chin. "Well, um, my sister Octavia and my friend Vinyl Scratch just moved to Ponyville. In my world, that is. Just yesterday they finished moving in!"

Bonbon covered her mouth in astonishment. "Oh no. That's… that's only a couple months before… before…"

The candy maker was now looking at her with real pity in her eyes. She even trotted over to Pinkie, and nuzzled her affectionately. "This isn't going to be easy for you, dear," she admitted, "but we'll try to catch you up on present time. Okay?"

Pinkie hugged her, and when Bonbon returned it, the party pony felt a kind of warmth that she had thought died the moment she entered this world. When Colgate nuzzled and hugged her too, it made her heart swell. Her mane went back to being poofy, no longer believing that everypony in this world was evil and cruel, or dead.

The look on Colgate's face, however, made her rather apprehensive. "Okay, what's going on?"

Colgate sighed, then gestured for Pinkie to sit on the sofa in the open room Bonbon had been napping it. Pinkie sat down, with Lyra sitting her bizarre manner of having her back against the sofa and her hind legs dangling over the side. She rested her hoof on Pinkie's as Bonbon sat down at the party pony's other side.

"Pinkie Pie, it's been approximately sixteen years since Vinyl Scratch and Octavia moved into Ponyville."

"Sixteen?!" Pinkie balked. "Oh… oh no! You know that that means? Bellamina is older than me here! I'm the baby of the family! Darn it!"

"Hon," Colgate said, raising a hoof. "Let me just ask you this: do you want me to outline the whole thing to you, or do you want the bullet points and then outline it?"

"Gimme the good news first, and then the bad. But I want the good first, I am still reeling from the sixteen years thing," she admitted. Pinkie rubbed her forehead. "Ugh, Bellamina's going to tease me about this for… sixteen years, maybe more."

"Pinkie, there is no good news."

This rather surprised the party pony. "There's… there's absolutely no good news?"

"Not unless you count that a few of us from Ponyville are still alive and sane, no."

Pinkie felt her mind spin, and with it, her left forearm, which felt like something had been sewn on to the stump when she thought about it, started to throb. Her head and left eye also started to burn with pain, and it took all of Lyra and Bonbon's efforts to calm her down.

Pinkie took several deep breaths, and then asked, very quietly, "Colgate… give me the bullet points."

The blue unicorn nodded, mentally trying to think of what to say that could dampen a blow to a Pinkie Pie she knew couldn't fully comprehend this. Sixteen years ago, she never would have believed a damn word she was about to say now herself. But Colgate knew all at once was better than the near-fatal hints Pinkie Pie had been receiving.

"The Royal Sisters have vanished entirely from Equestria, and yet the sun and moon still rise and set; it was all a lie, apparently.

"Equestria is now divided between five houses and a cult, led by your five best friends and a mysterious being called The Laughing Mare; they have all become extremists, Tartarus-bent on shaping Equestria in the way they want.

"Ponyville was flooded. Most everypony who lived there is dead or working for one of the six parties, including us, most regrettably.

"The Elements of Harmony, those gemstones that the six of you used? They have, from what we've heard, gone cold. No pony knows what has happened to them, or why they abandoned us too.

"And Pinkie Pie? You're dead."

Author's Note:

In case you are wondering, yes, I did change the names for the months of the year. Here are them in my best ponyfication:

Jamuary, Furbruary, March, Neighpril, Meigh, Junicker, Jufly, Aughoofst, Septemburr, Octoburr, Novemburr, Decemburr.

Next chapter is the last chapter of the Prologue. And then, Equestria Divided is witness the truth dawning of the Pink Samurai around. Also, for those familiar and even those not with PoorYorick's EQD, you'll get a brief synopsis of how this world shaped itself. Huzzah!