Pony POV Series Season Seven: Not The Wedding You Remember

by Alex Warlorn

First published

It's time for the royal wedding between Princess Cadence and Shining Armor: except events spiral out of control in ways you are not familiar with. Nothing is certain anymore, the future is no longer set, will the future still have a happy ending

Howdy hoo! The seven season of the pony pov series is here at last! (Was waiting for the cover art to be done).

And . . . it's the royal wedding Princess Cadence and Shining Armor!!!

Seen this a million times before right? Except . . . not. While there have been many experiences to the ponies now their timeline has broken away from the Heart World, something is VERY WRONG here. With fate no longer totally on their side, and no true certainly and against an enemy that takes 'fighting dirty' to a whole new level, can the heroes still pull off a happy ending for everypony?


Cover art by Rose-Laxzi. http://rose-laxzi.deviantart.com/

The Audio adaption Is here:
ORIGINAL fan-art, ORIGINAL fan-music and VOICE ACTORS galore await!

And check out the trope page, please help keep it up to day please! Remember, you are awesome.

Recursive fanart and fan stories are here. http://alexwarlorn.deviantart.com/journal/MLP-FiM-Pony-POV-Series-Fanworks-audio-adaption-274110361 Many are rubber stamped by me as optional canon stories that reveal some of other sides of these stories.
Tropes page found here. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/FanFic/PonyPOVSeries
Fan Labor Pages here http://mlpfanart.wikia.com/wiki/My_Little_Pony_Fan_Labor_Wiki:Workshop/Pony_POV_Series_Season_Zero:_Discorded_Ponies and here. http://mlpfanart.wikia.com/wiki/My_Little_Pony_Fan_Labor_Wiki:Workshop/Pony_POV_Series_Season_One:_Reharmonization

Episode 149: Under The Stars 1 of 2

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Pony POV Series
Fluttershy
"Under The Stars"
My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic fanfiction
Edited by Kendell2 and Louis
Part 1 of 2

Twilight insists stargazing is wonderful. But I prefer watching fireflies to stargazing. Oh! And Stargazing is wonderful for her. Not that I was faking my joy when we saw that beautiful star shower. But seeing it with my friends was what made it special for me. Its the stars near the ground that enchantment me the most.

I really like the music the crickets are making. It's so peaceful. Pleasant. Not at all loud or confusing. The same way Princess Luna's moon looked beautiful tonight. I might not be...best of friends with Princess Luna, but I've always enjoyed her night...maybe I should try to tell her that. Just because I drove a wedge between us doesn't mean we can't remove it.

Fluttercruel was saying nothing. And I know why and I'm proud of her, she's being polite. We had to fight her to go to the butterfly migration together (and er, they had to fight me to drag me to the dragon migration) and she wouldn't stop complaining about how boring the butterflies were. How could she think it was boring seeing such beautiful creatures creating a living cloud of colors in the sky? But I knew Fluttercruel preferred...erm, 'exciting' things.

How do I feel about her eating meat? I...I don't think she's less of a pony for it. And, erm, I know that timberwolves eat meat, and they're not bad for it and...

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): You're not the first mother whose child has developed traits that make them uncomfortable.)

I know. But eating meat doesn't sit right with me, even if it does with her. The problem is that sharing the same body...it really does make me...uncomfortable.

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): As her mother, or as her cohabitant?)

Um...I really think it's both. But! But it isn't making me want to conquer Equestria or anything! Promise!

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): PLEASE tell me we're not going down this road again. I thought we were done with this.)

We are! I mean I am! I accepted what I did. And the tornado helped everypony accept me as Fluttershy. But what about other ponies who see her eating meat?

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Stand up for her, like a mother should, as so will your friends. Opinions of strangers shouldn't control your life.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): So how are ya gonna handle her eatin' meat when ya don't like eatin' meat?)

...The truth is that it's something I've got to live with. A parent is supposed to sacrifice for their child, not the other way around. And I know ponies are technically able to eat meat biologically, so she's not hurting herself or me. I'm just worried what other ponies will think of her and...and...I keep imagining her 'upgrading' to other creatures who...I guess 'think' more, and...

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Fluttershy, eating meat doesn't work that way. It's not a downward spiral. Fluttercruel has free will. She's not going to start eating other ponies.

(Griffons haven't eaten sapient creatures for a thousand years. They made a choice to be better than that. The majority of Griffon kingdoms are friends with Equestria. Ask any Hippogriff, who eat meat and are accepted by the way. Equestrian diplomats and some Guard Ponies learn to eat fish if needed for diplomatic reasons. And Fluttershy, you know what separates ponies from animals is that we can chose to be better than our instincts, they're always there, but we aren't slaves to them.)

That...That sounds like something Twilight would say. Thank you.

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Thank you for the compliment, Fluttershy.)

You're welcome. It's embarrassing really. My parents taught me to be tolerant of others and not to upset the applecart.

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Your parents?)

Oh yes. I visit them every Mother's Day and Father's Day. They taught me not to rock the boat, and you shouldn't interrupt, and you should always be considerate of others.

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): How do you feel about them now that you've taken back Flutterrage?)

I still love them. Those lessons are a part of me. If I got those lessons wrong, it's my fault.

Mom and Dad...had a lot of words for me after, after I made my biggest mistake. But...sniff, they...they say they don't hate me, couldn't hate me. I saw into their hearts when I was Nightmare Whisper: dad wishes I stood up for myself more, and mom wishes I had stayed in Cloudsdale. But...but I saw in their heart of hearts they do love me. I'm still their filly. And that's what counts, right?

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Do they know about their...granddaughter yet?)

Um...not yet, I'm still trying to figure out how to tell them. But I'm sure when I do, they'll accept her. Fluttercruel couldn't choose how she was born or who her father is.

Oh look! See how that bat swooped down and ate one of the fireflies? They aren't ponies, so we shouldn't judge them like ponies. They don't and can't understand the world like we do. I try my hardest not to say so around Angel. Animals don't feel sorry for killing, either other animals for eating or defending their territory, or each other over a mate. They are not like ponies. Angel acting like he does...I need to accept he's an exception, not the rule.

"Heh, that was something else. That bat plucked that firefly out of the air like that."

"Yes dear, it was. Did you know bats use echolocation to hunt in the dark, oh my! Of course you do dear, you have all of my memories. So of course you know."

"Yes, Mom. Yes, I do," she said flatly, "I like watching them go in for the kill, so much skill and timing involved, but animals just aren't really my thing...There are times I wish I got a chance to learn all this myself instead of being born with it."

"You wished you had your own foalhood instead of mine?"

"Heh, maybe. But having a foal in your head wouldn't have been very neat and tidy. The closest I had to a foalhood was...Mom? I have changed right? I have grown right?"

"Now now, don't go backsliding into something you worked so hard to get past."

"But what if the old man's old magic, didn't just make me out of thin air? Night Princess said we don't get to know the truth. What if he took some bad feelings in you, and gave them a mind of their own? What if I'm just the cruelty that might have existed in Fluttershy? Am I still something then if I'm no longer cruel? Wouldn't that mean it's better if...if...if we did what Pinkie and Pinkamena did?"

"No! Absolutely not young filly! You're not a PIECE of me, you're yourself!"

I felt Fluttercruel mentally cringe.

"...Fluttercruel," I said kind but firm, "Look at our flank, young lady."

I felt Fluttercruel make us look back at our flank. I let her see my Cutie Mark before changing places with her, allowing her Cutie Mark to manifest. "Do you see anything similar? At all?"

"...No..."

"Would your Cutie Mark be a pair of hooves holding each other and mine a trio of butterflies if you were just a piece of me or me of you? From what I've heard, Pinkie and Pinkamena had the same Cutie Mark. No matter which of us, if either, is the 'original' Fluttershy, we're not just PARTS of Fluttershy. If we were, we'd have the same Cutie Mark. You can be kind, I can...I can be cruel, we're not pieces!"

"...Hehe, I see you're making good use of your anger."

"It's about time I did." 'Better than New Fluttershy, I should have known I'd need time to adjust.'

"Don't worry about it, Fluttershy. It was bound to happen one way or another, at least this way you had a chance to grow. And it's actually more justified than how it would have happened, not that the writing for that episode was bad or anything, there was a bit of fridge logic but that's par the course with us, so you really should just be proud of yourself."

"Pinkie Pie!" I felt proud at not hiding in the bushes at her sudden appearance.

"Ta-da!"

"But-but-but-what are you doing here?! How'd you get here?! And, but, how did you know what I was thinking?"

"Oh that's one's easy, I read the story text."

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Hey! No filching our notes!)

"I was only borrowing them," Pinkie Pie said giving them back.

Fluttercruel sighed. 'We should be used to this by now...'

Sane 'Pinkie Diane' was still Pinkie.

"As for how I got here," Pinkie Pie said, "I trotted mostly. As for what I'm doing? Luna helped me figure out something very important to me recently, she was really nice about it too. I got to stay up all night with Twilight and Zecora. And got a recipe from a new friend. The point is that, Luna always wanted ponies to enjoy her night more, so I thought I'd try it out a little. And you were doing the same, so I thought why shouldn't I? And...it's something I really haven't done before."

"So you just happened to see us out here?"

"More or less. Life is made of 'coincidences'. Keeps it interesting...And I wanted to see it all. Just in case."

"Just in case of what?"

"Just in case, this is the night the world ends."

"What?!" I squeaked.

"Oh! I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I didn't mean to scare you, Fluttershy! It's just...everything has to end some day. Even if the Shadow finishes up and our world keeps going, Entropy has to do Her job someday, right? And every night I wonder, is this the night the world stops?"

"Pinkie Pie...what's...what's the point of thinking something like that?"

"Because...it's a wonderful world, isn't it, Fluttershy?"

"Yes...yes it is."

"So we should enjoy it while we can, because you never know when it'll suddenly all be over and your life will be canceled."

"I...I suppose you're right, but you shouldn't fixate on that."

"Oh, I'm not."

I looked at her tell tale mane and, "Pinkie Pie? Is that a new mane style?"

"Oh just a little something that happened. Very good friends of mine helped me work out some things." Pinkie Pie settled down next to me. "Fluttershy, it's wonderful to have a mother isn't it?"

I blinked. "Yes, of course. Why do you ask?"

"Oh, that camp out I told you about? I learned a few things that made me appreciate how my mom could've been not with me. How we just take our parents for granted. I found out if not for a very dear friend of mine making a very hard choice, I might not have even had my mom with me. I owe her so much."

"Really? Who is it? Have we met? What is she like?"

"She's...not around anymore."

"Oh. I'm so sorry to hear that. I'm just so so sorry."

"It was...a long time ago. She loved to sing, but at first she had way too much stage fright to sing, heh, until I heard her, by chance, and convinced her she should share her voice with everypony."

"What was her name?"

"Starsong Melody. She was a pegasus. You could say she was my inspiration to be Ponyville's song meister."

I felt my brain burn, Pinkie Pie's memories, the memories of before, of before she was even born...I remembered. I couldn't remember every detail of every life of every pony my fog touched. But I could remember the general idea of them. Most of them I just...put away, it wasn't right for me to probe into the private lives of others. It was a hard decision what to do about what I had learned about my friends.

'Was Starsong her mother?' Fluttercruel asked.

'What? No! Mrs. Pie...Pinkie's Mom is alive and well! Starsong was...somepony else I think,' I told my child.

I felt dizzy, talking to each other without words was very confusing sometimes, and it got worse if we tried to do something else at the same time. Talking with Pinkie at the same time was even more confusing, one voice in my head and another outside.

"You okay, Fluttershy?"

"Oh just speaking with Fluttercruel. And...I'm sorry about Starsong. I wish I could have met her."

"So do I," she said with that sad smile I'd have never thought I'd see from Pinkie Pie almost a year ago. She opened her mouth to say something, stopped herself, then hit herself on the head. "Oh right, I forgot. You learned about them, about, about the shadows-who-watch when...when you..."

"When I was a Nightmare. And I've actually tried not to think about them. I know it's just the way things are."

"I know. But I've learned the more you try NOT to think about something, the more you end up thinking about it. So it's best to just think it through sometimes."

"How do you not end up overdoing 'thinking it through?'"

"Hmmmmm." Pinkie Pie tapped her chin. "Rely on your friends to tell ya when your stuck on a merry-go-round for starters."

"That's, very wise of you Pinkie Pie."

"Thanks! Not the sort of thing you'd expect from Old Pinkie Pie is it? Fluttershy, I never bothered to ask the others, but do you guys, well, like how I've changed?"

I make a warm laugh. "Don't worry Pinkie Pie, I love New Pinkie, I think she's great. It's wonderful how you've become a butterfly."

"No problemo, Fluttershy!" She hugged me. "We sure have grown and learned a lot since we beat Discord, huh?"

"I guess we have."

+++++

Ya know, it's funny. Not ha-ha funny, though.

If had a fun crossover with our Heart World selves now, we'd be like strangers. We have shadows who were with us at the beginning. But are there any NEW shadows who care to join in in a story this long? Are we still enough like who we used to be that the shadow who watch us are still going to care?

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Please, no more.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Yeah. You just grew in a different directions, nothing else to it. But you started out from the same seeds. But no two apple trees are alike ya know. And when you started out, that's where the shadows come in. Those who are willing to make the trip will follow you all the way.)

Okay okay! No need to get pushy. I was just thinking.

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Seriously, don't worry so much about everything. You guys all have great lives, great families, great friends. You two have no right to be angsting all over the place!)

That's so sweet of you. Thanks!

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Hey hey hey! Watch it with the kissing.)

+++++

Pinkie laid down next to me and looked up at the stars, which drew my attention away from the fireflies. Orion the Hunter still looking for the Ursas not knowing they were on the earth below now. I feel kinda sorry for him. "We're never getting back to the old status quo, are we? Trixie the selfish jerky-pants who only cares about herself. Just six Elements of Harmony. Silver Spoon and Diamond Tiara being bullies to Applebloom and her friends, Spike only hanging out with Twilight and Rarity. Me not noticing things I don't want to. You...not having Fluttercruel around to play with."

"No we're not, and I don't want to. Anymore than I want to go back the old status quo we had before Twilight showed up. Me only going out of the cottage to go shopping or my weekly spa date with Rarity. Rainbow Dash and Applejack only being together when there was some contest in town."

"And me having friends, but not any best friends," Pinkie Pie added. "Though it would be simpler."

"Simpler isn't always better," I said. "It's like knitting, a simple pattern for a simple scarf is easier, but if you're doing it to look nice, it wouldn't be as satisfying."

"Hey, Pink," Fluttercruel spoke.

"Oh! Sorry for not saying hello to you too 'Ruelly, that was really really rude of me! But you're a pony who seems happy by herself a lot, I mean, besides being with Fluttershy so I thought you'd prefer just to be by yourself. Oh that's really no excuse. So Hi 'Ruelly! Lovely night we're having isn't it?"

"It didn't bother me, until you brought it up."

"Oh...sorry." Pinkie Pie lowered her head, her mane style didn't change.

"Pinkie Pie, can I tell you something bad I tried to do to you before I got my cutie mark? Please? Just sayin' somethin' isn't always the best things to do if it's over and done with but...it's really eating me inside and...but I don't want to UGH! I sound like mom!"

Pinkie looked uncomfortable, and looked like she was thinking it over. I choose to stay silent letting 'Cruel come forward.

"Alright 'Ruelly, if it's making you feel that bad: the Pink Pie confessional is open."

"First. I still hate that nickname. A lot."

"Okay."

"Second...When I hit you after I asked you if you had drank lots of Discord's chocolate milk? And asked you to swallow a blasting cap?"

"I remember, it had a bangy taste to it. Yes?"

"I was trying to make you explode."

Oh Dear.

"...I see. So you really wanted to just see what would happen?"

"No. I wanted you to cease to exist. I tried to murder you in cold blood. I wanted to dance over your ashes and Marshmallow, Purple, Orange, Rainbow's. I wanted Fluttershy alone and broken so she'd be a spayed steed I could ride instead existing with her. At least I HOPE that's why, otherwise I was just being a sadist doing it for fun. I wanted to watch small animals squirm as I tortured them. It was about me, me, me. I was...I was a total bucking psychopath!...I'm sorry. I really shouldn't have told you. I'm just being selfish now."

I felt Fluttercruel's tears in our eyes.

Mine joined hers. It was a reminder of what she had been like. Of what she could have become. She had been just a lonely filly, I knew how cruel foals could be from flight camp. Innocence and kindness weren't the same thing.

"...It's...okay, maybe it's not alright. I can't say I'm happy to hear about all that. Nope. Not in the least. But you're a better filly now. And you're big enough to admit it. If you can't take this burden by yourself: I'll take a little bit too, that's what friends do. Otherwise we'd be all pancakes from all the stuff we carry. Maybe it was a little selfish, but you're still a little filly deep down, and maybe a little selfish isn't that bad for a filly still growing. There are things from before that we should just and need help letting go of. Like those ponies in Sunnytown!"

"Yes, like those poor ponies in Sunnytown," I agreed.

"Those poor murderers, you mean," Fluttercruel said.

"Now, now, Fluttercruel, they were all just scared and ignorant, they didn't enjoy doing what they did to Ruby. They thought they were facing a return of the cutie pox."

"Mother, I love you. I don't like hurting your feelings anymore. But you're an idiot."

"Don't call your mother an idiot, young lady!"

"Yeah, that's not nice!"

"...Mother, you saw what you just did there, right? Your heart's bleeding all over the floor for a bunch of foal-killers...but name-calling...now THAT warrants a scolding! Remember history mom? When the Cutie Pox broke out doctors isolated ponies they thought were infected, and waited for symptoms to show. They didn't BURN THEM ALIVE. If Ruby had really had the Cutie Pox, that would have spread it to the lot of 'em! And did you forgot their 'she was going to ruin the party' speech-?! Wake up, Ma. They got what they deserved. And until they realize that their suffering is never going to end."

