• Published 8th Feb 2012
  • 15,578 Views, 1,265 Comments

My Little Denarians - Chengar Qordath

Harry Dresden must go to Equestria to stop an evil plot by the Order of the Blackened Denarius

  • ...

Sanity is Overrated

Luckily for the people who weren't normally ponies, the Pinkie Express had arrived on the outskirts of Ponyville so Lash and I at least had some time and privacy to do a bit of adjusting to our new bodies. To my vague annoyance, Lash seemed to handle the change a lot better than I did. I guess not having a body of her own made that a bit easier; she got to start from a blank slate, while my body was used to being human instead of a dickless cartoon horse.

A particularly worrying thought struck me. "Hey, Lash?"

"Yes my ho - Harry?" Oh yeah, I guess I wasn't her host any more.

"If you're out here in your own body, does that mean that all the Fallen working with the Denarians got fleshy too?"

Lash frowned in thought for a moment. "I do not believe so. We are still alive. If the Fallen had broken free of the limitations imposed upon them and gained unrestricted access to the physical realm that would not be the case."

Well, that was reassuring,.

I glanced back at Lash at again, and found my eyes drawn towards her flank. I admit, I had a sort of morbid curiosity about what sort of Cutie Marks the Nickleheads would be sporting; if nothing else, I could get some more snarking mileage out of the fact that these ancient immortal demon lords had cutie marks.

I wasn't sure what cutie mark I expect Lash to have, beyond hoping it was something I could use to get a bit of teasing material. To my sorrow, Lash gave me nothing to work with. Literally. She was a blank flank.

"Lash, why don't you have a cutie mark?" I briefly wondered how I could have ended up in the sort of situation where that sentence existed.

The former demon shadow and current cute little unicorn turned her head to study her own flank frowning thoughtfully at the blank white fur. "Presumably I have not found my special talent. That is how cutie marks work, yes?"

I guess that figured. I mean, Lash had been in the equivalent of a coma ever since a few minutes after she cut off her connection to Lasciel, and she'd just gotten to the point where she could handle a conversation with me a couple hours ago. I guess she hadn't had much of a chance to figure out who she was and all that. "So, does this mean you'll be joining the Cutie Mark Crusaders?"

Lash just gave me arch look, and didn't dignify that comment with a verbal response. Can't imagine why the demon shadow who had a memory stretching back millions, if not billions, of years wasn't eager to spend time hanging out with the pony equivalent of tweens.

"Ooo!" Pinkie jumped into the conversation. "You don't have a cutie mark Lashie? I've never seen a pony as big as you without a cutie mark before! Or maybe your cutie mark is white too, and we just can't see it since it matches your coat!" Pinkie let out a gasp of shock. "Or maybe your special talent is that you can turn invisible! That would explain why I can't see your cutie mark, because it's invisible too!"

"Maybe you should try turning invisible, just to find out." I never could pass up a chance to be a smartass.

"Do not encourage Pinkie Pie." Lash probably had a point there; the pink pony was crazy and hyperactive enough on her own; I don't even want to imagine what she's like with someone egging her on.

After glaring at me for long enough to drive her point home, Lash spoke up again. "So then Harry, now that we've arrived in the land of cartoon ponies, I trust you have some sort of plan for how we should proceed?"

I blinked. Oh yeah. Right. A plan. I usually tried to come up with one of those. Every once in a blue moon, they even worked. "Well, we should probably go see Twilight Sparkle. She's got a direct line to Princess Celestia, and getting in touch with a local head honcho is always a good first move." From what I'd seen of the show, Celestia was a reasonable authority figure, and if I get in touch with her and explain the situation, I could probably get the locals warned and ready to handle whatever the Nickelheads were up to. Plus, the Princess had enough of a sense of humor that I'd probably get along with her.

"Okie dokie lokie!" Pinkie chirped. "I'll take you to Twilight's. Walk this way!" Pinkie cheerfully started bouncing down the road, brightly humming the cartoon's theme song.

Seeing as I was technically a guest in their dimension, I decided I should follow Pinkie's instructions, and started bouncing along right behind her and humming, though I think I actually managed to hum off-key. I'm a wizard, not a musician.

Lash, for some reason I couldn't fathom, opted to walk along just a bit behind us in a normal, un-bouncy manner while shooting venomous glares at me every couple seconds. She didn't even hum along with us, which was just plain rude.