I spoke in the most firm tone I could. "Yes, I want my daughter to respect her elders, and to see the monsters she could have easily have been like can change for the better like she did. What they did was unspeakable, and they deserved to be punished. But they don't deserve to suffer forever if they can change, they're still ponies."

"Not anymore."

"Like you're 'not a pony' dear?"

"I repeat: Once they realize that they deserved to be punished THEN their suffering will have ended. THEN they'll have changed. They hold the key out of their own iron maidens. Since that hasn't happened yet, that means they're still have the hearts of ignorant foal-slaughtering murderers, and thus, are ignorant, foal-slaughtering murderers, not poor little dears."

"You had the heart of a sadistic murderer, so that means you were a sadistic murderer?"

"How can you lump me with them?!"

"Because I saved you! Like you saved me! And we can save them!"

"You think you can do that by cuddling them?!"

"I made mistakes as Nightmare Whisper, I helped them ignore their mistake instead of facing them. 'Kindest of Lies.' But they're still willing to trust me as their Princess Gaia, and maybe it's about time they saw cutie marks aren't all bad."

Pinkie Pie spoke, "Yeah! You grew from somepony who was nothing but cruel, but now you see what they and you did was bad! If you can grow-up, so can they! I think a thousand years of being unhappy zombies-"

"-of repeating their sin over and over-"

"-of throwing away their chance to grow all this time-"

"-Auntie Pink, you KNOW the way I said it is more right."

"Okay. Maybe you're right. But that's not how redemption works. I think. Fluttercruel, if they're finally ready to wake up from their nightmare, why shouldn't we all help them? A pony in need is a pony indeed!" Pinkie Pie supported.

"...Mom...no offense, but you'd let the Old Man out if you thought he wanted to redeem himself."

"Well, you gotta admit, a NICE Discord would be a much BETTER Discord than an imprisoned one!" Pinkie piped up. "He'd be one of the good guys!"

"We could have him LIVE with us!" I said, brightly. Pinkie Pie's fantasy of a GOOD Discord setting my imagination on overload, "Mama and Papa, together under the same roof, working as one to raise our daughter right!"

Fluttercruel felt ready to try to vomit in our mouth. "And when we're all living together, would Mama and Papa be doing the sort of 'Mama and Papa things,' late at night in bed? The sort of things that CREATES daughters in the first place?"

"Well. You're just going to have stay in your room during that time dear," I said in mock matter of fact, it was just a happy dream after all. Would I help Discord if I thought he ACTUALLY wanted to change? Of course I would.

"Well," said Pinkie Pie, with a giggle. "I'd imagine he'd at least be...flexible!"

"Then YOU should take him, Pinkie Pie!" snapped Fluttercruel. "After all, you don't have the heart to hold a grudge for longer than five seconds."

"That's not true," Pinkie said, quietly. "I felt angry for a long time at someone when I lost Starsong. Should I tell you a little story about the pony your dad turned me into? He was so friendly at first, like my new best friend, then he..." she shuddered, but her mane didn't go straight, "But what's the point of holding a grudge when they're really sorry they did it?"

"It keeps you from being naive."

"Uh uh! A naive pony forgets the bad thing they did ever happened; a forgiving pony just stops hating them for doing it, and gives them some trust so they can start earning back what they lost."

"...Does Mitta deserve to suffer, Fluttercruel?" I finally asked.

I felt Fluttercruel jump internally. She was then quiet. I didn't want to say it, I didn't want to open an old wound...but sometimes you DO need to make a cut to heal the real problem.

"You know how she feels, don't you?"

I heard my daughter sigh roughly. "You're not going to let this go until I completely give into your way of thinking, are you, Mom? I can't just call a child killer a child killer, can I? We can't just agree to disagree on this, can we?"

My filly gave one of her prize-winning eye rolls. "Fine, mother, you're right. Your wisdom is completely unquestionable."

I pretend not to pick up on her sarcasm, "Isn't seeing a pony find their way out of their darkness wonderful?" I wasn't talking about my daughter.

"Yes," said Fluttercruel tiredly. "Yes, it is. Especially if it'll get you to drop the subject. Though I will admit, I don't want Mitta to suffer anymore."

Fluttershy beamed. "That's my girl."

"The OTHER Sunnytowners, though-!"

Enough. "Like Three Leaf? Who just keeps walking out of the town in a daze until the curse drags her back under and drops her back in the middle of town? Or Grayhoof who won't stop staring at where Ruby's body in the fireplace was until we had them finally BURY it? Or Roneo and Starlet who keep crying in each other's hooves? Or Gladstone who wouldn't stop looking at the grave we had them finally place Ruby's body in? Applejack BROKE their lie Fluttercruel, and they broke with it, now we have to help them piece themselves back together. They've been punished for a thousand years and all it did was hurt them back! It's time to try something ELSE!"

"They're cowardly monsters with their heads up their flanks."

"Mitta was a coward who abandoned her best friend in her time when she needed her most. Maybe they would have killed her too. Maybe it's only her own guilt keeping her cursed. Sound like the mare you're sharing a body with? Would you have thought you'd have become a better pony? Is it just because you never got the chance to do your worst to Pinkie? They acted out of fear and ignorance, you wanted to hurt others for the sake of hurting others. If you can grow and change. Why should it be impossible for them?"

Pinkie Pie cheered. "Yeah! We're ponies! 'Don't give up on each other!' That's what Celestia teaching us remember? AND! I got Mitta to SMILE last time we visited! She was laughing! It was wonderful to hear! And Threeleaf's realized what she did is wrong now. I'm sure the others are too."

"They're monsters who can now become ponies dear . . . and you won't have to be one of a kind, anymore sweetie."

"...thanks mom."

After that, we just set there for a little bit, watching the stars...but even Pinkie needs sleep.

"Thank you Pinkie Pie, it's wonderful to have you here."

"Welcome! It's really great for us to hang out, I haven't seen you around Ponyville...kinda like the old days when you'd only spend time with Rarity."

"Oh yes. Rarity absolutely loves having Fluttercruel as a model. It's much better than working with equinquins she said. She said Fluttercruel has a real unique air to her. And...it's helped me get over being looked over, just a little. I really just don't like being displayed like candy."

I hesitated, Pinkie Pie didn't say anything. Seeing her...quiet was something that had taken getting used to.

'Gonna tell her about that time you starred for fifteen seconds in a clop-film?'

"That never happened!"

'Oh right, sorry, was thinking of one of my dreams.'

"You DREAM of me being in a WHAT-film?! Me?! Your MOTHER?!"

'You had one line, and didn't actually do anything. Though the producers did use your flank for the cover art.'

I blushed red.

"What did you say never happened? The Interviewers won't let me grab their notes."

"Uh! Nothing! 'Cruel just misremembering a dream."

"Oh, okay! So really, it almost feels like Fluttercruel is getting you all to herself, apart from your visits with Rarity."

"Well, I am a mother now. Didn't the Cakes have less time for you, Pinkie Pie, after the twins were born?"

"Oh! I guess, I guess they did. I didn't notice because of all the time I spent looking after the twins."

Pinkie Pie smiled. It was amazing how much she was proud of being trusted by her foster parents with her foster siblings. "Still, Mr. and Mrs. Cake are saying how it's important for Pound and Pumpkin to watch and listen to ponies even if they don't understand everything going on yet because they'll pick up bits and pieces."

"...Mom, I'm not a baby. I go to Ponyville with me in control the whole trip, and buy pet chow for you from the pet supply store, and coffee from Coffee Swirl."

"Coffee Swirl? Oh right!" Pinkie Pie then went off on a tangent on Coffee Swirl, I think he'd prefer if I didn't share it. He can be such grumpy sometimes. Coffee Swirl: a nice pegasus who didn't want to hurt Nightmare Whisper or excuse Princess Gaia.

"But the point is that Fluttercruel, you're our friend too, and we should see each other some more. Once upon a time, in another place there was a unicorn who loved books, and she had a pegasus friend who made cloud cover for her each day to read under, but one day the pegasus thought the cloud was just the unicorn blocking out her friends for when she wasn't inside and so took her in a flying trip to show her all she was missing." She put a hoof on our shoulder, "You're our friends. Don't forget the rest of us are here too. We're part of a set remember? It's no fun missing the last toy, even if you have to kitbash one because Hasbro won't make one. And 'Ruely, you wanna see the world for yourself now? How about we start with us? We all got to know the real you at your cute-ceañera, but how about you get to know us? I know you know everything Fluttershy knows, but ponies know different ponies differently, you understand?"

"...I know Coffee Swirl..."

"One new friend is nice, Fluttercruel, but what about the rest of us?" Pinkie asked. "It's like Twilight said when we were at the campout 'friends new and old, one is silver, the other gold'."

Fluttercruel looked hesitant. "But...how? Coffee Swirl made it easy...Sorta...after he came to mom's rescue...long story..."

I shuddered at the memory of that.

"Well, think about you and Dashie! You probably have a lot in common!"

"...She's right you know..." I finally said. "You and Rainbow Dash are both tough...you're both strong...you both...well..."

"Had a guilt complex. Yeah, I got that..."

"And?"

"...And we both...probably like wrestling and stuff like that...And scary movies..."

"Yeah, Dashie loves a scary movie! I think there's a few opening this weekend at the theatre!"

"...Think you could sit through one or two, mom?"

"As long as you keep control of the body, I think I can keep from fainting...maybe. Plus, I kind of know enough about what wounds are really like to tell a lot of it is fake. Remember when Rainbow dragged me to the opening of the first A Nightmare Moon on Elm Street film a little while before Twilight got here?"

Fluttercruel gave a chuckle. "Yeah, that's one of your memories I don't mind having. You freaked her out with all that freaky medical knowledge."

"See?!" Pinkie chimed in, looking at us both. "All three of you can enjoy a good movie!"

I did kind of wish we had a way to watch movies at home...but those are kind of expensive right now. The only film projector I know of is that old one we have for the Weather Patrol.

Applejack and Rarity had a sacred pact with each other to make sure none of the Cutie Mark Crusaders ever got to see a horror movie. Rainbow...she had a habit of telling scary stories...but I think she honestly doesn't think there's anything wrong with them. She loved it when they told ghost stories at flight camp...while I hid behind her or the cloud log we were using.

"And maybe Applejack wouldn't mind coming," I suggested. "She loves a thrill as much as Rainbow Dash..."

"Why not finally send a letter to Trixie as long as we're at it? She's supposed to be a storyteller too, so maybe she'll have fun!"

+++

"BLAGH! This garbage is devoid of any entertainment value beyond amusing the smallest of minds with the most base of appeals!" She couldn't believe she had let Lexy convince her to see this dribble! She had her dignity as a story-smith, after all!

+++

(Interviewer's Notes(Earth Pony): Pinkie Diane! Please stop looking at our notes!)

Sorry! I Pinkie Pie promise to try and not to sneak glances at them as much!

++++

"On second thought, maybe Trixie wouldn't like that kind of show. She seems more into the epic stuff," Pinkie Pie said, "It's great to have an excuse to see your friends, but you should make sure it's a good excuse."

"That sounds like a friendship letter," Fluttercruel said.

"And there is nothing wrong with that," I smiled.

"But maybe we can invite her over for one of those epic movies later," Pinkie suggested.

"That'd be great."

Fluttercruel chuckled. "Either that or next time one of those carnivals shows up with the rigged booths. Remember the Flim Flam Brothers?"

Pinkie Pie sweated slightly and grinned, "Of course I remember exactly how it happened with Trixie. But how about you get me started?"

Trixie had actually tried to steer Flim and Flam away from the Apples, but it was one (ex-)con-artist against two in practice, and Apple family honor was soon at stake. Trixie saw they were using the same trick she used to get proud ponies to dance to their tune, and they could just lose some business while the Apples could lose their home!

Applejack had been allowed to call for 'honorary family', and Trixie was part of it. She ended up goading the twins into betting the cider they'd made by playing on their cocksure overconfidence. Should've seen their jaws dropped when we started helping the Apple Family make cider! Turned out having TWO Elements of Magic instead of one made a big difference.

++++

Okay! Now I can remember! Having Trixie and Twilight meant them turning off their quality control a lot earlier than they did in the heart world. This meant they still won, by a really smaller, I mean really smaller margin compared to the huge lead they had before. But it also meant more of their cider was undrinkable, when they had to flee Ponyville's angry mob.

So the Apples got a smaller windfall from the good cider the Flim Flams abandoned. But of course, Trixie had no way of knowing that the Flim Flams would shoot themselves in the hoof, she'd simply wanted Applejack and her family to get SOMETHING if they'd won, instead of risking everything with nothing to gain. And Trixie's help DID mean the Apples had a LOT more cider, though the Flim Flams going crazy-desperate earlier meant a few more apple trees got destroyed...

But Applejack assured us it was nothing her family couldn't handle. She appreciated Trixie trying to help her family and they grew a little closer. If only we could make Trixie a regular character though, she's part of the team not a guest star. Though I guess that'd be harder on the Shadow Who Makes...

I guess I really should have taken what happened with Flim and Flam as a lesson to how even if we try to make something turn out better, like with the MMMM and my friends, things we didn't bet on could still happen.

You know I never thought about it, but on the plus side of not being strictly canon to the show, we don't have to reenact all the episodes. I mean, the shadow-who-makes hadn't even watched the third or forth season yet or the movie! I bet they won't even bother to include the season two finale, whatever it. We have enough subplots as is!

+++

"Um...Fluttercruel...I'm sure that Applejack appreciated you wanting to help Rainbow Dash turn the Flim Flam Brothers into 'jerk cider' when they mocked them for losing the farm..."

"Then why did you hold me back?"

"Um...because you've read all those self defense books...and probably would've gone a tad overboard..."

"Yeah...I probably would've..." I don't know whether to be proud of her or a little scared she admitted that.

Trixie also said if Rainbow had attacked them, they'd have been able to tell the Guards RAINBOW DASH was the one who turned it into a fight regardless of big the meanies they were. Trixie said she used the same trick herself when some of her 'challengers' for her old magic show tried to get their dignity back out of her hide.

"...But I wanted to give them the Stare too, it's one thing to win, it's another being a pair of big dumb meanies to a family who just lost their farm..."

"Hehe, that's my mom."

"The stars are beautiful tonight aren't they? Remember when they were pink fireflies? And Cheerilee used to read by them?" Pinkie Pie asked looking up at the sky, yawning again.

"No I don't," I said, "But I remember that you do."

"I remember when I first saw fireflies, I thought they were little stars that had wandered close to the ground like they say the Ursas did..."

"When I first saw stars, I thought they were millions of fireflies in the sky," I admitted.

"Heheh, that's funny," Pinkie Pie said as she snuggled close to us. We should get home, but...it wasn't so bad just staying out here...a little while longer...listen to the soft song the wind is making with the reeds...I can almost make out the words, maybe if I listen, just a little more softly...

Episode 150: Under The Stars 2 of 2

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Pony POV Series
Fluttershy
"Under The Stars"
My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic fanfiction
By Alex Warlorn
Edited by Kendell2 and Louis
Part 2 of 2

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): I'm back. Well, I got the two, three, ponies to bed. Jeez, Pinkie Pie should lay off on the sweets, I know Earth Ponies weigh more but come on. Couldn't we have left them in the field?)

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Yeah, they looked so adorable.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): As much as Fluttershy is friends with the animals, I'd rather they didn't catch a cold.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Hey! As long as we're here, I should feed Pee Wee! There you go, good phoenix, you're a great phoenix aren't you?)

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Stop saying such things, filly. Remember he's supposed to go to Spike eventually.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Ah, does he have to? I've gotten to really like him. Heheheeheheh, hey, that tickles! And I think he really likes me now.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): We don't belong here remember? Even if we've been forced to stay a lot longer than we were supposed to, we are still only a transient presence. Pee Wee is from this world, it's where he belongs.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Technically he's supposed to be dead since Spike was never there to save 'em. We kind of cheated, hence why the Wolf was after him.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): That is not the point. The point is that he's key to Spike learning how to raise and care for another, which is important for his own growth and maturity.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Then we should have put the egg under Spike's pillow with a note saying for the dragon to take care of him. Not hold onto the little guy ourselves.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): It has to be the right time and place. Ee have to do it in a way that allows Pee Wee to gain a concrete existence, or the timeline will reject him. Since Spike didn't go on the dragon migration, that means, as you said, never saved Pee Wee, so it needs to be a position where Spike will come to see Pee Wee as something he feels it's his duty to protect, before becoming emotionally connected to him and raising Pee Wee as a pony.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Uh, new flash, sis, this world's Spike sees himself as a dragon at heart, not a pony.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Again you're missing the point. The point is for Spike having to raise and teach another from scratch, teaching him the joy, and anguish, that comes with such a responsibility.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): You mean like she's doing?)

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): There there, Pee Wee, I'll make sure you're all healthy and happy for when...for when we give you to Spike like my sisters say we need to.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): I said to stop that.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Somepony needs to look after him in the meantime.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): You're supposed to remain emotionally indifferent. So he doesn't become connected to you.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): But that would be cruel.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): It's a cruelty to be kind.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Hey, don't be so hard on her; what did you EXPECT her to do when given an adorable little animal to take care of? And in case you forgot, Pee Wee did kinda imprint on what he first saw, which happened to be her.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Don't worry, if need be, I can just regress him back to an egg, and have him imprint again.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): You can't do that!)

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Hey, I'm all for helping Spike, but don't you think that'd be going too far?)

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): It's what has to happen, for Spike. Not for any of our selfish personalized reasons or goals. He might NEED to be a clean slate when we insert him so time will accept him.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Didn't mom want us to do things that were the happiest, not the way we wanted?)

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): This is not about that! This is not about I want, this isn't about what any of us want. This is about what Spike needs! And Pee Wee being with us is cheating. We can't take him with us when we go. This timeline's Wolf considered him a low level target, our timeline's Wolf will view him as an alien presence and not even we might be to protect him then. It's better this way.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Then maybe I don't want to go.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Now hold on, kiddo. That a no go! N! O! We -can't- stay here, we don't belong here. We're like bandages, we can't stay on forever.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Then maybe I don't want to be a bandage anymore.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): You don't get to decide what you are, kid.)

+++

Huh? Wha? I'm sorry the library is already closed, but if you really need something I'm sure Owlowiscious can get it for you if it's something simple. Oh, I guess I do look a little under the weather, well it is late. Why am I not in bed then? Well, I've been feeling too distracted for sleep.

Why would I be afraid of next Tuesday? Did I forget something on my schedule?

Oh, it's you. All of you.

Yes, I'm focused now, thank you for asking.

Whatever it is, can't it wait until morning? I'll be sure to work it into my schedule.

Because if you're going to put me through the gut-wrenching hassle and mind-bending inconvenience of dropping yet another world-shattering truth on my head, I'd much I'd like to have my day in order first. Uuuuugh.

No, nothing terrible happened recently, some terrible things almost happened, but this is Ponyville. Yes, I remember what the Crusaders said about dwelling on things. But this is something that is, not something that was.

Well, you see I was going over my schedule for one of Pinkie Pie's parties, when I realized I am dangerous. I always knew I was powerful, but as long as I kept myself in control it was no big deal right?

But what if I wasn't in control?

I never liked alcohol the first place. I prefer coffee and tea. I like having my wits sharp, thank you. The one time I drank was an experiment, that went horribly wrong. I told my friends it was because I hadn't gotten enough therapy for the Day of Chaos. But what if it was more than that?

All it would take is some pony slipping enough salts into a drink of mine...and I become something dangerous.

I considered simply building up a tolerance, since tiny amounts of spirits and salt are good for the body. But the thing with spirits, is that tolerance doesn't change the long term damage, and after you've built up a tolerance, if you stop drinking, it can take months for your body to adjust not having alcohol in your system and it wrecks havoc with your nervous system. It's a trap.

Just look at Berry Punch. She didn't chose to drink, she needed to. Drinks alone, hides bottles around the house, drink early in the morning, shaking when she don't have any. I'm glad she got help and Cheerilee supported her through her rehab.

But that doesn't change the reality: if my magic gets out of control just from some chemical induction...I'm a danger to those around me, just like when I was a foal. I'm trapped. Last time it was just a dancing house-tree, what if I'm, what if everypony isn't so lucky next time? What if I lose control like I did when I was a filly and Celestia isn't there to stop me?

Fluttershy got drunk, found out something depressing and turned into a Nightmare! Fluttercruel warned me about Trixie not getting depressed while drunk, but I didn't think about the full scale. After all, depressed, salt, and being an Element couldn't be all that's needed to make a Nightmare right? Right? Or that's what I told myself.

But I've been having nightmares, with a lowercase 'n.' Three of them, and I don't know which is worse.

In the first nightmare, I dumbed us all down, so we were all just smart enough so the only things we knew was that we were friends, what our Elements meant, and that we should always do what Princess Celestia told us. We had just enough collective brain-power to use our Elements on whatever or whoever Princess Celestia told us to and that it was always the right thing to do. We just smiled. Sometimes in these nightmares somepony impersonating The Princess tricks our limited selves.

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): And the next nightmare?)

...I become a Nightmare.
...
...
...
...You all look so pale. I can't blame you. Can imagine me a Nightmare? It would be the end of the world!

It was horrible! I made ponies shackled to books and made them just read forever! I was Nightmare Library!

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Oh.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Nightmare Library?)

And I had Origami Wings! And my origami horn was made out of study book pages!

And my knights wore bookmarks and little reading glasses and carried about big 'overdue' stampers! But why would they do that when ponies can't leave the library anyway?!

I tortured 'rule violators' by reading them Equestria's Most Boring Facts then assigned an ESSAY on that book! And my book forts! They dotted Equestria towering over everything!! And I refused to let poor ponies read them because they might get out of order! I was completely evil!

Then Rainbow Dash turned into Nightmare Mare-vel-DC-IDW when I tried to ban comic books!

Why are you all face hoofing?

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Can there be a Nightmare that ridiculous?)

++++

"Why are we all going on two hooves? And why are our front hooves acting like magnets?" Roseluck asked Daisy as she held a cup of tea with one hoof.

Bonbon in royal armor shouted, "Tis the gifts of the beautiful and totally relevant Nightmare Anthro!"

"Lyra! Where'd you get those cheap wings?"

"It's Nightmare Anthro now! And we shall do as our ancestors and honor humans by imitating them!" The green Nightmare shouted. "And remember! It's not Nightmare Night anymore! It's Halloween!"

++++

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Sadly, yes.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): I don't think Nightmares are funny at all.)

You are a smart filly! So you can see why I'm so worried! And how could you risk showing me Razzaroo and Bon Bon's diaries? Imagine if the shock of learning all that made me go Nightmare like what happened with Fluttershy? How could you risk that?

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): There is no kind way to say this. But Fluttershy already had damage inside she was struggling with before that day.)

And the rest of us don't?

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): That's why we waited to show you until you had matured enough to begin asking the right questions instead of jumping to conclusions. Trust us, Twilight Sparkle, if there's one pony we know, it's you.

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Pinkie Pie's memories of her previous self and before were going to return on their own regardless of what anypony did. She needed one of her best friends to understand the full truth of what she knew. The others, we hate to say it, wouldn't have been able to handle it as much as you could, and AJ is able to accept the truth, but sadly would not have been able to do as good a job. And Celestia, Her Parents bless her, has too many responsibilities to be there for her as much as you can.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): And just because it would drive most ponies crazy, still doesn't mean it should just be totally swept under the rug. Besides, it inspired you to get grants for those archeological digs right? That happened to know just where to dig, and how to properly interpret what they found right? Ponies can be inspired to reach for the stars again. And know not to grow proud because they know that they fell once already. And those ponies at the museum finally know what a 'DVD player' is. Heck, maybe finding and analyzing lost technology could start a new Golden Age!)

Then why didn't you explain that to me?

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Because Princess Celestia is the better teacher.)

The point is that what am I supposed to DO? I can't simply do nothing.

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): You said you were having three different nightmares, what was the one you didn't mention?)

...I dreamed that Ponyville took a vote. I dreamed my parents discussed it with the doctors. I dreamed everypony petitioned princess Celestia until she signed the mandate. They didn't cut my horn off. I was too valuable as an Element of Magic for that, and they couldn't know how losing my horn might affect my Element if at all.

So they stuck a seal on my horn so powerful and so restraining that my magic and my mana sense were all effectively dead. Imagine of somepony shut off the nerves to your legs. And the worst part was? I couldn't argue with their logic or their reasoning. It was like I was back at the academy all over again as a filly. When the adults were telling my parents I was simply too dangerous to keep my horn or interact with other ponies, I thought if I was able to learn and grow as much as I have, that I'd always be in control. And somepony someday could pay for me losing control! And all because I'm not strong enough where it counts to control the power inside me! Because I'm just flesh and blood with a power that makes mages decades older than me green with envy. And all because I can't trust myself when my body is overwhelmed by a chemical.

...Thanks for the hug, filly, but I'm afraid hugs aren't the answer to everything.

You know there was a law for thousands of years that mage unicorns were forbidden to be intoxicated, they were seen as a danger to themselves and those around them. It lasted so long because unicorns aren't supposed to be able to cast complex or powerful magic when drunk in the first place! So no pony even examined it!

I considered trying to erase all alcohol and salt from Equestria, but that would include rubbing alcohol and the like used by doctors, and salt is NEEDED for ponies to survive. And I've SEEN what extremism can do.

Any of my friends could go Nightmare under the right circumstances. A slight chemical imbalance in my brain from a common drink is all I need to lose the control I've become so proud of, and I'd turn a pony's liver into custard.

Maybe those who have been scared of us in Canterlot have been right from the beginning. We're simply too dangerous to have around. And I'm several times more dangerous than all my friends put together. Who protects Equestria from Equestria's protectors? We're all walking time bombs, and I'm the biggest of the lot.

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Twilight?)

Yes?

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Listen and think LOGICALLY to what I'm about to say.)

But-

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Sit...Good. Look, Twilight. Trixie is an Element of Magic, Fluttercruel is an Element of Kindness. Celestia and Luna are both Bearers of THREE of the Elements. Clover the Clever, Smart Cookie, and Private Pansy did something every bit as powerful, so who knows, maybe they were Bearers. How many of you have turned Nightmare?!)

...Two...But-

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Two in 10, maybe 13. You know from Bonbon's Diary that Patch and Logan fit the profile of Bearers because the Shards reacted to them, even if they weren't forged into the Elements yet. Can you say any of this was wrong?)

No...

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): During that several-hundred year period, multiple ponies used the shards, many for good ends. They changed hooves who knows how many times...and yet not ONE Nightmare was born. And during that time, salt and wine were a REQUIREMENT to survive due to water quality after The Day. And that's not even talking about the Paradise Ponies who were chosen by the Rainbow and thus in no different a position than you and your friends. Now, after this history lesson, does the existence of two Nightmares a thousand years apart from one another, one of which could have NOT been a Bearer and STILL became a Nightmare, compare to the countless ponies who were in the same exact position you eight are right now who DIDN'T?)

20 to 15.38% of the chosen ones turning into end of the world monsters is NOT encouraging.

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Ok, let's look at this more closely then. How many years have the Elements existed? Three thousand years. How many years did the Rainbow of Light, which chose the Paradise ponies, who contained dozens of members over their several THOUSAND years of existence? From the beginning of the Age of Myths till the beginning of Discord's reign. In all that time, how many people connected to them have gone Nightmare? Two. One of which would've gone Nightmare whether or not she was a Bearer PERIOD.

(Which means the ONLY Bearer in the history of the Elements and the Rainbow of Light to have gone Nightmare that we can decisively say went Nightmare BECAUSE she was a Bearer was Fluttershy; who was ALREADY an emotionally vulnerable wallflower who was already repressing the pain of what Discord did to her, got drunk, and was FORCED to witness the CAUSE of all that repressed pain, the Cruel Side of Nature, be presented to her in all its gory detail, in a manner that could ONLY happen to her. ONE Nightmare born from an Element Bearer in what amounts to LONGER than recorded history. How are THOSE statistics?)

Ok, so the Elements do not equal Nightmares...And I guess neither does drinking...

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Do you have any idea how much it takes to get an Alicorn drunk anyway? Celestia would need to drink an entire liquor store, on a solar eclipse, to get drunk.)

That doesn't change the matter that I'M still a dangerously powerful unicorn that could destroy the town if I get drunk! Or that...I'm dangerous period...

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Twilight, take a look at this.)

Huh? A tabloid...

'Local pegasus filly performs what is being called the 'Sonic Rainboom.' Rainbow Dash, a Cloudsdale native filly, performed the legendary Sonic Rainboom during an unofficial race at the Junior Speedsters. One of the school instructors, speaking on condition of anonymity, is of the humble opinion that...that her wings should be clipped because no one pegasus should be able to generate something so destructive that no pony else can even replicate?! In particular when held in the hooves of a filly! Even more so one known for impulsiveness and making friends with unsavory sorts, violent emotional outbursts, and an aggressive attitude with no respect for authority with the longest demerit list in the school's history?!'

That's terrible! By that logic, Trixie's mother should have her horn chopped off just for having the potential for destructive magic! Rainbow Dash is the most trustworthy pony around! She'd never use her Rainboom where it'd hurt someone by accident! She's reckless but not careless!

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Look at it from their point of view.)

Frankly, I don't see the point of that.

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn):...An anti-social filly delinquent known for not having a grip on her emotions suddenly being powerful enough to shatter boulders miles away. That kind of power would seem rather dangerous to any outside observer for an adult to have. Maybe it's better Rainbow Dash couldn't do the Sonic Rainboom again until she was a mare.)

'Maybes' and 'What-Ifs' are for idiots like this...this...fear-monger, hiding behind anonymity! Too cowardly to attach his own name to his beliefs! As well he should! Mutilating a foal because they might do something destructive with an unknown power? THAT'S INEQUINE! The day that happens is the day the Equestria I know is dead! I hope that stallion got found out and lost his job.

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Actually he worked there until he retired, he wrote a bestselling book, and is enjoying a job as a lifeguard on a tropical island.)

But did he get found out? Did he ever have the guts to own up to this awful proposition of his?

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): No. And there are pegasi even today who are very worried about Rainbow having that kind of power.)

They don't know her! I do. She is not that kind of pony who'd use what she can do to hurt others.

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Even though Rainbow has a big desire for hard cider.)

She never gets drunk without having one of her friends come with her to keep an eye on her...or at least I think she doesn't. Her flying is too precious to her for her to risk crippling herself flying drunk! That much I know!

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): What if somepony slips something in her drink?)

Then it's not her fault! It's the blasted jerk that slipped it to her! And...oh...

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Often times, Twilight, the only thing we need to solve a problem we can't overcome, is to see another in the same position. You said it yourself, Twilight; destroying something just because it MIGHT be a threat is jumping to a conclusion, and few things are more dangerous.)

...

I did say that, didn't I? Back when I was told the Flashstone was destroyed so it couldn't be misused. You're right, it would be foolish to give into paranoia. Be stupid to fear others just because their abilities are beyond that of the rank-and-file. That's racist logic. We'd be damning our society to mediocrity forevermore, because we'd be too scared of the exceptional. I really need to stop jumping to conclusions...

And I guess you're right about being able to help another with a problem we can't deal with ourselves...like at the Winter Wrap Up and with the tornado, I never once thought to try helping organize things to help MYSELF fit in...but then I saw how badly the others needed help and realized I could provide it, and later I had no problem encouraging Fluttershy to try something she didn't think she could help with...I think that might be a good friendship lesson...When Spike wakes up maybe I'll have him take a letter.

Uh...why do you seem so confused, my little pony?

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony):...Why are you so worried about drinking? Don't you need to drink water to live?)

...If you don't know, I won't be the one to tell you.

...Oh, and about Rainbow....

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Don't worry. As a filly most ponies were more surprised at her NOT being able to do it again. Then 'Rainbow's Sonic Rainboom Saves Wonderbolts (And Fashionista)' hit the headlines, and THAT is how the Sonic Rainboom exists in everypony's mind!)

Happy to hear it....And I think I might be able to sleep better tonight. I really needed that. Thank you.

"Who-who!"

"Yes, Owlowcious, I think I will have sweet dreams tonight."

I hope you three have sweet dreams too. And that's a nice phoenix chick you have little filly, you look cute together. Maybe I should write the letter myself for once.

'Dear Princess Celestia, I have so many fears and worries, they can rise up at random either when I'm sleeping or awake. But I have friends to help me face them rather than bury them...even if I didn't know they were my friends.'

There. Hello Smarty Pants, nice to have you back in bed with me, hope you don't mind me hiding you in the pillow during the day. What a beautiful night, goodnight Princess Luna.

++++

You're welcome Twilight Sparkle. Young Silver Spoon and her father lay under my moon and stars, staring up at the Heavens. Silver Tongue takes pains to point out the beauties of my night and make it interesting for his daughter, something for which I am grateful. I remember when the filly's dreams were filled with nightmares of her father attempting to murder her. Helping ponies with their nightmares is not always an easy feat, particularly when they are not simply bad dreams but nightmares stemming from that which they have refused to face.

Thankfully, the young one has faced her monsters.

"Alright, Silver Spoon, I think it's time to go to bed," Silver Tongue tells his daughter.

"...Do we have to?" the young one asked, she seemed to relish the moment and not want it to end, despite the rather large yawn she gave.

It is ironic...for the longest time I hated hearing ponies say 'time for bed' worse than any foal...in my insanity, I'd forgotten that many ponies loved my night because they could sleep and dream. And I had forgotten that even living concepts need sleep, if only to rest their weary minds...I suppose I was acting like a foal after all.

"Sorry, but how about we go to a play tomorrow night?"

"...Ok, Daddy..."

With that, father takes his daughter and puts her to bed. I know her dreams will now be far sweeter than they previously were.

Now I can enjoy a little reading. Hmmm. Chess through the ages? Couldn't hurt...Wait a minute. You can't castle while in check! CELLY!

++++

"So how was it?" Scootaloo asked from under the bed, crawling out, apparently Cutie Mark Crusader Boogie-Mares was a dud.

"Pretty," Silver Spoon said, "Thanks for giving me that private time, girls."

"Don't mention it," Sweetie Belle said, giving a small smile. "I know what how important time with your dad is."

"No prob," Applebloom finished. "...Ah do too."

"Me three," Scootaloo said in a low whisper.

"And it's great ya've figured that out too." Applebloom nuzzled her.

"Thanks guys." Silver Spoon returned the nuzzle.

"...Can I keep the bits I found under here?" Scootaloo asked after letting the moment pass.

Silver Spoon chuckled. "...Sure...so, what exactly do you do at a normal sleepover?"

"But you had them with Tiara," Sweetie Belle said in a way that wasn't a question.

"Yes...but it was always just the two of us. And I was still trying to be a lady, not a filly. I want to learn how fillies have a sleepover."

"Ya tell spooky stories," Applebloom said, making a ghost noise.

The fillies looked at each other, considering Applebloom had lived a ghost story according to her, they were surprised she'd suggest that first.

"What? Ah still like a scary story. Unless yah all are scared."

"What? Me, scared? No way!"

"Yeah! bring it on!"

"Alright, anypony have one?"

Silver Spoon spoke up. "Alright, I think I know a few..."

++++

"Remember dear you're going back to regular school tomorrow!" Derpy said tucking Dinky in. Derpy had considered trying to get her little muffin into Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns after realizing how smart the filly had become on their trip to Canterlot...but the idea of her baby being so far away...it just scared her. Sure, the Doctor said he could make sure she'd see her all the time, but...it wouldn't feel right.