We had almost gotten to Ponyville proper when another potential issue with my newly fleshified ally sprang to mind. "Hey, Lash. You're not going to have a problem with fighting the Denarians, are you?" Sure, she might have cut her ties with Lasciel, but that didn't mean Lash would be completely cool with getting into a life and death struggle with the rest of the Nickleheads.

Lash met my eyes for a long moment, and then very slowly enunciated. "I swear upon my power that I shall loyally serve alongside Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden in his conflict with the Order of the Blackened Denarius."

I couldn't help but give a little involuntary shudder when Lash used my Name; Names have power. I was a little surprised that she actually knew my Name, though I suppose I shouldn't have been, considering the fact that she'd lived in my brain for years. Heck, according to Bob I'd even given her a chunk of my soul to help her break free from Lasciel, and compared to that a Name was small potatoes.

I was a bit surprised she'd gone and bound herself to me too. Swearing an oath by your power is a pretty big deal. You wouldn't lose all your magic from just breaking a single oath, but making a habit of breaking oaths could do some serious damage to a person's magical abilities. "You know Lash, a simple 'you can count on me' would have sufficed. I wasn't trying to push you into … well, what you just did."

"It was my choice to swear the oath." A moment later Lash froze in place, and very slowly blinked her eyes. "I chose." She very slowly repeated herself.

Oh, right, she was still kinda new to the whole free will thing. Until she'd made her break with Lasciel, she hadn't been capable of doing that. Like a lot of other supernatural beings, Lash had been an entity that simply acted according to its nature. Maybe that was part of why she'd gotten lopped out of my head, as opposed to the Fallen that we were reasonably certain hadn't come out to play. Free will is a pretty big deal, and the fact that Lash had it while the demons didn't was all kinds of important.

On the other hand, it could be that the reason Lash wasn't sharing brain-space with me was down to something completely different, like the fact that Lash was not a card-carrying member of the Legions of Hell anymore. Whatever the case, I wouldn't complain too much about having more help for the inevitable throwdown with Nicky and his goons.

"How's the free will thing working out for you, anyway?" You can't blame me for being curious about how Lash was adjusting; picking up free will was a pretty huge change, after all.

"It is..." Lash hesitated, searching for the right word. "Different." The two of us walked along in slightly awkward silence for a few seconds, before she spoke up once more. "I believe I have made another choice. If Lasciel is amongst the Denarians present in Equestria, I wish to face her in battle."

"Ah, yes, the classic good twin versus evil twin battle. Let me guess, I'm supposed to stay out of it, because this is a battle you want to win for yourself."

"I will tell her as much if we should meet." Lash confirmed. A moment later, she shot a smirk at me and added. "However, you should feel free to attack her at any point during my fight with her. Ideally, you should hit her from behind, while her attention is focused on me and her guard is down."

"Isn't that cheating?" Not that I had any real objection to Lash's strategy; I'd gotten over the whole idea of fighting fair about the time I got smart enough to realize that most people's definition of 'fair' tended to tilt the board in their favor.

"I prefer to think of it as victory by pragmatism." Lash countered, still grinning. "I would appreciate it if you would at least let me be the one to finish her off, but if you end up killing her in midst of pitched battle that's fine." Seeing such casual bloodthirstiness expressed by a cute little cartoon pony was a wee bit disturbing.

"Hey Lashie." Pinkie suddenly piped up. "Since you don't have a cutie mark, maybe I should tell you how I got mine?"

"That's really not necessary, Pink–"

Before Lash could even finish her sentence Pinkie had already launched in the tail. "It all started back on my parents' rock farm."

"I've already seen episode 23, Pinkie."

Pinkie Pie wasn't about to let a few inconvenient facts stop her from telling a story. "There was no singing, no laughing, and no talking..."

"And then I said 'oatmeal, are you crazy?' But it turns out that when you put oatmeal and alfalfa sprouts and hot sauce on cupcakes they turn out really, really tasty. And that's how I met Twilight Sparkle" Pinkie concluded. "Maybe next time I'll tell you how the story of how Equestria was made by the three pony tribes, it's a real gem."

"Yes, I'm sure it is, and I would just love to hear it." My sarcasm detector was overloading.

Unfortunately for both of us, whoever had installed Pinkie Pie's brain had obviously left her ability to understand sarcasm and metaphors in the same place as her sanity. Pinkie immediately started bouncing up and down even more excitedly than usual. "Well if you're that eager, why don't I tell you the story of how Equestria was made right now?"

Lash groaned and facehoofed. "Would it make any difference if I told you didn't want to hear it?"

"It all started when the three types of ponies lived on their own, and there was this really big nasty winter that just wouldn't go away –"

"We're here." Actually, we were still across the road from the huge hollowed-out tree that held Ponyville's library and served as Twilight Sparkle's home, but I figured I had to do something to cut Pinkie off before she got started on storytime again. Pinkie Pie is tons of fun to be around, but I'm pretty sure she was getting close to pushing Lash over the edge. Lash using her newfound free will and independence to murder a certain hyperactive pink party pony wouldn't be the best of starts to her new life.

Once we were at Twilight's front door, I tried to knock on the door, only to pause with one of my forehooves halfway up to the door upon remembering that, oh yeah, I was a horse. Knocking on doors works a bit different when you're a quadruped who doesn't have hands any more. I tried to improvise, and found out that balancing on three legs was a bit more difficult than I had expected. I hastily put my raised leg back on the ground before I could tumble over and make a fool out of myself.

Now that I thought of it, I kind of wish I'd brought Billy or one of the other Alphas along now. The local werewolf club probably would have been able to give me all kinds of advice on how to adapt to being shapeshifted into a four-legged creature.

Before I could work out how to knock on the door with one hoof while balancing on the other three, Pinkie Pie passed by me and just barged right into the library. "Hey Twilight! I brought some friends! We're gonna have a big party to welcome them to Ponyville! But first they wanna talk to you about..." Pinkie frowned, and looked back me, tapped a hoof against her chin, and then resumed. "Um, some guys called the Nicklebacks or something."

"Nickleheads." I gently corrected. "Though their real name is the Order of the Blackened Denarius."

"Well why do you call them Nickleheads if that's not their real name?"

"Nickleheads is a funnier name."

"Hmm." Pinkie stood up on her two rear legs (inspiring a bit of envy from me, considering my own lack of equine balance). "Nickleheads." She raised one of her forelegs, as if she was weighing something. "Order of the Blacked Denarius." She raised the other hoof, obviously trying to measure the relative funniness of the two names. After a few seconds of careful thought, she dropped back down to all fours and shot me a pleased smile. "You're right; Nickleheads is a much funnier name for them. Next time you see them you need to tell them to change their names!"

"I tried, but they didn't take my advice."

"Well, it sounds like they're just a bunch of big meanie grumpy mean-meanie-pants no fun grumpy grumps." Pinkie frowned in disapproval. "I even gave them cupcakes! They must be some serious fun-haters if my cupcakes aren't enough to fix them up. If they're such super-mega grumps, then I might have to take some extreme measures, Pinkie Pie style!"

"Let me guess, you plan to invite them to a party."

Pinkie let out a shocked gasp. "How did you know?"

"Your solution to everything involves either parties or sugary sweets." Lash commented. "You already tried sugar on them, so all you have left is parties."

"That's so not true." Pinkie countered indignantly. "You forget about singing. I've got lots of greats songs for turning somepony's frown upside down. Or I could go for a fun prank. And then, sometimes I combine sweets and parties at the same time, which is, like at least 20% funner than if it was just parties or sweets by themselves. Oh, oh, or I could sing songs and have pranks at the party with sweets! That would so super-duper-ooper fun that nopony could ever not be happy! Oh, and games! Games are fun too! It'd be like everything the Grand Galloping Gala should've had, if it wasn't full of no-fun ponies who wouldn't know a good party if it bit them right on the patootie, and why hasn't Twilight shown up already?"

"Wait, what?" That topic change happened so fast it left me with a case of mental whiplash.

"Twilight. I called for her, like, five minutes ago, and she hasn't show up yet. Where is that silly-willy-filly?" Pinkie bounced further into the library, shouting. "Twilight? Spike? Where are you? Oh! Are we playing hide-and-seek? I love and hide and seek!"

I was about to follow Pinkie in, but hesitated at the doorway. Entering someone else's home uninvited isn't a good move for a wizard. Most homes have a field of magical energy called a threshold that provides some protection against intruders from the spooky side of things. If a wizard, or just about anything else supernatural, tries to go across a threshold uninvited, they leave a lot of their power behind. That's why it was standard procedure in the supernatural world to wait for an invitation before going into another person's home. Nobody likes going around with one hand tied behind their back.