"Yes mama!" Dinky actually thought it might be fun to hang out with the foals in class instead of homeschooling like she had been doing for most of the year. And she couldn't wait to show Miss Cheerilee everything she knew now! "Miss Cheerilee says she'll be happy to have me back!"

"Goodnight my little muffin." Derpy kissed her goodnight.

++++

"Your cutie mark is for being graceful isn't it, Alula?" Ask the giant feather for a face.

I look back at it, I wasn't wearing the flower sticker today. "Y-yeah, it is. But it's nothing special. I mean, so many pegasi have feather cutie marks too."

The feather frowned at me, looking sympathetic, or I thought it was. "Oh, I know how awful that must be; after all, what could be more horrible than being the same as everypony else?" The feather then got a smile. "Well, what if your cutie mark was super extra special? What if your wings were special? If you dislike you cutie mark, then you must dislike being graceful, won't worry, your wings will make sure you'll be anything but graceful now! And don't blame me, blame that big dumb sister of yours, after all, who pressured you and made sure you always practiced whether you wanted to take a day off or not?"

--

"What that big dumb meanie Discord did to you was awful Alula, you don't need to feel that pain anymore. Just look around at the crowds cheering for you, they love you, you are special."

"Thank you Mama Princess Gaia!"

I did, and I smiled so wide! They all loved me! "Alula is coolest!" Shouted a filly Cloudkicker.

I know a lot of ponies hated Miss Fluttershy for making all the adults foals, but what's wrong with being a foal? I've been one all my life after all. And it was all that weird darkness alien thing's fault, the newspapers they sell next to the banana flavored gum said so!

I kept this from my big sister Cloudkicker, she didn't like Fluttershy for making her my age for some reason. Until after Fluttershy saved the water tornado that Equestria needed for all the rain. Then she seemed to accept her back as part of the herd. I know my big sister isn't really mean now too. Mama Princess Gaia helped me see that too.

"I had another dream about Diamond Tiara last night, big sister."

"That's...interesting little winglet."

"I wonder if I'll have one tonight too."

"Only one way to find out you know."

"Oh! Right. I guess. But this time we were flying."

"An Earth pony flying without wings, that sounds interesting."

"Oh she wasn't an Earth pony in my dream."

"She was a pegasus?"

"Kinda. She had a horn too. She was saying how she'd need me for something important."

Big sister went super silent for a bit before saying. "Alula. I'm worried. Diamond Tiara's been gone since last year. I'm worried that she's...erm, not as nice as you dream about her being."

"She's just lonely, big sister, she's not sure how to make friends. I'm sure she'll be making lots of friends when she comes back."

"Alright dear, you should see what Diamond Tiara has for you that's so important then. Goodnight, little winglet."

"Goodnight, big sister Cloudkicker."

++++

"Thanks for letting me sleep over tonight Twist!" Truffle said, formerly Chubby Cheeks before his Mark-Mitzvah.

"Ith's perfecthly fine!" Twist whispered to the little colt. Her parents had seemed surprisingly delighted at the idea of the sleepover. Truffle's were more surprised than anything and mostly just nodded.

However, Applebloom was confused and upset when she was not invited. Twist promised they were still friends, she just wanted a chance to get to know Truffle better. After all, if Applebloom could make new friends, why couldn't Twist?

Silver Spoon was genuinely sad she couldn't invite the CMC for a sleepover at her house in return, but she already had gotten time to spend with her father, which was few and far between and very much needed.

Then Silver's father changed his schedule and choose to help her have both, acting like a typical father with a duty to spoil his little girl. Silver Platter hadn't seemed thrilled, but politely relented.

Twilight was worried about Spike being upset about missing this with his new friends, being too tired to attend himself (Twilight had giggled to herself at Spike WANTING to sleep over with a bunch of fillies), but planned to make up for it with a sleep over with Spike possibly at the library (and had begun CMC-proofing the shelves and putting a double lock on her lab).

As far as Twist herself was concerned, right now she was just helping the pudgy colt grow out of his shell. He certainly liked her sweets, and she did love making sweets. But he said she was cute too. That was nice. He was cute too! Mayor Mare's husband even attended Cubby's Mark-Mitzvah.

Speaking of cutie marks...Twist suddenly wondered where Diamond Tiara's parents were when she had HER party. Oh well, they likely had some super giant party at her house with guests from all over Equestria waiting for her after Applebloom finally stood up to that bully.

But Twist wasn't going to let things like that distract her. Nothing would spoil this.

"Did you sneak that book out like I asked?"

"I don't think adults want us reading this kinda book," he said.

"Who cares what adults thinks right now? This is the night, it's all ours."

"We're not vampire ponies."

"Nope but this is a sleepover!"

"Shouldn't we be sleeping then?"

Twist giggled, "Chubby, I mean Truffle, you should know, all girls do, and so should boys, nopony sleeps at a slumber party! Now open the book. Oooh, oooh, this is delicious, I could eat this right up, don't you want to try this Chubby?"

"Aren't we a little small to do this?"

"You're never too young! Come on now, aren't you just a little bit curious?"

"...I guess. Okay. Let's do it!"

"Okay! This recipe is gonna be great! Don't worry, my parents trust me with the kitchen. I swear one day I'm gonna put Sugar Cube Corner out of business!...Or just sell them the royalties to my whistle candies and make a fortune!"

"Then you'd be rich like Silver Spoon and Diamond Tiara!"

"Naw. Not like them. I'll never start treating ponies like junk. You can count on me staying Twist!"

"That's great to hear. I like Twist the way she is."

"Oh you." They nuzzled.

++++

Trixie looked over her mail. She had had not gone over it today yet. Mostly cause she was busy, but really cause she was lazy about that sort of thing. While she liked to pretend before that she got tons and tons of fan mail a day, the reality was much more humble. Besides, if Twilight or the others had something to tell her she'd notice a floating scroll appearing out of a burst of green flame. Or Twilight would just appear at her window in the middle of the night again. And her friends in Hoofington...oh right, she didn't have any.

"Sis you really need to start making friends in Hoofington, not just long distance relationships with mares in Ponyville," Nyxie had told her.

"Trixie is...I'm not quite sure how to make friends who aren't friends of friends who saved Trixie from a catatonic state then helped in saving Equestria."

"Then maybe Pixie and I can start teaching you. You've already really improved Trixie, I'm sure we can find someponies willing to socialize at one of her concerts or one of Lexy's performances."

"Lexy? You mean HEXY," Trixie said with alarm at the imp she had for a little sister who had never quite grown out of her 'mischievous filly' stage. The trickster characters she often played as were a natural to her. Lexy claimed she had learned from watching Trixie. Trixie would have to introduce her to Fluttercruel, Pinkie, and Rainbow Dash, they'd get along swimmingly. Trixie shuddered, perhaps too swimmingly. She wasn't sure if Ponyville would survive the resulting prank war...

"Now now, that was never a nice name to call her."

"She loves it and writes it on her personal checks. She'd've legally changed her name to that, except Mom and Dad didn't approve remember?"

"I'm saying you shouldn't think of her like that. You know she loves you. All of us do. And you're finally able to make bonds with a good pony outside the family."

"Trixie is not giving mother grandfoals."

"I NEVER SAID THAT!"

"Sorry. Been spending too much time around some ponies..." Trixie didn't say who might have been trying to set her up on dates she couldn't have had less interest in, and Nyxie chose not to pry. "...We'll see what happens..."

"Well." She hugged Trixie, "Goodnight big sister, sleep tight."

Trixie returned the hug and finally looked at her mail. Nothing out of the ordinary.

There was a knock at the door. She opened the door to find a strongly familiar gray pegasus with a bubbles cutie mark. What was the blue shed from Ponyville doing here?

"Special delivery!" She handed the letter to Trixie, not even asking for her name or signature and rushed into the blue shed that vanished.

Trixie stared for a few moments at the blank space Ponyville's shed had just occupied, then sighed. "After Discord, Loneliness, Princess Gaia, and discovering she is an Element of Magic, Trixie believes that seemed almost normal."

Trixie didn't know the Doctor would be getting another lecture, from Princess Luna this time, about abusing his TARDIS and meddling in mundane pony affairs.

Trixie looked at the letter and all other things were forgotten. The royal seal?! Address from Canterlot?! Her magic shaking, all sleepiness gone, she cracked open the letter and began to read,

"Greeting Trixie Midsummernight of the Lulamoon Clan,
You are cordially invited..."

~Fin

Episode 151: Reach For the Stars Part 1

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Prince Blueblood: Reach for the stars
A tribute to: My Little Pony Friendship is Magic
Healing Pony POV Series by alexwarlorn
Status: canon (yes, you are reading this right)
WRITTEN BY ItsfromPeople

Close the doors! CLOSE THE DOORS! I... I think I still need some time before I can see sunlight again. You can laugh about me if you want. I know most of my simple-minded servants find this idea simply hilarious. They are all just too happy to not see me outside of my own luxurious room.

Servants act obediently when you are standing before them but they constantly talk behind your back about you and will spread rumours about you if you are not careful. Sometimes this happens even if you are careful. The slightest mistake or misunderstanding will be turned against you. You can never trust lowly commoners. Princess Celestia is still haunted by countless idiotic and baseless rumors.

Silence? And since you have forgotten to introduce yourselves like you SHOULD have to a prince, it is my turn to start introductions. My name is Prince Blueblood. It is about time you show up to interview the third most important pony in Canterlot. My two eternal aunts are of course the two most important ponies in this legendary place. So they must have been your first choices for interviews. After all they are the Princesses of the Night and the D-D-D-Day.

Once the last Grand Galloping Gala was over I thought that this was the worst possible thing that would ever happen to me. I was wrong for once.

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Have you ever planed or considered revenge against Miss Rarity for "ruining" the gala for you?)

How stupid do you think I am? Wait, do not answer this question. I know Twilight Sparkle and I was there when the window, celebrating the victory of her and her group over Nightmare Moon, was unveiled. It was one of the more important events of the year. I know the names of every single one of the Elements of Harmony. Despite not any of them being of a noble bloodline, they have somehow managed to do something wonderful and brought Auntie Luna back to us.

This made Miss Rarity a more then acceptable choice for the Gala. An entourage of somepony like me needs to shine on her own to let me shine even brighter. A mare of an ancient noble family or a famous celebrity is the best choice for me. And as the Element of Generosity, Miss Rarity was a member of the later category. Since she wasn't even a noble, this also meant that I had a servant for the evening with me. She was also a very good shield once I was attacked. It was so convenient!

Of course there are the disappointing evenings when I am unable to find a mare with neither of these qualities and have to take a mere beautiful mare.

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): They are ponies and you treat them like accessories. Do you ever think how THEY have felt about that?)

No, why should I? I have my standards and it is the fault of the others if they are not able to live up to it. For example being the Element of Honesty, didn't mean that I would accept lowly common carnival fare from that mare. Imagine the talk if my royal self was seen eating such base things! And as a colt I was taught that the food of commoners is unclean and infectious.

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Now I don't know if I want to punch you or take pity on you.)

And then got an entire cake worth of the poisonous material on my royal person! What right did Miss Rarity have to speak to me in such a base manner? I give her the privilege of being with me for one evening, and the honor of protecting my royal person, and she thinks she has the right to speak to me in such a rude manner and ruin my coat!

Of course I wanted them to face justice for their rube-like actions, having ruined my coat and publicly humiliating me and making me a laughing stock for months to come! Oh and I guess maybe ruining the evening of many other high-class ponies, trampling some under wild animals, traumatizing many animals of Auntie's private zoo, damaging or destroying ancestral musical instruments, ruining a priceless work of art, costing thousands of bits in property damage, and psychologically scarring some of our more fragile high class ponies with a crippling phobia of the color combination of yellow and pink. But most importantly dirtying and humiliating me!

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Oh... Oh I'm sorry. I guess... I guess they didn't go and think about everythin' after they had so much with-)

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Shush!)

But Auntie insisted on paying for everything out of her own personal funds, including the psychological care for guests and her animals, visiting each one personally (I suspect some at the same time). And she commissioned a replacement statue. I don't know how she found a replacement for the cello that was destroyed. She also privately and personally pardoned her favourite and her five friends before the paper work had even finished processing.

If I did something like that, I'd be on the face of every tabloid for a year, be banned from the Gala for the rest of my life, and likely be suspended from the rest if I was lucky! I wonder if I saved the world that I'd be allowed to destroy property and ruin evenings and get away scot-free.

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): I...I really am sorry. It's just, after seeing how boring the Gala was, a lotta them were heart broken.)

And that gives them the right to-

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Let us concentrate on the topics. What did you experience when Discord was freed from his imprisonment?)

You still not know about it? I thought the traitorous servants already bragged about that.

I was just relaxing in my own room and went over some of my personal maps of the Canterlot Castle. It was a hobby that started a long time ago, around the time I had gotten my cutie mark. I had drawn every single one of these maps myself. I took a break and looked over the pictures of myself that hung on the walls.

Suddenly the most magnificent and detailed compass I had ever seen appeared before me. I wanted to buy ten copies of this object instantly. It was almost divine but suddenly it began to talk.

"Oh what luck I have, good old Galaxia had a few kids and even today a few of them are still around."

I had absolutely no idea who the compass was talking about. This was about the moment when I realized that a talking compass was there with me in the same room and I did the smart thing and ran for the door.

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): So you just ran away?)

Did you expect me to stay and talk with a floating compass?

As I opened the door as fast as possible a stallion made of fire was standing before me and blocked my exit. He looked great, he reminded me a lot on myself. The compass continued to talk.

"There is no need to run. I won't do the same thing I did with Galaxia. That was over way too soon. And didn't you always want to be more like Auntie Celestia? I can make that happen."

It was crazy, it was like the compass was reading my mind!

I had to admit that being made out of fire looked kinda amazing. Maybe something inspired by Princess Luna would also improve my appearance. A mane flowing with stars for example. It is really hard to come up with ideas how I could look any better. But the look on the face of this twin made out of fire did unnerve me more then I wanted to admit.

"I... erm, that is... let's see... but first... could you... but..."

The compass face sighed irritably.

"You see... yes I suppose but... if I had to choose... if there's that could be improved... of course then there's..."

A fiery mane or a mane made out of stars? Maybe that would shut-up those absurd college students who popped up every few years claiming that I was no way actually related to Auntie and therefore had no right to be called a Prince and should be thrown out of Canterlot. What should I chose? Would my suits or coat still go with that? What was this thing made of fire anyway? An illusion or something?

Princess Luna and Auntie gave some of their magic to their royal guards, why couldn't they give some to me?! Don't I deserve it more?

"And I thought 'fun and games by proxy' was supposed to be poetic. It is no fun if you don't talk back. You're boring. So we'll just skip the build-up and go to the next part and I move on to some more interesting ponies. But here's one bit of fun. Remember: the sun is trying to kill you."

Suddenly the compass was gone and the stallion moved closer to me. It was this moment when I noticed that I was made out of ice. Ice! I could see right through myself! I couldn't see any ice internal organs or bones, just ice! This wasn't what I had in mind when I thought about Princess Luna. And the stallion closed in on me. I was so hot. Wait! I started to melt! The stallion grinned wider.

It was trying to kill me, just like the compass had said! I had to get out of here. I had to get somewhere, anywhere where it couldn't reach me. I briefly noticed that I left small patches of ice on the floor as I stumbled around the room.

"You can not hide from the warmth of the sun."

The fire creature spoke in my own voice!

I didn't think much and picked up the small table with all my priceless, unique maps and smashed it against this fire creature and ran to the door. Do you know how long it took to draw all these maps and add all the details to them? Days of my hard work were ruined!

"Why are you afraid? Embrace me, beautiful."

Outside I had to find some of these lazy guards and let them arrest this fire thing. They are never there when I needed them. Only then did I notice that everypony else had gone insane. I heard disturbing shrieks from the library. It sounded like somepony was dragged back into something and suddenly everything was silent.

Instantly I ran into the opposite direction. I saw ponies ramming their heads into the walls until they started to bleed. Others jumped around like hyperactive children, ignoring the damage when they hit the ground. There had to be somepony left to help me, someone to fix this.

Then I saw Princess Celestia. It was wrong. It was just so wrong. She looked like a little filly. The eternal goddess of the day that was always the calm center of this ever-changing world was standing before me like a parody of the wise ruler she was supposed to be.

As an Alicorn she was high above any mortal pony and because her family shared her blood with me, it made me more important to any normal noble, rich pony or lowly commoner.

This had to be a trick, an imposter, an illusion or a fake. This simply couldn't be! How could this thing dare to impersonate the Sun Goddess herself?

"Ah! A cute icy mare! Are you Lulu's pet made cute?"

"I am not a mare or a pet, you brat! I am a stallion!"

What happened to my voice? Why was it suddenly so different?

Unfortunately the wall right next to me had turned to glass and I could see my reflection. I had turned into a mare. When did that happen? I guess I was too concentrated on the fact that I was turned into ice to notice this additional transformation.

And damn was I hot. No pun intended. I mean just wow. I never thought about what I would have looked like if I wasn't born a colt but I should have known that I would still look amazing. Once I get back to normal it would be hard to find a mare for a night that could compete with this.

"Come to me beautiful Princess Blueblood!"

The fire thing had found me again. I had to do something. I desperately looked at the demented filly standing before me. But she had turned her attention to the few guards that had bothered to come to my aid and turned them into clockwork creatures walking around in circles. Was she trying to get me killed?

I could feel my body melting as the fire thing came closer and closer. Then it hit me in the face. These powers, this ability to change the guards at will... This was not some cheap knockoff.

Princess Celestia was truly standing before me and she did nothing to help me. Then she was just gone.

She left me all alone with this fire thing! Was the compass right? It was my cutie mark after all. Did it try to warn me that Celestia herself was trying to murder me? Was this fire thing a creation of hers?

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): You got this all wrong.)

"There is no need to be afraid of the sun."

How could she hate me so much? Did I really matter so little to her? Was it a punishment for not being born as an Alicorn like Cadence?

But... I am a pony born from the noblest bloodline and related to the Alicorns themselves. I am important. You can't just throw me away like nothing!

I just ran away, away from this fire thing, away from all the insane ponies, away from all the things the ponies had turned into, just away from everything. But there was no escape from this chaotic hell.

I tried multiple times to escape the castle but somehow all ways just led back inside. Exploration and map-making were my special talents but that was completely worthless as this entire castle had stopped making sense. I already ran past my own room six times despite running away from it.

Suddenly I saw Princess Luna. She wasn't a filly, she wasn't a thing and in fact she looked refreshingly frustrated. She was still sane! She would save me from everything!

"Help me!"

The worthless guards did nothing for me. They really never do anything but stand around.

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Had you already forgotten the guards that did try to come to your aid and risked there own lives for you mere minutes ago?)

At this point, yes I had completely forgotten about them.

"Auntie Luna! Please! Save me!"

"....Blueblood?! What the...?"

I had to roll my eyes at her reaction. My sorry state might have something to do with all the CHAOS GOING ON HERE!

"Of all the foalish questions at a time like... Oh no, he's coming!"

The fire thing had found me again. How did it keep following me? Did I watch too many horror movies?

"Uh... Well, for once I can deny I set anyone on fire..."

I did the sane thing and hid behind my immortal invincible aunt as ice begins to form on her wings. Like I care about that right now, just do something! Anything! Don't leave me all alone. Not again. Please not you too.

"Please! Stop him! Extinguish him! Before he melts me!"

I found myself crying. A prince doesn't cry but this chaos had taken even this away from me.

"Blueblood, if it's another transformed pony putting him out would kill him... her... was it a her before?"

She does care more about the fire thing then about me. I was abandoned again. Did nopony care about me anymore? Had anypony ever?

I continued to run away. I raced through another door when it suddenly closed itself behind me. For once I had luck and it blocked the fire thing long enough to allow me to get some distance between us.

Soon I could hear its voice singing close to me. How the hay does it keep finding me? Was it the sunlight that gave my position away to this fire thing? But there is no escape from the sun.

I don't even know how long I lasted. Time didn't seem to matter in this chaotic hell.

Eventually I couldn't run anymore. I was completely spent.

The fire thing closed in on me. I didn't even care anymore.

"Lovely Princess Blueblood, now you will be mine."

That was it. I knew that this was the end of the line for me. And nopony even cared.

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Did you regret anything at this point? Something you had said or done?)

No, in this moment I was too exhausted to think about anything like this. I just wanted it to finally be over.

Suddenly a bright light covered everything but instead of melting me completely, it felt warm. Like an embrace of something long forgotten.

For a moment I saw an Alicorn I had never seen before. She was simply wonderful; it was like seeing the entire beauty of the stars compressed into a single being. Her expression was hard to read. Was she disappointed? Was she sad? Was she trying to hide tears? I wondered if she was one of my ancestors... I KNOW I have an Alicorn for an ancestor! I know I do!

For the fraction of a second I felt free before the light vanished and I couldn't see the fire thing anywhere. There was a cute maid next to me. I had to focus! But where was the fire thing? It must be hiding. It must still be after me! There was no escape. So I ran back into my room. Only the darkness was safe.

I heard voices outside but I was too afraid to take a look. Eventually a few servants came and tried to get me to go outside into the dangerous light. It took me some time to realize that I found my own room without any trouble. This meant that the architecture of the castle was back to normal. But I was still too afraid to walk outside. It was around then I realized I was no longer made of ice and again my handsome stallion self.

Why are you three still not laughing? Isn't it hilarious? Prince Blueblood is afraid of normal sunlight. I must have become the laughing stock of every servant in the castle. Some had their fun with little mirrors. Of course I never saw who.

I've had therapy since then. It took a lot of expensive and extended therapy but I think I need a few more months before I am able to walk normally in the sunlight again. As long as the light isn't too bright I don't get any new panic attacks for now. Do you know how much of a hindrance this is for diplomatic missions?

The therapist also said that somehow I manage to have a superiority complex and an inferiority complex at the same time. Saying I needed to learn about something called 'em-path-e.' I love making maps and I've never even heard of that road.

I guess it may be connected to the fact that after all these evenings spend with mares, not a single one of them ever came back. I always awake alone.

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): That is... erm... could you tell us how you got your cutie mark?)

Now this is a sudden turn in conversation. And it feels somewhat strange to talk about it.

It was a long time ago when I was the most important young prince in the entire castle. I never had left the castle at this point but I knew the insides of it perfectly, every single piece of furniture.

The instructors and my mother had forbidden me to leave this castle until I was old enough to protect myself. And I was told to always follow the rules they made for me and to never talk with others, especially commoners. I was told that to represent my bloodline, my behavior had to follow these guidelines perfectly.

Playing with others was of course forbidden as well. There was the danger that somepony working for a tabloid would take a picture and turn it into a story that could ruin my life forever mother said.

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Where are your parents anyway?)

Lady Pure Blood had a diplomatic position and was always... always busy representing the bloodline and Equestria around the world. I think I have seen Princess Celestia more often then my own mother... I mean Lady Pure Blood. She always insisted on being called by her title. Not that I have seen the Princess that often... Lady Pure Blood died when I was eight years old because of a sickness... on one of her diplomatic missions.

She made sure I always spoke addressed as mine title, a ruler on the flanks made sure I remembered that rule, don't look like that, it was for my own good, she said so. Her will made sure my instructors continued to mold me into the proper Prince I was destined to be.

My father? ... His name was Blue Zenith. His biggest joy was to explore the world in his personal airship the Windfish I. He... left us in an accident in one of these dangerous light airships when I was about three years old.

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): I am sorry, I had no idea.)

Maybe that is one reason that I do volunteer for so many political missions outside of Canterlot... It allows me to be closer to my parents... both of them... and to be free. I deserve it after all.

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): So let me get this straight, you grew up most of your life without your mother AND father, and your mother's will made sure that you weren't to have any foalhood friends?!)

She also left the family fortune so I would continue to be well cared for as a Prince should be. A Prince Blueblood is a Prince Blueblood after all. We are a staple of Canterlot itself as much as Auntie Celestia.

But I don't want to bore you with that any further... you wanted to know about the cutie mark.

Back when I was just a young good-looking prince, I had to find something that I could do alone and I soon started to explore the castle. There was always something new to find and there are even a few hidden paths in the castle. I always had some drawing utensils and paper with me to draw my own maps.

Getting away from the servants that were supposed to watch over me was easy. I got really good in hiding behind furniture and ponies if they were looking for me.

Princess Celestia was mostly busy either teaching the antisocial bookworm Sparkle about magic or instructing Cadence how to use her powers. So I saw the Princess about once a week. But I was sure that she was watching over me. We were related after all.

As a fellow Alicorn Cadence was of course much closer to her. This was surely the reason she spent so much time with her. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I was born as an Alicorn as well. Would the Princess have given me the title of a prince, instead of Lady Pure Blood declaring me one, shortly after father had died? Would have Princess Celestia spend more time with me?

I tried to concentrate on learning magic that would be useful for my little adventures. I might not be a mage unicorn but seeing in the dark and seeing through walls were one of the first spells I learned. Now that I am older, seeing through walls has other uses. As long as the mares don't find it out, I am safe.

I know a few stallions who would give a lot to be able to do this. Ace would absolutely love this ability.

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Okay, now I want to punch you.)

Don't be silly, I only use it on commoners.

I even had found the secret passage under the Royal Entryway but to this day I have no idea how to open it. There were a ridiculous number of protection spells on that one.

Maybe I will just ask Auntie Luna one day what is hidden under it.

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Did you ever sneak into Princess Celestia's personal chambers?)

You don't really expect me to answer this question, do you? That kind of behavior would be unfit for a prince anyway.

I did manage once to sneak into this one tower chamber that didn't have any doors and only windows, and found some flowers at the base of statues of an Alicorn, the three tribes, and some kind of butterfly and fish pony. And there were some odd cutie marks lining the room, including Cadence's and Auntie's. Of course I had trouble getting down so in a princely manner screamed for help.

Nopony asked about what I said seen, and I never spoke of it to anypony.

One day I had found another passage and it led to underground caves with countless crystals and gems there. Later I heard that long before the Princesses ruled Equestira unicorns forced earth ponies to mine vulnerable gems in that place.

Hating earth ponies or pegasi for being well... earth ponies or pegasi seemed even back then very pointless to me. After all an Alicorn embodies all three tribes, so how could any of them be inferior? The race of somepony doesn't matter as long as he or she is a noble. Why are you facehooving?

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): If you are asking this, then you are really clueless.)

Whatever, I spent hours exploring the place and drew wonderful maps of the entire place. I think at one point down there I gained my cutie mark.

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): And...?)

What? I was so exited about the entire thing that I didn't take the time to watch my rump every minute. I know these kind of stories usually have the cutie mark appear in the most important and meaningful moment but sometimes ponies are simply too concentrated on something else to care.

I think I gave a few servants panic attacks with my long absence. I knew that they would be punished for not watching over me like they were supposed to. But if they were unable to do this task, then it was simply their own fault.

Princess Celestia was - of course - busy with a lesson for Twilight Sparkle and didn't even notice that I was gone for hours.

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Did it hurt to realize this?)

Well it was a bit strange to see Princess Celestia not even noticing that I was missing for so long but she simply had more important things to do. If nobles stand above the common ponies, then of course the Sun Goddess is standing high above us nobles.

I guess in the end our mortal activities don't matter much to her. The only pony that is able to reach her is Cadence, another Alicorn.

It is just like I never bothered to read the letter the cowpony Element of Harmony had written to me. What does she know about me anyway?

I think I understand it all better now. Princess Celestia didn't care much for me when the chaos monster ripped everything apart, so it makes perfect sense that she didn't care much back then either. I wasn't born as an Alicorn, so I may simply be inferior in her eyes.

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): You got this all completely wrong! The Princess would never... It pains her so much...)

Sometimes I actually envy Twilight Sparkle. She does get so much attention from Princess Celestia despite not having the noble bloodline I have. What does make her so special? What does make her so much more important then the rest of us? Is it her magic? Sometimes I just wish that auntie would not hate...

Hey! Get this foal off me! Stop hugging me!

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): No.)

Let go. I said LET GO!

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): And I said no.)

Fine, I give up. You really don't want to let go.

You are really stubborn you know that, do you? You remind me of somepony...

Is that a Smarty Pants doll next to you? It looks so old. But you took good care of it. I can see that. Looks customized. Now don't look so surprised. This doll was very popular back then. I drew a mini map on the miniature notebook of my doll.

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Do you still own it?)

Of course. I collect every single map I draw. When the chaos monster attacked us, many important documents located inside the castle were destroyed but luckily I had placed most of my collection on the Wind Fish V. Thankfully my latest yacht wasn't affected by the day of chaos.

Thinking about my collection brings back memories.

I think I will take a walk and take a look at my collection again. The sun is slowly rising outside. Farewell.

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): You know that pain doesn't simply go away with a simple hug?)

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): No, but it can be a start.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Sometimes when ponies lash out in pain, they need a reminder that they are still loved.)

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

You three again? It's been some time since I last saw you. A lot had happened since then. It is slightly hard to order my thoughts at the moment. I just don't know why.

A few days after the fire monster tried to kill me a really cute maid was standing before my door but suddenly ran away. I wouldn't find this that strange but ever since then I saw her multiple times standing before my room. This nice spell that allows me to look through walls is sure very handy to know who is standing before your door.

But she always turns back and looks so sad. She never smiles. Maybe I should talk with her? What do you think?

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): I don't think that you should ask any of us for dating advice.)

I had ordered a few clothes from Miss Rarity to make up for the ruined evening at the Gala and because I could need a few new tuxedos and she has a rather impressive reputation. While I loathed it, the simple fact was that she was in fashion, and it would be unfashionable for a prince to be in anything less. But I think either she has a very strange humor or the order was mixed up. I got ten elegant dresses. I think I will give my next date one as a present. Maybe Sunny Day would like one for herself as well.

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Focus! Don't turn into Pinkie Pie!)

Oh! I completely forgot the interview! Ask away!

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): What was your encounter with Princess Gaia like?)

Who knew that Lady Fluttershy would ever be able to become a Princess? And not only a normal one but somepony whose beauty almost rivals that of my aunts. It all began when panic had begun to spread over Canterlot because of this strange fog. Somehow mere fog was able to cut off the connections of the city with the rest of Equestria.

Seriously, I just got over my fear for the sunlight at this time and now the sun was been blocked by fog!

When the nobles started to get more and more uneasy suddenly Princess Celestia herself visited me that day. It was some time since I had seen her.

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Now don't fall back into the same trap.)

No, that wasn't it. After the day of chaos her schedule was filled with diplomatic missions to calm down all the cities that had suffered under Discord. Not to mention all the ponies, griffins and donkeys that were unable to perform their duties for weeks after the things the chaos monster had done to them.

Doctors were unable to see their patients, half of the guards were struggling to do their normal duties and many, many other ponies still suffered under the stress. The entire infrastructure could have collapsed. I once took a look at Princess Celestia's schedule and she even had multiple appointments at the same time.

Why do you look so impressed that I noticed this?

Well to be honest... at the time I didn't. I was so busy with my own problems that I didn't even think that others might have had similar experiences. I mostly noticed it since the service in Canterlot Castle and most of the places I visited on my diplomatic missions had become much worse.

I didn't even allow my guards a few days of vacation to recover from what Discord's chaos had done to them. Maybe I was still too angry that not a single one of them was able to help me when the chaos monster was trying to get me killed. What? My needs trumps their's, they're Guards after all, it's their duty, and if they break down, I could just order up some new ones. Or that was my thinking at the time.

"Blueblood, it is nice to see you outside more often. There are quite some problems around Ponyville. If you would be brave enough to charge into the situation, you would be able to earn admiration and love from other ponies. And I will be at your side."

It was like a dream come true. Princess Celestia wanted to have my help to solve this situation. She was talking to me. I was important! I would save the day and the ponies would admire me for my actions.

I still took my guards with me. If I pay them, they can work for that as well. Besides I was not insane enough to charge all by myself at something. Standing behind the guards was the safest position to move forward. This counted especially as the journey would bring me close to the catastrophe magnet Ponyville. How often was that place destroyed and almost destroyed again?

It went well for about thirty minutes when suddenly fog started to surround us. I wasn't worried at all. So far I was always able to find my way through fog with ease. I guess having a cutie mark for exploration means also having a good sense of orientation. I bravely order my men to attack the mist! They looked confused but I clarified my crystal clear order. I'll admit, I did not count on the mist counter-attacking.

My memory after that is not entirely clear. I faintly remember a dream where Miss Rarity apologized to me for ruining the Gala with her unroyal behavior and there was also an Alicorn saying that she was proud on me for continuing her bloodline. Fifty-One previous generations of my bloodline where present, including father and Lady Pure Blood... I mean mother. The two said that they were proud on me. It was the perfect Gala. Everything was like it should be and it didn't end in disaster like the last Gala, or the one before that, or the one... well you get the idea.

But the part with Miss Rarity was simply too strange to be true and soon enough a sun bird landed on the head of the Alicorn and suddenly I was awake again.

I had changed forms again. No thankfully I hadn't become a mare this time. Instead I was a colt again. Of course I was completely adorable. My appearance is always flawless. And my cutie mark looked like it was drawn with crayons. It reminded me on the first maps I had doodled.

I felt very confused on how I got there, this wasn't inside the castle. Was this the fabled 'outside' I had heard so much about?

Then there was Sunny Day with me. I remembered her. I had met her a few times in the castle. Later she had a few interviews with me and wrote stories about some of my more interesting diplomatic missions. I told her several times to stop writing those insane stories about Auntie Celestia.

But at least she didn't take part in the disgusting Molestia article splurge. I remember the time when one pony working for a tabloid approached me uninvited in Canterlot Castle and asked me to give him some photos he could use to support that idea. Something like Celestia and Twilight close together reading a book.

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): How did you react to that?)

Well let us just say that we had an argument and after that I had to stay in the hospital for one week. He however was there for two weeks. Of course he tried to sue me for this. But my lawyers ripped him apart and proved that it was self-defense on my part. They said that it helped that he was almost one head bigger then me.

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Hey, now this is a surprise. Didn't think you had this in you.)

Then I spent two more weeks at the salon! That brute had ruined my royal face!

But I didn't think at all about things like this when I saw Sunny Day back then. I only remembered all the good times I once had with her: Pleasant talks and nice cups of tea. It was almost like the total opposite of what I experienced on the day of chaos. I felt like I was together with family.

"Are you feeling well, Bluey?"

I tried to remember what my instructors had said to me about situations like this but there was absolutely nothing. Somehow I was terrified. I had no idea what was expected from me.

"I-I-I don't know."

"It is time for a big adventure of love and happiness! Are you ready?"

"Y-Y-Yes!"

It will be known as one of the bravest moments in my entire life.

I think I had a dream about being a bird following a flock of birds, but it had to be just a dream, if I was a bird, no way would I be such an inelegant flier.

Soon we found a group of fillies and colts and Sunny Day approached them. She greeted them with a grace that was worthy of Princess Celestia herself and I just hid in the nearby bushes. Then suddenly I stood directly behind her.

How did this happen? I tried my best to hide behind her.

"AND! There's somepony I want you all to meet too! He's a member of my family and I love him very much, but he has trouble around other ponies. . . . Come out now dear."