Plus, barging into someone's home uninvited is just plain rude.

Pinkie, unsurprisingly, wasn't familiar with all the supernatural rules from my side of things. The pony turned back to look at Lash and I. "Hey, what are you two slowpokes waiting for? We'll find those two a lot faster if we split up!"

"Well Pinkie..."

Apparently the pony wasn't in the mood to wait for an actual answer to her question, because her forelegs suddenly stretched out to a truly ridiculous length, allowing her to grab Lash and I, and then drag the both of us over to her. I was a bit relieved that I didn't feel any of the usual effects of violating a threshold when I crossed through Twilight Sparkle's doorway. Maybe the fact that her home doubled as a library kept a threshold from forming; when your home is used as a public location there's none of the sense of privacy a threshold needed in order to grow.

Or, more likely, a completely different universe had different magic rules. It was kind of obvious in hindsight, but I'd gotten used to dealing with thresholds and invitations, especially after my little ghostly jaunt through Chicago. Wizards can power through a threshold if they really want to. Ghosts, not so much.

"Alrighty." Pinkie announced. "Now that you two aren't sitting outside any more, Lashie can look upstairs, and Harry, you can check out Twilight's laboratory." Pinkie drew the last word out, and added the practically obligatory mad scientist laugh at the end of it.

Lash shot a look my way, and I gave her a quick nod to go along with Pinkie's instructions. There was really no reason not to just go along with her, and the faster we got a hold of Twilight, the faster we could get in touch with Princess Celestia. I trotted through the door into Twilight Sparkle's basement.

Twilight's lab was a lot more science-y than the lab I'd had back in my old Chicago apartment. Even a year after the fact, I was still kind of pissed off about losing my old lab, especially since I'd just finished getting a very nice and expensive upgrade to my summoning circle. Sure, now that I was working for Mab I could probably replace all the materials and tools I had lost when my lab burned without any trouble (except for Bob), but it was the principle of the thing. Someone had taken away my stuff. A lot of it wasn't very good stuff, but it was still my stuff.

Anyway, from what I'd seen of the cartoon, magic and science got along a lot better in this universe. Having a completely different magical and technological system tends to do that. Or maybe their technology was all magic-based? If I get a chance, I should try looking into that. My life would be a bit more convenient if I didn't burn out modern tech all over the place. I'm sure magic cell phones and computers would be nice and all, but I'd settle for just having a hot water heater that got along with magic. I might be working for Winter now, but that didn't mean I liked taking cold showers every single day.

Turns out I was the lucky guy who got assigned to the right floor of library; once I made my way very slowly and carefully down the stairs, I found a familiar-looking purple unicorn zonked out across a rather large book. Judging by the set of half-full beakers sharing table space with her book, she'd been in the middle of messing around with some magical science or sciencey magic when her get up and go had finally gotten up and gone.

I hesitated for a moment, and considered going back upstairs to get Pinkie. I'm not sure how Twilight would react to waking up and finding a complete stranger in her home. A look back at the staircase changed my mind; I wasn't quite comfortable enough in my new horse-y form to risk taking multiple trips up and down the staircase if I didn't have to, and yelling for Pinkie would probably just wake Twilight up anyway. "Um, Twilight Sparkle?" I tried to keep my tone gentle enough that I would not startle her too much.

No answer from the sleeping pony. I tried repeating her name a little louder, and didn't get anything more out of her than a vague sleepy grumble. Looks like someone is a heavy sleeper, or maybe she'd just been up until the wee hours of the morning on her latest little project. In any case, I would have to be a bit more forceful if I actually wanted her awake any time soon.

I very tentatively raised a foreleg, and after a second or so of wobbling managed to find a comfortable balance. Then, I very gently nudged her shoulder and called her name again. The brief moment of physical contact was enough to send a tingle up my leg; looks like even in cartoon-land, physical contact allowed me to recognize another practitioner. Good to know, though as long as I was in Equestria I hardly needed that particular little perk. Finding the magic-wielders was pretty easy when they all had big old unicorn horns sprouting out of their foreheads.

From what I'd been able to tell in that brief moment of contact, Twilight Sparkle was packing some serious power. I made a mental note to restrain any urges to make jokes about her name. Lash had probably already heard them all before anyway, and Pinkie Pie is the only pony who might actually get why the words 'Twilight' and 'Sparkle' were funny.