I was never introduced like this and I think I blushed so much that I turned almost completely red. The other ponies looked at me with amazement. There are so many of them and none seem to be servants. Now it was my royal duty to introduce myself with all the bravery you would expect from a prince.

"H-hi, I'm Blueblood, PRINCE-PRINCE Blueblood!"

How could I almost forget to mention my title? The instructors would be mad! A young and energetic filly looked at me. Was she going to punish me for ruining my introduction?

"I've never heard of a Prince-Prince Blueblood! Nice to meet you! Wanna play?"

"What? No I can't!-I mean,"

Playing with others? Playing with ponies that are not nobles? I'm not even allowed to talk to them but Sunny Day was not afraid of them, so it couldn't be completely wrong.

She carefully leaned down to me and whispered, "It's okay, you can play with them."

I can? I really want to but I will be punished later.

"But my instructors say I'm not allowed to play with other ponies."

I felt just like running away. But I would be punished for this anyway. I had left the castle and had already talked with other ponies.

"Well today's an exception!"

YES!

I felt so incredible happy and jumped in the air and clapped all four hooves together at the same time.

"WHOOPEE!"

The kind filly tackled me to the ground. But it didn't hurt at all. It felt wonderful. Like the biggest hug I ever got.

Sunny Day suddenly had many multicolored balls next to her and challenged us to catch them. The filly took a look at me and I smiled back.

Both of us raced towards the closest ball. It was a yellow one, resembling the sun itself. But the green filly was faster and just when she was ready to catch it, the ball moved aside by itself. I tried to jump at it but it managed to evade me as well.

"You take the left side."

She followed my idea without hesitation. She trusted me. It felt so good. As she herded the ball to the right I hid in the nearby bushes and managed to surprise the ball this time.

But the filly was too fast and she crashed into me as well. The ball rolled away again.

I think we both broke down laughing. And Sunny Day laughed with us.

I never felt so free before.

It was a wonderful time. I played with them, we talked about everything that came to our minds and it was like one adventure after the other. Apple Smith and Little Mac were so kind.

But soon I felt a strange shockwave and the fog around us started to get thinner.

Suddenly Sunny Day stood next to me. I hadn't even seen her coming.

"Blueblood?"

"Y-y-yes?"

"I want you to know, your Auntie Celestia really does love you and cares about you. She doesn't hate you, and never has, and never will, though the way you act sometimes does make her very upset. But she still wouldn't want a world without you, and she's very sorry she could never spend enough time with you. She had something very important to do for her sister and everyone, she was preparing for it while you were growing up, but that's no excuse, it was her own fault for not wanting to see the warning signs with her sister when she should've in the first place. She just wants you to know that she's very sorry. And she hopes she can still make it up to you."

I didn't understand her back then. It was much too complex for the childish mind I had at this time.

Suddenly it was like something crashed into me. It was something ugly and yet something that belonged to me.

I am the most important pony under the goddesses of the day and the night. I am standing above every other mortal.

I am a pony that is loved...

My name is eternal and will never be forgotten. I am a unicorn born from the most royal bloodline on this world. There is nothing else I need.

What I really want...

I am better then anypony else. They are all my servants.

My head hurt so much. Why was everything suddenly so difficult? Where was I? What had I done?

Princess Celestia, no auntie Celestia stood there and she looked exhausted.

"Auntie? What happened?"

Was this all just a dream and nothing of this was real? Was it just another illusion?

"The one thing you wanted your entire foalhood, nephew: To be a colt rather than a prince, I'm sorry I couldn't give it to you longer."

She... she had done that for me. After I thought that she didn't even care about me, she did accompany me to give me the foalhood I never had.

Auntie had spent all this time with me and with... these non-nobles.

I was in Ponyville! The home of all the horrible mares who ruined the last Grand Galloping Gala. Oh, and Twilight Sparkle also lived here.

I had to get out of here before Miss Rarity would find me. No I don't fear her I just, prefer not to be around her. I instantly sent a message for my carriage to pick me up. I might not be a mage unicorn but I could sent a message if I needed to.

I remembered everything I was told my entire life, everything I had experienced and how these last events simply don't fit into it.

Why did Princess Celestia care so much for ponies that she was not related to and who weren't even nobles? They should be less important then the nobles of Canterlot. After all it is the bloodline that defines us.

Only our families make us important. But why did it feel so good to spend time with commoners and just play with them? Was this what foalhood was supposed to be like? I had my own little adventures in the castle but I never thought about sharing them with other foals.

If... if I was wrong...

If the worth of a pony is not determined by his or her blood or title, then what does make a pony more important than others?

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Every life is important and even the smallest filly can alter the flow of fate. But sometimes the pony himself or herself doesn't see it.)

I saw a big stallion and an elderly mare walking towards a farm. I recognized her as Apple Smith and remembered that we both hoped to play tomorrow again. If they belong to this farm, then they must be part of the Apple family.

Maybe I should talk to them? Maybe they can tell me why everything seems so wrong.

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): You have to decide that yourself.)

Suddenly my carriage arrived. The ponies pulling it sure looked nervous. I was finally able to get back to the place I belonged: To the important Canterlot.

Why did I feel suddenly so empty?

I sat down inside the carriage and found one of my private boxes inside. Each one only opened with a special spell, only I knew.

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): How did this security box end up here?)

There was only one who could be responsible: Princess Celestia herself.

In this one was the unopened letter from the Element of Honesty, Applejack. Did you think I threw it away? No, I think I was afraid of what she might write...

I opened it and the letter said that if I really loved my aunt that I shouldn't fear her embodiment. It told me to try to get stronger from the experience and that I was not the only one who suffered under Discord. And finally the farmer told me that maybe I needed to change and not the mares I dated only for one evening.

I didn't say a single thing and placed the letter back inside the box.

In Canterlot I calmly walked back inside my room and closed the door behind me. Then I sat on my bed and started to cry.

Episode 152: Reach For the Stars Part 2

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Pony POV Series
Prince Blueblood
Reach For the Stars Part 2
Written By ItsFromPeople

I remembered the time when I was a small colt and I had asked Cadence to marry me once we were older.

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): You asked her WHAT?)

Well, I was still a colt and had just found out about how marriages and family lines were arranged a few centuries ago by nobles. I had learned how certain bloodlines should be brought together and adding an Alicorn into my bloodline would surely make Lady Pure... I mean mother proud. Instead my cousin slapped me.

I fell to the ground as Cadence stood there, looking down on me.

"Are you crazy? You're stuck-up, cowardly, rude and only think about yourself. I wouldn't marry you in a thousand years!"

"How can you dare... Oh, I forgot, you are the expert in love and spread love all over the last royal event, even to Princess Celestia herself."

I slowly rose from the ground starring daggers at the young Alicorn. She staggered away from me before collecting herself again. Her voice sounded sombre.

"No... I am not love. If there is one thing I learned from this disaster it's what I'm NOT. I learned that I can't force bonds on somepony. I need to truly understand my gift before I can share it with others."

It was almost unreal to hear a filly that looked so young talk like this. I simply had to ask her something.

"If you're not love, like everypony says, then what are you?"

Now her voice sounded almost kind, she looked at me like she was looking into my very soul.

"I am Harmony. When the love poison incident was over, I felt the pain of the bounds of everypony who was involved. I felt friendships shaken by one pony ignoring his or her best friends for the artificial love towards a stranger. I felt bounds between lovers nearly been broken by this behavior. And it was all my fault. Ever since then I tried to earn forgiveness and I hope that I will eventually be able to make up for my mistakes."

My eyes went wide as my young brain was trying to understand what she said. Was this the prize of being an Alicorn? She was so closely connected to... something that she could feel their pain.

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): You didn't really understand what she was trying to say back then.)

Yes, I didn't fully understand it. But when I think about it now, she was willing to take responsibility for her actions. She was born as an Alicorn and she is still taking every single pony seriously. She didn't place herself above them.

I suddenly felt so... so lonely. I had always told myself I was the only company I truly needed, I was the best to have after all. Right? But after all the time I had spent with the other foals I noticed that I didn't even have a single picture of any pony besides myself in my room.

I began to think that maybe the Element of Honesty was right and I needed to change myself. But how do you change yourself?

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): This might be the most difficult question to answer.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): There was a stallion once without a cutie mark who traveled to every plane of existence trying to find that answer.)

In the following days I hardly left my room. Most of the diplomatic missions I had on my schedule were cancelled anyway after all many cities had to sort out what happened to them in the fog. I had a lot to think about.

But I followed the official declarations and news that spread around this time. I wasn't that surprised that Lady Fluttershy was the member of the group responsible for all of this.

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Really? Most were almost unable to believe it.)

Well, I only met her once in person and then she unleashed a horde of animals on the unsuspecting Grand Galloping Gala.

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Normally she is much different. She is kind, caring, forgiving and so wonderful.)

I already noticed this.

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): When? You met her when she had an emotional breakdown and again when she tried to take over Equestria.)

That is true but even when she had the power to do practically anything to anypony, what did she chose to do? She made their dreams come true and then happy foalhoods later on. I know what it feels like to be the victim of someone abusing his godly powers for his own entertainment. Lady Fluttershy was nothing like Discord. Maybe it was some residue of her magic making me feel this way, but I didn't care.

But I had to force myself to leave the room again.

Mechanically I start to comb my mane and made myself at least somewhat presentable for the small gala we would have this evening. It was a good idea to start with something familiar before the next diplomatic mission would lead me away from Canterlot.

I looked around the room again. There were only my maps to keep me company. Journeys with nopony to share them with.

Suddenly I heard the hooves of somepony before my door. A quick scan later I knew it was the same maid again.

'You will not get away this time.' I rushed towards the door, opened it and the shocked maid turned almost red with embarrassment.

"I... I am sorry... I will just... It is not the right time..."

"You wanted to talk with me and here I am. Now say what you have to say!"

Now she looked like she was about to cry. Only now I began to take a closer look at her.

She was a white unicorn with light blue eyes and a deep purple mane. And she seemed so familiar. Suddenly my eyes went wide.

"I... it's..."

"I know what this is about. Come inside."

Calmly we both went into my room and only now did I notice my image inside the mirror. The two of us did look somewhat similar. I guess this was how Discord got this sick idea. Her very familiar body was still absolutely gorgeous. Her cutie mark was a candle shaped like a heart.

She was still unable to talk. So I made the first move.

"Let me guess, the chaos monster turned you into the fire stallion?"

Now she broke down crying. I know that I just spelled it out without even trying to hide what she had almost done.

Auntie Luna was right back then. Discord had really turned somepony else into the fire th... the fire stallion that had hunted me down.

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): This is...)

Why torture one pony if you can torture two at the same time? That sick bastard.

She as much a victim as I was. To my surprise I found myself putting a hoof on her shoulder. It took some time but eventually she stopped crying. Then everything erupted out of her.

"My name is Arcane Spell. I didn't even know the weather had turned strange, I work so much inside. I didn't even find it strange that a huge candle appeared before me and promised to make me a noble and let me experience what it is like to be born under a lucky star. 'Just like Prince Blueblood,' it said. I know it was insane but it was everything I had ever wished for. Which mare doesn't dream at least once in her life to be a princess in a fairy tale?"

I had to chuckle. She wasn't the first mare who dreamed of spending a perfect evening with a prince that made her feel like a princess.

This was how I was always able to get a young mare to accompany me to the Galas. And now I think that I could not even play this role right. I got my wish to have the perfect accessories for the evening but I awoke alone afterwards because I never saw a pony in them, just a decoration.

"The next thing I knew, the only thing I knew, was that I was a prince, I was on fire, I was fire, and that I wanted, needed my princess. My princess of ice. She'd fill me. She'd..." she shuddered, "complete me. My princess was coy and played hard to get. But that didn't matter. I didn't have a name or a past. I was there, I was you and I knew that we were destined to be... one.

"When I woke up next to you and you ran away in panic. I buried everything that happened. Then I spoke with the doctors. And I was made to remember. One pony had even taken a picture and I instantly recognized my body and was able to piece everything together."

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Which lunatic takes the time to take pictures while everything around him falls apart?)

Who knows? Maybe Discord made him do it to have some reminders after the 'fun' was over and the toy was completely broken.

I wondered if she would be better off not remembering anything of what the chaos creature had done to her. But psychologist ponies nearly always turned down memory erasure spells because they are just so Tartarus untrustworthy (reason why secret services stopped using them eons ago), and one said even if you make a pony forget a trauma, the damage remains anyway. And that uncertainly can make things worse.

"I wanted to say that I am sorry but... I was too much of a... coward."

She looked sadly to the polished marble on the floor.

They say seeing from the outside looking in can be an effective wake up call. So many ponies declared themselves brave and I just scoffed thinking of my own 'bravery.' But seeing this mare call herself a coward, I suddenly began to realize, the bravest I had ever been was when I had earned my cutie mark in that decaying treacherous crystal mine.

"And yet you kept trying to do it."

"Yes, but I can understand if you want to get me removed from the castle after I nearly killed you by... by..."

I thought back about how my cold body did even start to freeze Auntie Luna.

"I've had a lot of time to think about these events and I think not only would it have melted me but it would have extinguished your flames as well. Discord's chaos would have killed us both. And no, I see no reason to remove you from the castle. You were as much a victim as I was. The chaos monster could have just as well decided to make me the stalker and you the one running for your life."

Slowly she raised her head but she still seemed so sad.

"Thank you, Your Highness."

She was about to leave. Suddenly the memories of the carefree playing went through my head again.

It was my fault that she was dragged into this.

(Interviewer's notes (Unicorn): Discord would have just found another way to toy with her.)

Maybe, but I was used as bait for this way.

(Interviewer's Notes 'whispering' (Earth Pony): Did he just get taller?)

And if Princess Luna had followed my request, then I would have written Arcane's death sentence. Maybe I should... No, this is the time to try to make up for my mistakes.

"Wait a second. You said you wanted to feel like a princess for once?"

"Well, yes Your Highness, I am sorry if..."

"Now this is actually very easy. You just need to wear a pretty dress and follow a few rules and if you look into the mirror you will not be able to tell you apart from a princess."

Now she looked refreshingly annoyed.

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): I never thought that you would have the same sense of humor as Princess Celestia.)

"You can't be serious!"

I opened one of the drawers and let the dress float towards her with telekinesis. This might be the perfect situation to use one of Miss Rarity's dresses. It was a blue- and silver-colored dress with several stars decorating it. I have seen something similar at the Grand Galloping Gala.

"I ensure you that I am very serious. Discord couldn't get this right if he had thousand years to practice. Servants don't look nobles in the face and most nobles are too concentrated on their own act to notice who they are talking to."

"It looks beautiful..."

"It will suit you. Just give it a try."

With a smile she takes the dress with her own telekinesis and vanishes inside my bathroom.

This smile... It has been a while since I have seen such a smile around me.

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Did you take the chance to use your see-through-walls spell to spy on her?)

No, actually I spend the time just repeating all the countless rules for royal behavior in my head.

I had learned a long time ago that while these rules are all needed to survive a prolonged time in high society, just lasting for a few hours there or fooling yourself in the mirror only takes a fraction of the rules.

She was already pretty enough for the dress to compliment her, after all, can't have ugly servants ruining the view on Canterlot.

Then the door to the bathroom opened again and for the very first time I am happy that unicorn horns don't do the thing pegasus wings do if the pony is exited.

I think one of the strengths of Miss Rarity's dresses is that they call attention to the face of the pony and use the mane to encircle their countenance.

Why are you three looking like this? I know that Miss Rarity's dresses are huge successes with the Canterlot elite and with several famous ponies. And you need to be able to talk about the more boring topics like fashion in high society as well. Yes it burns me on the inside that the bane of my existence has risen so high in spite of not being noble even outside of her status as a celebrity.

(Interview's Notes (Pegasus): She humiliates you once, tells you that you don't live up to your image, and she's the bane of your existence? You don't have much of a life do you?)

You...may not be wrong.

"I don't know... I feel ridiculous."

"Now just walk before the main mirror."

Carefully she moves before it and three...two...one...

"WAH!"

I think she almost gave herself a heart attack.

"This... this is really me?"

"I hate to say that I told you so, but I told you so!"

Her smile is wonderful. Focus!

"Erm... Now for a few rules for easy survival in high society: Act like you know exactly what the other pony is talking about and that it is a very important matter. You give us the first topic."

"How about... Daring Do books?"

"That works perfectly. These are creative tales with enduring characters and will make the reader come back for more."

"But you can say that about almost every popular book series!"

"And that is the secret of talking about every topic in high society. Now it is my turn: The Elements of Harmony."

"Give me a second... They are the magnificent heroes that saved our beautiful world from certain destruction."

"You are learning fast. How about we talk about the relationship with the griffin nations?"

"After years of difficulty we were finally able to stabilize most relationships and under the wise rule of Princess Celestia and by having open minds we were able to form new friendships."

Now I had to laugh and she began to laugh with me. It felt wonderful.

"We need to be careful or you turn into a politician instead of a princess. Very good. But remember that ponies in high society are NOT stupid. They don't know every topic but will try to talk about it like they know everything to keep up the appearance. Yet sometimes you will meet somepony who really knows a lot of topics like Fancy Pants."

She walked over to the mirror again and repeated her last speeches to it without breaking down in laughter. Who knew that I had a talent for teaching and guiding?

Eventually she was ready for the next round: Discussions.

"And now I will share with you the secret of how you can avoid arguments. At first agree with what the other pony says and use what the pony said to move the conversation into a different direction. This is very handy to avoid this unicorn supremacy nonsense. Let us try to begin with something difficult..."

I change my voice into something warm and fatherly.

"Those earth ponies like them don't belong in Manehatten, they disgrace her beauty with their presence. They're donkeys with cutie marks. And if a cutie mark reflects the soul, then anything without a cutie mark doesn't have one. Their only purpose is to keep the wheels of trivial mundane tasks turning with their strength of body. We unicorns have strength of mind. The muscle should not dictate the mind. Manehatten is a jewel that doesn't need its gears and cogs showing."

I couldn't quite read her expression. Was she surprised that I was not a follower of that moronic ideology that declared Princess Celestia the supreme unicorn ruling over all? It didn't help the tabloids kept blowing it up bigger than it ever had been and saying that earth ponies didn't dare step foot in Canterlot or get arrested for not having a horn, or unicorns not daring to set foot in Ponyville or be lynched for the crime of having one. I knew first hoof, this was all fantasy. Sunny Day seemed to print her most fantastic (and interesting) articles whenever the tabloids tried to make ponies think that 'the return of the three tribes' was upon us.

She was struggling with this one. Maybe it was a bit too difficult for the first example?

"So... you were in any of the major cities like Manehatten lately?"

This sounded promising. Okay, it is time to continue my act.

"Yes, Manehatten shines with magic, it doesn't need ponies without it."

"Did you visit the theatre? I heard that the program is simply lovely this year."

So close.

"N-No... I did not."

"Now you have simply to enjoy what the theatre has to offer. I heard that they have a wonderful variation of Romaro and Juliet this year."

Now I almost had to laugh.

"Perfect! Just perfect! Sorry for breaking character but I think you are more then ready for this. Let me guess, you have siblings?"

"Yes, a younger sister. She will soon start to work in this castle as well."

"That will surely turn out great for her as well. Do you really know how the presentation of Romaro and Juliet is like this year?"

"The House of Coltpulet is played only by earth ponies, the House of Maretague is played only be unicorns and the Ruling House of Airona is play only by pegasi."

"The image of a unicorn supremacy follower walking into this play without having any clue what is going on is priceless."

Then we repeated this lesson before the mirror as well. She is very good in switching between the polite smiles you have to show in high society and the genuinely happy ones you show your friends.

"Good now we just keep repeating and mixing these lessons until you think that you see a princess standing in the mirror."

We talked for hours. I can hardly remember when I last felt this good. Actually I do, it reminds me on the playing with the other foals when I was turned back into a colt. There was a refreshing openness in our conversation.

Like I said, the problem is not that members of high society are stupid, the problem is just that there are so many ponies that even somepony like me, who visits most of the galas and events, only knows half of them.

It is hard to talk about anything if you don't really know the person that you are talking with. You can talk for hours with a friend but sometimes you are unable to say anything to a stranger.

She told me about her family, how she and her sister had to take jobs in Canterlot castle to support their sick father. The medication he needed was very expensive. And she and her parents were very capable mage unicorns. Despite being an earth pony, her little sister dreamed about becoming a mage like the rest of the family while she actually has much more talent to be a designer.

Now that is just silly. How can foals be so obsessed with becoming like their family that they can not see their own...

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Sounds familiar, doesn't it?)

Irony strikes again. It takes some time to get used to thinking like this.

So if the little sister was an earth pony when the rest of the family members were unicorns, did that mean that she was adopted? When I think about it, I remember a very boring explanation Twilight Sparkle once gave me why this did happen from time to time in families. I asked her to write it down for me and whenever I can't sleep, I take a look and after two pages I usually fall asleep.

This pure happiness continued for hours. We talked about when to use these rules and when you had to change your tactics. You don't simply follow these rules under all circumstances. In spite of appearances to the contrary, the upper class weren't robots.

Then suddenly the door swung open and a nervous servant stood inside. I think I need to order somepony to install a better lock on this door.

"Prince Blueblood, the gala is about to start..."

He saw the mare I was talking with instantly.

"Oh, you already found your acquaintance for the evening. I am sorry to have disturbed you. The other guests will be delighted to see you, milady."

Politely he closed the door and left us two alone. The look on her face was worth more then an airship filled with gems.

"How about we take this game to the next level and try to impress the rest of high society as well?"

It took my brain a few seconds to process what she had just suggested. I felt like when I was exploring the caves under Canterlot for the first time. There were so many possibilities of what we two could do on this party.

Could it fail horribly? Of course but considering that most of the more important public events of the last two years ended in disaster this would hardly be that unusual. Just think about it. The Summer Sun Celebration and the Grand Galopping Gala were disasters. Even the last Best Young Flyers' Competition in Cloudsdale and Princess Celestia's latest visits in Ponyville ended horribly.

Sometimes I think if the next big public event in Canterlot will eventually take place, I should be as far away as possible.

Should Arcane and I be found out, I could just claim that it was my own idea to make the gala more interesting.

"I am ready, my dear."

We both took a final look into the mirror and walked towards the party.

It was a small party by Canterlot standards. Only about hundred ponies could be seen. Some were busy dancing, others talked and several were busy searching for something delicious to eat.

Many were talking about the recent events with the fog and how lucky Canterlot was to be protected by the fire of Celestia's pet phoenix. Most were shocked how much power Philomena wielded considering how she looked like when she was about to be reborn.

Appearances can be deceiving indeed.

I learned that Auntie Celestia was still busy to prepare the celebration about Flutteshy's day of innocence. If this group keeps up their pace and continues to save the world, we will run out of space for glass windows in their honor.

Arcane moved flawlessly through the crowd. And all it took was for me to give her a quick introduction into high society. But I can't claim this success all for myself. She learned so fast that she must have been a capable observer before my short lesson.

We had nice calming music, exactly what most ponies needed after the chaotic events and I seem to have lost track of her. Where was she?

Ah, there she is!

And she is talking with Jet Set and Upper Crust about Canterlot fashion. They both praise her own dress as a wonderful example of the superiority of Canterlot's fashion.

This is simply too good. I calmly walk next to the small group.

"Prince Blueblood, it is always an honor. Is this wonderful lady your acquaintance for the evening?"

"Indeed, we decided to enjoy this event together."

"You clearly always chose the most royal company you can find. We heard rumors that one of the Elements of Harmony was corrupted by the same mysterious black magic that was responsible for turning Princess Luna into Nightmare Moon. And this time Princess Celestia allowed it to happen to take all the credit for the idea of healing the emotional damage of ponies by letting them relive their foalhood for a day. But this is so hard to believe. Do you know anything about that?"

I have to give them credit for not instantly jump to the conclusion that Princess Celestia or the Elements of Harmony were evils trying to take control of Equestria. I took one glance to Arcane and it was clear that she thought that it was nonsense that one of the mares who saved her life or Princess Celestia would ever do something like this. In other words, she was totally ready to swallow a third party had to have been behind everything.

"I actually was there in order to try to help but I have to admit that I was not able to be of much assistance. I don't know any more details but the entire event was very different from what the chaos monster did."

They looked at me like I had told them that I was secretly having access to Alicorn powers. After all, since when had I done anything actually selfless or admitted I was no use at something?

"The ponies in the fog were not toys or puppets. I think that Lady Fluttershy actually meant well but was herself just as lost in the fog as everypony else. I am sure that the celebration will explain it to everypony in detail."

It feels strange to stand up for somepony I hardly knew. Did I do it for Lady Fluttershy? Did I do it for Arcane? Did I do it for myself? And they will switch their opinion in three... two... one...

"Of course! We will wait for what the Princess has to say in her own defense on this complex situation and it was really brave of you to come to the aid of the ponies who already had to suffer from living in such a backwater town as Ponyville."

Well that is still one of the nicest things they have ever said about Ponyville. Maybe I will eventually mention how often Princess Celestia visits that place.

Soon we moved over to the dance floor and Jet Set and Upper Crust began to dance with each other. Arcane looked into my eyes and smiled, the stars of the sky were reflected within her eyes. It was truly a sight to behold.

Octavia's band played one of the relaxing classical slow melodies. As we to moved in union I had to think back at the day of innocent playing I just had. Chasing after a ball with all your might and moving according to the tune with somepony else could be strangely similar. Both took coordination, concentration and a quick reaction. She spun towards me as I managed to catch her.

She was an excellent dancer, the complete opposite of Twilight Sparkle in this subject. The bookworm's dancing style was a different sight to behold. Some ponies claimed that it could cause bad weather for one week. Me personally? I was happy that there were a least a few things that I could do better then her. And the pegasi had only to keep rainclouds away from Canterlot for one day after Twilight had danced.

I don't know how long we just danced. Time didn't matter, nothing did. But eventually both of us were exhausted. Jet Set and Upper Crust looked like they could have danced until the next morning but they took a break to accompany us.

Slowly we all approached the buffet for some horse d'oeuvres. The food looked slightly different today, I bet they had finally to replace the cooks. I was told that after Discord's short reign most of them were too traumatized to ever enter a kitchen again. Maybe that would change soon.

As Arcane began to enjoy a few of them somepony else caught my attention. Fancy Pants and Fleur de Lis were moving into our direction.

"Ah a wonderful evening, isn't it?"

Jet Set and Upper Crust agreed instantly.

"Yes!"

"Most definitely!"

I just wonder if there was anything Fancy Pants could say that they would not agree with. Could he order them to jump off a cliff?

Then Arcane knew that she had to say something as well.

"It is truly a special evening."

Fancy Pants fixated her. I know that he is likely one of the smartest ponies in high society and is well known for his excellent memory. Did he recognize her?

I needed a quick distraction.

"The day was something special from start to finish but say, did you hear something new from the celebration of Lady Fluttershy?"

"Unfortunately not, I heard about the dramatic events that did take place in many parts of Equestria. Most of those who were touched by the fog claimed that they finally felt better after all the things Discord did to them. Since she managed to heal that many, this event should be celebrated. How it will turn out in the end will likely all depend on how the Element of Kindness is facing this celebration herself."

Then Jet Set decided to repeat what I had said earlier.

"I am sure that we will get an official explanation at the festival."

The chat continued to switch topics and it continued for quite some time.

I guess by now Arcane was more bored of this royal experience then anything else. When I took another look at her, her eyes began to move slowly all over the place.

Was there something wrong?

Finally I took a bite from my horse d'oeuvres and noticed that the new cook must have used way too much saltwater to season the food.

It seemed that she was a lightweight in this case.

I had to get her out of here before she would embarrass herself. But how could I do that without getting any more unintentional attention to her?

Fancy Pants took another look at her and at me and stood up.

"I guess I will retire today a bit sooner and tomorrow we will know more about this matter."

Thank Celestia. This was exactly what I needed.

Jet Set and Upper Crust of course agreed with this and soon I was leading Arcane back to my room. I had completely forgotten to ask her for the location of her own room and by now she only giggled from time to time. I really felt like beating myself over the head for forgetting something obvious like this.

She really had no tolerance for salt water.

Eventually I placed her on my own bed and she smiles at me.

"Why don't we make this day perfect?"

I... this must be the effect of the salt water. That is the only reason she is offering to spend the night with me. I always awake alone.

"It was already perfect. And you haven't meet the real me yet. You don't know how much of a jerk and a coward I can be."

What can I say? Soon she fell asleep and I slept the night on my priceless decorative couch.

Eventually the warm sunlight awoke me.

The bed was empty. It was already made and the dress I had given her yesterday was lying on top of the bed.

She was gone. I was alone again.

But I was not surprised. Of course did she leave after finding out that the dream of being the glamorous princess is just a fairy tale. No pony made out of flesh and blood will ever be able to live up to that ideal.

I used to tell myself that was why the mares never came back. I wasn't their fairytale prince to make their fantasy reality, so they inconsiderately left me.

Now? I wonder if the cowpony's letter might have been right. And Arcane is the first mare I don't blame for leaving.

I wondered if I should talk with Princess Celestia how to fund somepony in a way that isn't possible to be traced back to me. It is no big secret to everypony who spends some time in the Canterlot Castle as part of Auntie's circle that she is sponsoring many, many cultural and philanthropic events and organizations under fake names. Strangely the tabloids always seem to miss that part.

I would like to aid the Spell family a bit, maybe get them better paid jobs. I heard that the payment in the Castle was good but I knew that Arcane could do more. She deserved something better.

As I opened my door, Arcane stood there in her maid uniform and in her telekinetic hold she had a plate with breakfast. She smiled at me.

I think I had a minor heart attack. Her eyes shined even brighter.

"Not so fast, you promised to show me how much of a jerk and a coward you can be."

I didn't overcome a dragon. I wasn't the hero who saved the day. But I didn't care at all as long as I was able to make her smile.

I wasn't sure if I would be able to overcome my own flaws but now when I look at her smile, I know that it is possible. I will not run away this time.

I feel like an Alicorn is smiling alongside us.

I feel free.

Episode 153: Chrysalis "Birth of a Monster"

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Pony POV Series
Origins
"Queen Chrysalis"
Birth Of A Monster
By Alex Warlorn
Edited By Louis

"It is with considerable difficulty that I remember the original era of my being:" -Mareshelly's Frakenmare's Monster

"A baby? Let's look closer for the answer: a monster!"

They say my mother turned emotionless and detached during her pregnancy with me. She was still rational. Still aware of her surroundings. But I was told she'd apparently 'lost her heart' as I was near due, but regained her emotionality after I was born. Otherwise, it was a normal pregnancy, lasting twelve and a half months.

Like most everybody, I recall nothing of my in utero development. Though, bizarrely, I have nonsensical flashes of images and ideas from what I believe to have taken place before my conception. Perhaps we'll discuss this later.

Regardless, when the appointed hour came, all the villagers reported feeling emotional detachment from the world at large as my mother went into labor.

And I was exiled from the only home I had ever known. I knew not this new world. I knew not these striped creatures examining me. I knew not what I was. I knew not who I was. I knew not where I was. I loudly announced my arrival in this cold expansive world.

Yet, I still remember the words the doctor spoke, the first words I had heard in my life. Not that I comprehended spoken language at the time. Nor understood the walking stick with the heavy head the doctor picked up with his eyes on my skull. I felt confusing things I would learn were called 'emotions.' Fear and anger, in this case, from the striped thing above me. Wild magic surged, and base instinct controlled my magic, and I felt my body shift and change into something else. And I felt my magic reach out on its own, smothering the feeling that would do me harm.

I only grew more scared and confused of this strange new place I had come to against my will.

And now the doctor was confused what had possessed him to call the newborn zebra foal in front of him a monster. And now my mother was delighted by the sight of me. I looked like an newborn version of her, after all.

She would nurse me like any mother would, but it would be the love she felt towards me that would truly nourish my body.

At the time, of course, I did not think these thoughts quite so... articulately as I am currently conveying them. Psychologically, I was too immature and infantile.
All I knew was hunger. And I knew mother would protect me.

The name they gave me...I haven't thought about it in so long. Kifuko. That was it. My name when I was born was Kifuko.

Cattle are too egocentric to notice, but zebra stripes are all sublimely unique.

I wasn't like the others. My stripes were a perfect likeness of my mother's. An oddity, but I was never mistreated or alienated for it.

As I learned to speak, as I learned to move, as I learned my magic, all I knew was that what I was fed didn't help me. Grass, fruits, honey... anything that was meant to travel down the esophagus, did me no good. I could taste food. I had a tongue and palate; I could distinguish the appetizing from the inedible. But it didn't fill me. I might as well have been eating dust.

This made my parents feel concern and worry for me, and I ate that up too. I realized when my parents felt sorry for me, when they said they cared about me, when they hugged me, I felt stronger, not weaker. I didn't feel like I was wasting away to nothing.

Mother made masks. She taught me their many meanings, and the value and purpose of masks. The masks she made were more honest than the masks most cattle were born wearing.

Father was both protector and hunter. Whether I was filly or colt, I was his foal, so he agreed to take me with him, to help with his tasks outside our settlement.

"Remember Kifuko: stealth, patience, timing, picking the right target, ignoring the wrong ones, hitting your quarry where they are weak, and avoiding them where they are strong. Are all vital to any hunt."

My parents and Maua always told me I had eyes like a cat's.

The animals taught me much, too. Lions. Hyenas. Even the termites, though my stomach turned to ice at the sight of those bugs.

Leaders remains leaders only as long as they stay strong. It was the followers' duty to dispose of weak leaders.

It was never to be personal between hunter and prey.

The termites, blech, I didn't know why, but looking at them they were just 'right' enough that the wrong-wrong-wrong stood out more.

They taught me, in the end, there's room for only one at the top.

And both the animals and my family taught me hunger is a race without end.

A normal one of my kind could easily survive on the love of two cattle. My parents, alone, had love to spare. I have never been normal.

I had no clue why I was always got SO hungry. No matter how much I filled my belly, my body still felt weak and empty until my parents hugged me, nuzzled me.

I finally understood one night when I woke up to find a swarm of insects surrounding me, I screamed at the sight of the disgusting things. My parents swooped in and chased away the scurrying intruders. They asked me if I was okay and made sure I was alright and allowed me to sleep in their bed that night.

I fed well that night. And I understood.

Mother put up a new mask which spoke that insects were not welcome in our family's home. It made me feel safer.

Whenever I found an insect in my room again, I'd pull its legs off, and leave it in a spider's web, if one was around.


"And all of you remember, when you're hunting, your goal is to take down your prey. When you're defending your herd, your duty is to protect those you love. Proving your greatness as a warrior is NOT a vital part of either of these. In fact, to do so is to invite death. Any hunter, no matter how great, will fall to their prey if he insist on a direct confrontation," My father taught, from inside a collection of colts and fillies surrounding him in a semicircle.

"But teacher-Nondo," said one of the colts, "You'd never fall to a quarry!"

"Don't be so sure!" My father stood upon his hind legs and stretched out his chest. We all saw the scars. It looked like cracked ground. "When I was young and stupid I said to Tartarus with stealth and tried to face an animal head on...I was in bed healing for weeks, and for months I was rebuilding muscles and learning to use my body again. Remember this! As a hunter, you're not hunting for sport as some griffins or dragons might. You hunt for survival. A 'fair chance' to your prey is a fair chance for you to die or for your family to starve. Remember that."

I never forgot those scars, or that lesson.