I gave her another nudge, and the sleeping unicorn's eyes finally popped open. The pony grumbled out something that sounded roughly like "Habujawamrgl" blinked her eyes a few times, and then let out a massive yawn and stretched her legs out. Once Twilight finished unleashing a truly epic yawn, it seemed that the Unicorn had finally joined the land of the wakeful.

Twilight Sparkle's eyes widened in surprise when she noticed me, but there wasn't any of the screaming kicking, or violent telekinetic tricks I'd feared she might use on me. Instead, she just very politely asked. "Um, who are you, why are you my library and why did you wake me up?"

Huh, usually people tend to have a rather bad and frequently violent reaction when a strange, tall and scruffy guy breaks into their home and wakes them up. Then again, my experience was with the real world, where people have to be afraid of a lot of nasty things that just can't happen in the land of genitalia-less cartoon ponies.

"We've actually met before Miss Sparkle, though I can't really blame you for not recognizing me. Harry Dresden." By pure force of habit, I extended a hoof, as if she would be able to shake my hand. Twilight stared at me in blank incomprehension. "We met when Pinkie crossed dimensions and wound up in my kitchen a while back, remember?"

"What?" The unicorn stared at me incredulously. "But you weren't a pony then, you were one those human things. Why are you a pony now?" The pony blinked, and gave a quick shake of her head. "Wait a minute, why are you here? You're supposed to stay in your home plane, where you belong, not come to Equestria! How did you –"

"Pinkie Pie."

Twilight let out a groan of pure exasperation. "Princess Celestia told her not to bring anypony or anything back with her whenever she went on one of her little trips outside of Equestria." Twilight let out another, even loader groan. "Spike!" She yelled. "Spike! Where are you?" The pony turned back to me. "I'm so sorry about this Mr. Dresden, but don't worry, once I let the Princess know she'll send you home right away."

"Hang on a second." I tried to cut the unicorn off. "I'm actually here for a reason, so-"

"Oh no!" Apparently, Twilight wasn't in the mood to listen to my perfectly reasonable explanation when she could drive herself into a state of irrational neurotic panic instead. "Pinkie's going to get into so much trouble with the Princess for this! I should've done something to keep this from happening! The Princess is going to be so disappointed in me! Stupid, stupid Twilight!"

Before I could make any progress in explaining what was actually going on, Spike stumbled through the door, still rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. Pinkie and Lash followed him into the basement. "Hey, Twilight." The baby dragon called out. "Pinkie and one of her friends are here, and they wanna talk to you." Twilight's number one assistant paused when he saw me. "Uh, make that Pinkie and two of her friends." Spike let out a sheepish chuckle.

"Wow, nothing gets past those finely tuned Dragon senses, does it Spike?"

Ah, I'd forgotten how wonderfully smartassed the purple pony was. Either we would be great friends, or I would have to kill her in an elaborate ritual battle to determine which of us had the smarter ass. In the end, there can be only one supreme smartass.

Twilight turned a glare on Pinkie. "As for you - I can't believe you actually brought two Outsiders here. Princess Celestia specifically told you that you if you leave Equestria again you should come back as soon as possible, and to never, ever bring anypony back with you! What were you thinking? When Princess Celestia finds out what you did she'll ... she'll ... well, I don't know what she'll do, but it'll be really, really bad!"

"But I had to bring them!" Pinkie protested. "It's super-duper important Twilight!".

For a moment it looked like the unicorn was going to just ignore Pinkie's objection and continue chewing her out, but then Twilight paused and took a few deep breaths, then asked in much more level tone. "Important like the Parasprites?"

Pinkie nodded so vigorously I was a bit amazed she wasn't breaking something in her neck. Twilight took another deep breath, and then said as calmly as she could manage. "Right, so it's important. Could someone please explain what exactly is going on here?"

"Ooh! Ooh! I can!" Pinkie shouted, hopping up and down while wildly waving her forelegs in the air. "Pick me! Pick me!"

"Can anyone other than Pinkie Pie explain what's going on here?" Twilight amended, managing a deadpan delivery that was good enough to bump her up another level on my smartass-o-meter.

"Yeah." I spoke up and got an incredibly disappointed look from Pinkie for my trouble. "The short version is that there are some very nasty folks from side of the pond who came to Equestria and are planning stir up some serious trouble. I found out about it, and came here to stop them." I took a calculated risk and met the unicorn's eyes; I needed to make it very clear how serious I was, and I was reasonably certain cartoon characters didn't have souls that operated according to my universe's rules. "These guys are seriously bad news; I still don't know what they're up to here, but the only goal of the Order of the Blackened Denarius is to cause as much chaos, misery, death, and destruction as they can. Whatever they have planned, it's bad for Equestria."

By the time I finished Twilight Sparkle was looking worried. "Pinkie, is he telling the truth about this?"

"Yup, except they're not called the Order of the Black Denny, they're the Nickleheads, 'cause that name is funnier."

"Right." The purple pony rolled her eyes at Pinkie's latest bit of randomness, unaware that it was technically my fault, and then turned to her assistant. "Spike, take a letter." The baby dragon grabbed a quill and some parchment, and dutifully wrote as Twilight dictated a short letter informing Princess Celestia of the situation. Once Spike finished writing, the dragon sent the letter off to Canterlot with a burst of magical fire.

Super, now all I had to do was wait. From what I'd seen of the show, Celestia tended to answer Twilight Sparkle's letters pretty quickly, and I was reasonably certain that for something this urgent we'd get a response within a minute or two.

While we waited, I decided to handle a few introductions. Presumably, Lash already knew them from sharing brain space with me, but they didn't know Lash. "Twilight Sparkle, this is Lash. Lash, meet Twilight Sparkle."

"And I'm Spike." The baby dragon announced. He looked a bit put out over the fact that nobody had introduced him.

"Nice to meet you Lash."

"Likewise, Twilight Sparkle."

"Yeah, Nice to meet you too, Lash and guy who still hasn't told me his name." Spike called out.

"So are you a magic user like Harry, Lash?"

Lash frowned at the question. "The presence of a horn would indicate so, and I certainly have the theoretical knowledge. However, I have not yet attempted to use magic since obtaining this form..."

"Oh! Well, I think I still have my notes from when I had to go to Harry's dimension; I'll check them and see if I can work out anything about how your magic will work in Equestria." The unicorn started trotting up the stairs, Lash following closely behind. "By the way," Twilight asked, "To what degree does magic in your universe rely on structured internalized casting of specified spell-forms within a defined magical matrix, as opposed to improvisational manipulation of magical energy to achieve the desired outcome?"

As the unicorn and demon-shadow trotted up the stairs, I caught the start of Lash's response, which just sounded like more magibabble to me. I've got a decent grasp of magical theory, but at heart I've always been more of a doer than a scholar.

Spike walked up to me, and thrust out one of his claws in greeting. "Hi, I'm Spike. Nice to meet you. What's your name?"

"Hey Pinkie." The party pony in question immediately perked up when I called out to her. "Want to play a couple games of tic tac toe while we wait to hear back from the princess?"

"Okie dokie!" Pinkie readily agreed. Pinkie immediately started bouncing up steps back to the ground floor, while I followed behind at a slower, more cautious pace.

Behind me, I heard a very annoyed baby dragon cry. "Am I invisible or something?"

"Aha! Victory is mine!" I stared down triumphantly at the perfect row of three Xs. It had been a difficult battle, but it had all been worth it for this one moment.

"Right, that puts it at 57 wins for me, 1 win for you." Pinkie didn't seem the slightest bit bothered by the fact that she now only had a 56 game lead on me. She might seem a bit scatterbrained, but she was ridiculously good at this game; I half suspected she'd let me have this win just to salve my bruised ego.

Twilight shot another look at Spike over her shoulder. "Still no word from the Princess?"

"Did you see me burp out a scroll, Twilight?" I'm not sure if Spike's moodiness came from feeling ignored, or just the fact that Twilight kept asking him the exact same question every minute or so.

"You did remember to mark it as urgent, didn't you Spike?"

"Do you remember what I told you the last five times you asked that question?"

Twilight Sparkle sighed. "Sorry, it's just, it's never taken her this long to answer a letter before, especially not when it's about something this important."

"She's probably just tied up in a meeting or something." Spike answered reasonably.

"But my letter is really important!"

"Twi, everyone tells Celestia that their business with her is really important. Relax, you'll get an answer soon enough. It's not like Equestria's going to fall apart if you spend five more minutes talking to Lash about your book stuff and Harry keeps losing to Pinkie Pie."

"Hey, I won a game." Sure, it was one win out of fifty-eight games, but I'd earned that win, darnit!

"I'm sure you're very proud of beating Pinkie Pie at tic-tac-toe, Harry." Lash deadpanned. "In any case, Twilight and I have been talking, and we believe you should be capable of using your magic more-or-less normally, so long as you use your horn as a magical focus."

"Huh. That's a lot simpler than I thought it would be." Not that I was complaining about it being easy to use my magic; taking down the Denarians would be just about impossible if I had to do it without access to all my usual spellslinging.

"Well, according to Twilight, dimensional travelers undergo a shifting process upon entering a new dimension where their inherent qualities alter to match the established rules of the new universe while preserving as much of their original nature as practicable." Lash smirked, and added. "Or to put it terms you can understand, your magic has to follow the rules of unicorn magic, but otherwise works the same as normal."

"So, all I have to do is channel all my spells through my horn, just like if I was using a staff or blasting rod?"

"Just so, though some of your more intricate spells could prove problematic. I have not yet had the opportunity to test anything beyond the most basic thaumaturgy."

"You know me; I've always been a fan of sticking with the basics." Sure, I'd done plenty to diversity my repertoire over the years, but it's hard to wrong with my old standbys of setting the bad guys on fire and smacking them with blunt force.

Trying to channel magic through the horn on my head caused an odd sort of tingly sensation on my forehead, but after a few seconds I'd worked out how to do it. Just like Lash told me, it was exactly like using a staff or blasting rod, except this staff happened be a bony spike on my skull. "Ventas servitas."

Just as I'd planned, a gentle breeze stirred the air in the library. Not too shabby. It would get a bit of taking used to, but I'd be able to survive. With any luck, the Nickleheads would have to adjust to the way things worked in Equestria too.

I was halfway through trying out some basic magical exercises when Pinkie Pie suddenly grabbed her tail in one of her forelegs and cried out. "Twitchy twitch! Twitcha twitcha twitch!" Sure enough, the pony's poofy tail was quivering violently.

"Twitchy Tail!" Spike shouted. "Something's gonna fall!" The baby dragon scrambled under the table, and a second later Pinkie joined him. Lash and Twilight were just as quick to take cover in one of the doorways. Since all the good cover had been taken up by the ladies and Spike (curse my chivalrous heart) I opted for pressing myself against one of the outer walls; it wasn't much, but it was better than just standing right in the middle of the room waiting to get crunched by whatever was falling.

Moments later, I heard a distant but rapidly approaching cry of "Not agaaaaaiiiiin!" Something shot through the window and slammed into the middle of the room, sending books and paper flying all over the room.

"Hi Rainbow Dash." Twilight said dryly. "Nice of you to drop in."

"How'd you know it was me?" With all the scattered sheets of paper flying around the room, I could only vaguely see an equine form, but Rainbow Dash's scratchy voice was unmistakable.

"Lucky guess." The unicorn responded. She set to using her telekinesis, and within moments everything was back in relative order. Twilight Sparkle yanked a book out from underneath Rainbow Dash, then frowned when she noticed a large glob of something pink on the cover. The unicorn turned her attention to the rainbow-maned pegasus. "What's that stuff you're covered with?"

Now that I finally had a clear view of Rainbow Dash, I saw that there was some of sticky pink goo covering several patches of her blue coat and gumming up her wings. On top of that, the pegasus seemed to have gotten herself thoroughly soaked, and was dripping some sort of brown liquid all over the floor. "You're not gonna believe it, but it's cotton candy."

Before Twilight or anyone else could get around to asking Rainbow Dash the rather obvious question of how she wound up covered in cotton candy a pink blur shot out from under the table and tackled the pegasus. "Pinkie Pie!" Rainbow cried out. "What the hay do you think you're doing?"

"You smell like chocolate, Dashie!" The pink pony nipped a bit of the cotton candy off of her friend, and a moment later let out a delighted cry. "Chocolatey cotton candy goodness!"

Everyone one else in the room could only stare in shock as Pinkie proceeded to pin Rainbow Dash down begin the process of eating every single bit of sugar currently stuck on the pegasus's body. "Pinkie! Cut it out! Get off!" Pinkie Pie did nothing of the sort, and Rainbow wasn't having any luck trying to force her friend off.

Twilight Sparkle seemed to recover her wits first. "Well Rainbow Dash, what did you expect would happen when you showed up in front of Pinkie covered in sugar and chocolate?"

Curse you purple pony. That could have been my smartass line, but you stole it.

Rainbow Dash made a few more token efforts to get away from the sugar-crazed pink pony, and I was very grateful for the fact that as far as I could tell these cartoon ponies had neither the equipment nor the mentality to do anything sexual, because otherwise this whole scene would have been really inappropriate. As it was, I was pretty sure that everything happening here would wind up on the cutting room floor.

I was just about to deliver a bit of wonderfully inappropriate smartassery when I noticed a certain demon turned unicorn fixing me with an impressive glare.

I might be a bit clueless (okay, a lot clueless) when it comes to women, but even I understand the 'don't say anything or I will make you regret it for the rest of your life' glare. I kept my stupid comments in my pocket, or wherever it is I keep all those smartass remarks I never get around to using.

Eventually, the pegasus just sighed and resigned herself to her situation. "Pinkie, could you try to get the stuff outta my wings? Right now they're stuck together from all the sugar, and I can't fly straight." Being a good friend, Pinkie Pie immediately set to gobbling up the cotton candy stuck between Dash's feathers. Friendship is all about compromise and working together.

"So, like I was about to say," Rainbow Dash began, doing her best to ignore the pink pony gnawing on her. "The weather's been going completely crazy all day. One minute I'm taking a nice little nap, and then all of a sudden we've got cotton candy clouds that are raining chocolate milk all over the place. I've been trying to clear it up, but it's completely nuts out there. Never seen anything like it."

"Wait wait wait." Pinkie Pie cut in. "Did you just say it's raining chocolate milk?"

Rainbow Dash took one look at her pink friend, and sighed. "Yeah, it is."

Pinkie gave a huge grin and let out a happy little squeak, and then shot out the door, singing all the way. "Chocolate Rain. Some stay dry and others feel the pain. Chocolate Rain..."

"Cotton candy clouds and chocolate rain?" I frowned; I didn't remember anything like that happening in the cartoon. "That can't be normal."

"That's what I said." Rainbow Dash looked over at me, and then frowned. "Hey, waitaminute, who are you?" The Pegasus gave me a critical once-over. "You look kinda familiar..."

"Harry Dresden. We met a while back, when you guys had to chase Pinkie Pie to my little bit of reality. I was considerably less pony-like at the time." I pointed over at Lash. "That's Lash. Lash, meet Dash." I've always been a sucker for a bit of gratuitous rhyming.

"Oh. Why're you here, and why're you a pony now instead of ... whatever the hay you were before."

"Pinkie Pie."

Rainbow Dash made a sound halfway between a sigh and a laugh. "She is so random."

I felt a bit bad about holding the truth back, but I figured that the whole story should wait until I was in touch with Celestia. However, I was starting to get a bit worried that she might be out of the picture. It had been an uncomfortably long time since Twilight had sent her letter to the Princess, and there was still no answer. If we didn't hear from her soon, I would wait until Twilight could get her little crew together, and then tell the rest of them what was going on. I couldn't be completely sure, but I imagine even Nicky wouldn't like getting smacked in the face by the magical friendship rainbow of doom that the Elements of Harmony could spit out.

There's a thought; I wonder if the Elements were what Nicodemus was after. They were a pretty potent weapon after all. Nah, the Order of the Blackened Denarius wasn't exactly overflowing with Honesty, Loyalty, Generosity, Kindness, Laughter, and Friendship, and the Elements were just some fancy looking jewelry unless the people trying to use them had a buttload of those virtues.

"Mr. Dresden?" Twilight Sparkle caught my attention. "This weather's probably somepony's idea of a prank. I need to go help Rainbow Dash get it under control; it shouldn't take too long, I know exactly what spell I can use to fix everything." Twilight frowned for a moment, and added. "I'll have to ask you and Lash to stay here in the Library while I'm gone. From what the Princess told me, it could cause problems if you two went wandering around Ponyville."

"I understand." Not like I could really do a whole lot on my own anyway. Right now I didn't have any solid leads on what the Denarians were up to, and asking random ponies on the street wouldn't accomplish anything unless I got ridiculously lucky. Besides, going around bothering random ponies could cause all kinds of unexpected complications, and I did want to minimize how much I disrupted this universe.

Twilight trotted out the door, followed by Spike, while Rainbow flew out the window she'd crashed through a few minutes ago. Then, Lash and I were alone.

"So, up for a game of tic tac toe?"