Did they ever hunt for food? What are you... stupid? This was a tribe of ZEBRAS, not griffins. But that didn't mean there weren't plenty of creatures that didn't hunt THEM for food. And those beasts' parts made for great trade for when father and others went to swap-meets for everything from raw materials for leatherworkers to bone-tools and trinkets!

The most insane thing my father was ever asked to capture instead of kill were black mamba. I can't imagine anyling being insane enough to want one as a pet. Apparently, there are creatures who will trade for the venom or the snakes themselves. Don't ask me, only my father ever met with these lunatics.

Black mamba hunts were also the only hunts my father wouldn't take me on. He taught me with props and by example. Maua told me once she had survived an encounter with a snake (not a black mamba) by being as still as a flower until it passed.

Maua? Ah, you would wish to know of her. I saw a zebra filly from class one day just laying on a grassy hill, looking up at the sky. I wondered what exactly she was looking at and looked up and saw nothing. So I laid on the ground next to her to get a better look. I still didn't see what she was looking at. I turned my head thinking maybe she was sleeping, but no, she was looking, but at what? There was nothing above us that I could see.

I couldn't take it anymore and finally asked, "What are you looking at?"

"Dragons."

"WHAT dragons?"

"Can't you see them in the clouds?"

"No. I can't!"

"Don't look so hard."

"That makes no sense!"

"Look softly...can't you see the wings?"

There was nothing but sky. "What? Are they invisible?"

"Don't be weird. There's no such thing as invisible dragons."

AGH! I wonder if she had eaten some bad mushroom. "There is nothing but clouds."

"Exactly. Can't you see them? The way the wind makes them move?"

"What?"

"The clouds are the dragons," she said like she was a sage.

"No. They're just clouds."

"You really can't see them?"

"That's because there's nothing to see."

"Except the clouds, the way the wind makes them move, the way the sun shines off them, the silver lining, the way it billows like flames, the way the tendrils of cloud spread like wings..."

I snorted. "The winds and clouds are made by griffins, weather wyrms, and our own rain dances. What difference does it make that they're shaped like other things? They're just being sent wherever they need to go. They're not paintings."

"And that makes them less special? Even if you make a cloud look the same, it's not the same cloud. And it only stays a dragon if you look it from here, another way, it resembles something else. Isn't that special? The dragon roars as it moves if you look."

I looked more, and for moment, it wasn't a cloud I saw, I saw it roar, it wings flap, I caw its claw stretched out, its teeth... I closed my eyes and shuddered.

"Heh. You saw it didn't you?"

"O-of course not."

"You're a bad liar."

"I'll have to get better then. Thank you for telling me."

"You're welcome." She sat up and extended her hoof, and grinned, "My name is Maua."

"I'm Kifuko." I grinned back and pressed hard against her hoof with my own, and she replied back with equal force and moved our hooves up slightly, as was zebra tradition.

"Nice to meet you, Kifuko."

As it turned out, the zebra filly visit that grassy hill regularly. She asked if I'd be there again, and I said I would. Maua was a mystery to me, and I didn't like mysteries. Father had taught me that a good hunt could be overwhelmed by unknown factors.

One thing Maua told me, you couldn't just silently observe others, you had to interact with them, to get to know them. She was right.

It's strange, really. For some reason, I was never hungry around Maua.

Even stranger, I noticed she was part of the group classes I was in. Had she magically appeared? Was she some spirit or trickster? No. I realized, I had simply never noticed her, she had been just one of the other foals around me before.

One thing we'd never be able to agree on were bugs. Maua thought butterflies were beautiful, I couldn't see what she saw in the zillion-eyed monsters. Butterflies were only good when they fed spiders, which were only good because they ate other bugs.

Then came the day of my first solo kill. Don't look so shocked. My tribe has always prided itself on its survival skills. Plus: more kills means more material for barter.

As I came back with my prize on my back some of the older foals said, "Lucky amateur."

Huh? Lucky amateur? I did exactly what dad said to do, how is that luck? Others had tried to throw in their own style or skipped steps on what they had been taught to do and paid the price for it. How was following the rules lucky?

"Don't worry about it, Kifuko," Maua had said, as did my father. My parents were happy I had made a 'friend.' Friend? I hadn't even thought of that when I had gone to meet Maua again and again. But I reviewed all the criteria from all the zebra around me who called each other friend. I couldn't escape the conclusion that yes, we were friends.

I was not surprised when Maua also came back successful from her own first solo kill. She had sharp senses, and she knew how to listen to them. It would have been more confusing if she had failed. Nozebra called her a lucky amateur, and there was no reason they would have.

Maua could always tell when somezebra was bluffing. She could figure out the way a piece of wild weather would go, or the way plants would grow along a certain path. Maua warned another filly her plants were seeded too close together and would strangle each other. Which is just what happened. The faceless filly said Maua must have sabotaged her plants somehow, after all, what could Maua know of plants, idiot.

The faceless filly's friends told Maua not to make such 'predictions' anymore since she was clearly causing them to happen by saying them in the first place. Morons. "It's what I am, it's what I do, same way fire burns and water flows." Heh, I always knew she was a poet.

That little speech would gain Maua her cutie mark. It was, you guessed it, a beautiful cloud, I think only I, herself, and her parents understood its meaning and her special talent. Other zebras could read words, Maua could read everything else. She'd be apprentice to the same now aging zebra who was there when I was born.

Maua would introduce me to the other friends she made at her 'Cute-Ceañera' as you'd call it, but I could never remember their names, Maua would always remember for me.

My own cutie mark came when I wore one of my mother's masks for a community performance, and I sang. And it was like the zebras before me forgot they were watching a performance, and had become characters in the story themselves, as my song echoed through the air, reaching all of them. Like the mask was no longer a mask, but was my real face, and all the performance became more alive. I had become the dragon in the clouds.

The zebras raved about how good my performance was. I had taken off my mother's mask, and the rest of my costume. I didn't even realize anything had changed until my mother pointed at the new symbol on my flanks in the torch light. I was astounded and shocked in silence, I was always sure I was going to instinctively know when it happened. I didn't whoop or cheer. I merely continued to stare at it in awe as Mother led me home. I didn't think about it until later, but I couldn't remember feeling so strong as I did that night.

What WAS my cutie mark? Feel free to guess. Guess until you're blue in the face. I burned every rendition of it in existence.

The role I played in the performance? Oh, I was a princess.

Some of the foals-becoming-adults who heard of my performance but hadn't been there in zebra said, "Lucky amateur." Seeing them shut their muzzles when I showed them my mark and their sweet silence in its own way held more satisfaction than the cutie mark itself.

Given what my cutie mark was, Maua felt her own strong sense of satisfaction. I didn't blame her.

Then the most deadly weapon I could have ever asked for to arm myself with arrived in our settlement.

My town's name? Good luck even finding it on a map.

Goodness, you DO go off on tangents, don't you?

But back to the important matter. The weapons: The books.

They were given to us as a gift from a country I had never even heard of. 'Equestria.' I was told the winged creatures who brought them were called ponies. They were like zebra, but not like zebra. They didn't have stripes, their manes were limp and floppy, their cutie marks looked like they were STAMPED on, rather than naturally flowing out of the stripes they didn't have. They also seemed to come in three types, one had wings, others had horns, and those who were most like us had neither. And their colors, eep! It was like they were making up for their hides being devoid of patterns by being any and every color of the rainbow. Some were so brightly colored they hurt my eyes to look at.

The majority of the books were in our language, but a few were in what they called 'High' and 'Low Equestrian.'

"Sorry, these were shipped by accident, we'll be getting replacements soon," said a winged one in gold armor.

"No," I asked, "Please, let us keep them, I really want to learn from them too!"

I was closing in fast on that age that cute innocent eyes would no longer be a effective means of influence (oh, don't look at me like that, Maua taught it TO ME), but I was going to milk it for all it was worth while I still had it!

"Uh...alright dear, if it means that much to you."

"Thank you!" I cheered as I had seen others do.

It was a mystery what was in those books. And I dislike mysteries. By luck, a book on learning the language was included, along with how to read both forms of the written language. It took time. A lot of time, but I eventually taught myself Equestrian. Some of my peers said I was neglecting my skills as a hunter and a performer. No matter, I'd have to catch up later. I wouldn't have the mystery of these books mocking me with their secrets!

Learning to read two versions of another language with nozebra to teach it to me took time, lots of it, and it frustrated me I couldn't learn faster, but the mountains don't give back what they take, and I had already started climbing.

I read the other books too, of course. I learned of the nature of the world outside our settlement, of other lands, or other nations, and all they held. The basic sciences, the games of the politicians and how they were won or lost, on the beasts I had never seen before. And the ocean! I had heard of it before, but never in such vivid detail and such beauteous images!

There was also some random horror story collection. Don't ask me how those books got in there. I was disgusted at the monsters they described, creatures who killed for no apparent reason, no purpose or goals than mindless slaughter (never mind many were supposed to be intelligent as part of the 'fear.') Made me wonder what these monsters did when they had no victims around... roll dice? Play Go-Fish? Maua read over my shoulder one time, she turned green and had nightmares that night, talking about the ways the monsters tore apart the characters. ... I hadn't even thought about that part.

No one complained when I threw that book in the garbage.

There was one story I'd never forget. A scorpion who needed to cross a river asked a fox to let it ride on its head. The scorpion promised not to sting him since it would drown them both anyway. The scorpion did so anyway halfway across the river, the fox asked 'Why? We'll drown', and the scorpion responded, 'I couldn't help it, it's my nature.'

Many of the other books in low Equestrian were on gardening, farming, herding, baking, mechanics...There were two books that did catch my interested: The Snarks Of War, and The Artistry Of War. I had never felt so enlightened after reading them. Maua admitted she found it interesting too when I explained what it said.

The books in High Equestrian. Ohhhhh, they were something else entirely. They taught me about magic of all sorts. When I read them, I learned a word I'd come to know quite well.

Alicorn.

I read about Princess Celestia, the ponies who loved her unconditionally, that it was her divine power that raised and lowered the sun each day, and her power that raised and lowered the moon as well. She had ruled Equestria for as far back as any of the history books went, and she was apparently centuries old, if not older. I'll admit, I came to admire her a little. There was something poetic about being in full control of both night and day. Total control, security, and order. Comforting thoughts.

And she had the wings and horn of a 'pegasus' and 'unicorn' and had the strength of an 'Earth Pony.' 'Earth Pony?' The two other kinds of pony have unique names, but the ones without horns or wings are simply called 'Earth Ponies?' Why not call Pegasi 'Sky Ponies' then? I wonder if that had to do with their history centuries ago as slave labor...(by any other name).

In a sickening way, ponies remind me of termites, specialized into different breeds, unlike Zebra who had one 'caste' like mammals normally do.

But still, the idea stayed in my head for days. Beautiful, magnificent, divine Princess Celestia. But...why wasn't she Queen? She literally held the world in her hooves. She could have demanded all the world to be hers, and all the armies in the world would mean nothing since they couldn't force her to raise the sun and properly move the tides. No amount of military bullying by all the nations put together could bend her to their will. No amount of magic or violence could force her. Which actually made sense, after all. You couldn't command the sun. You couldn't dictate terms to the tides. Zebra, for all time, had to build their lives around the sun, not the other way around.

There was even a creation myth that she had banished her own sister to the moon when the other tried to grab full power for herself.

Such power, such prestige, none questioned her, none challenged her, they only acknowledged her as their ruler. So why didn't she call herself Queen? Who could stop her if she chose to? If you're in charge, make sure others know you're in charge. You don't make yourself out to be something that can be pulled down and replaced. Was she scared? I wouldn't be.

I actually took the book in High Equestrian to bed with me several times. The books were for the community after all, and I was part of the community, and nozebra else had bothered to learn High Equestrian anyway, so it only had value to me.


I trotted down the plush red carpet. Servants holding up my royal cloak behind me.

I sat in the giant golden throne, and the beautiful golden crown was place on my head.

"All hail the queen!" Cheered the crowd of ponies and zebra. "All love Queen Kifuko! All Equestria bows before her!"

I spread out my wings and lit up my horn. They all loved me, I felt no hunger. My royal subjects praised and adored me, no foraging, no struggles, no bartering, no submitting to others, I was queen.

I looked over my kingdom, all of Equestria, every pony I controlled, every stallion, mare, and foal. I was a girl who truly had it all.

I awoke in the morning clutching the book like a teddy bear. That wasn't the last time I'd have that dream.

My first royal decree was always the banishment of all bugs from my kingdom.

What happened to Celestia in those dreams? I don't know, and I didn't care.

I shared them with Maua. She didn't appear in my dreams, I lied to her and told her she was my First Minister or something.

"You don't need to lie to me, Kifuko."

"I'm sorry. I thought it would make you happy."

"It's alright."

No matter how good a performance I gave, she could always see through it.

We had to cut our regularly scheduled cloud watching short when it began to rain, and rain a lot! The worst part was the insects that tried to find refuge in our nice warm comfy home as it drenched the world outside. Mom made it clear they were not welcome here!

Turns out three groups of rain-dancers had gotten their wires crossed and performed a rain-dance a day ahead on the same day! At least mom and dad figured out where the hole in the roof was that was letting in pests lately was at last.

It was a short while after the rains that Maua and I were at our normal spot, then Maua got bored and had us check out the woods that were near the edge of our grasslands.

"You're so cute! Hey Ki'! Look look what I found! Isn't she adorable?"

I saw, my eyes widened as I took a step back. "Oh no."

"Ki', I know you don't like bugs, but she isn't that bad." She nuzzled the thing as it gave a soft purr.

I took the thing from her and stomped it flat with my hoof.

"Kifuko! How could you?!"

I was about to explain when I saw behind her, I whispered, "Don't worry, there's plenty more where that came from."

She read the fear in my voice and glanced behind me. "Oh! So many colors! Don't worry so much Kifuko, they're friendly and..." She finally read them, their look, their position, their formation, "And hungry..."

Maua screamed when they swarmed her mane, eating the flowers she had there along with some of her hair. I battered them away, took her by the hoof, and RAN.

I knew what they were. I had read about them. Our parents had told horror stories about them but we had never actually seen one. I had seen pictures in books. And I knew everything within miles was in deep deep trouble.

"Trouble's come along!
We can kiss everything green so long!

They don't look mean,
but they'll eat the farms clean!

Here comes troubles!
Gardens won't even have stubbles!

Look out, they're almost on the scene!
Eating everything is their routine!"

I explained to Maua as we ran what they were, what they did, and that they'd never, ever, stop.

We didn't stop running until we got back to town. Maua could read it in the wind, "They're coming."

And why shouldn't they? We had the biggest stockpiles of food for miles. Maybe they could smell it... the book I had read had barely touched on that subject.

We warned everyzebra of course, who believed us at once. The musicians gathered, hastily tuning their instruments, and it wasn't long after that the rainbow colored swarm approached. All of them smiling, all of them looking at everything with hungry eyes.

The musicians started to play, and the swarm became docile. Sadly this was only a delaying tactic.

What were we supposed to do with them? Just lead them back to the forest? That only works if you have some mountain-sized monster living there that used them as a food source. And attacking them would just break the 'trance' the swarm was under.

Our options were to evacuate, or store as much of our crops and grazing in containers that the parasprites wouldn't simply eat through.

The foals could hardly believe something that looked so adorable could be so dangerous, but the path of devastation behind the swarm was enough to snap these idiots to reality.

The musicians couldn't keep playing forever. And amateur music-making would only provoke the swarm.

It's funny, I can't remember where I heard it before, maybe it was my mother or the other performers, or I read it, but seeing the little monsters sway in the air to the music, like my audience had during my performance, I realized:
'The oldest musical instrument is the equine voice.'

I didn't ask for approval or permission, I simply trotted as close to the swarm as I could as the musicians were on their last legs.

"Ki'?" Maua saw what I was doing.

"Honey, get away!" My parents shouted.

I sang.

The parasprite stopped swaying. They froze hovering perfectly still save their wings. They began to shake. Maybe I was scared. They began to gravitate towards me. I didn't let my voice quiver. No words, they wouldn't have understood them anyway. I closed my eyes and kept singing. I could feel the wind from their wings. Their eyes on me. I kept my voice steady. see what you want to see. Wait. They were bugs. They didn't 'want' anything, their instincts told them what to do. I didn't skip a note. I focused. I had nowhere to retreat to. They were all around me. Maua, mom, dad, I could feel their love for me. I grew stronger. And my song fuddled with the nonexistent brains of these disgusting things!

And the swarm ate itself.

It was an implosion. Parasprites ate each other up before they could spawn more, some bursting they were eating each other up so fast; the invincible plague shrank down and down, and down. The last one, bloated and heavy landed on the ground at my hooves, I stepped on it, you have no idea how satisfying that was. I stopped singing.

The rest of my settlement saw what I had done. They were terrified of me, they called me a monster, they threw rocks at me and banished me from the settlement, and I, a poor lonely pariah with nozebra in the world...

...oh I can't say it with a straight face! Haha!

They loved for me it! They called me a hero! Maua actually put flower pedals in my path as I trotted back into town, everyzebra cheering my name!

"Kipepeo," My mother was told, "You gave birth to a miracle!"

I was something special, and far more important, I had saved us all from starvation. Some of us might have died from hunger if I had done nothing!

More love than I could remember. I had never felt so strong. I felt like I could fight a dragon and win. I had surpassed the dragon. All that love, it was transcendent. I was prancing on air!

But it didn't last.

Zebra have to get back to their lives sooner or later.

And that tidal wave of love I had felt slowly dwindled, like a fire as the wood was burned up. The level I felt was still greater than it had been before, but it had sank much longer than it had been at that initial high.

I wished we'd actually get visitors for once just so they could stir up more of that love as my heroics were told.

Maua, she didn't like what had happened, even if she knew the bugs were just bad news, but she told me, that she understood I had saved her along with the rest of the herd maybe. Then again, it had always felt natural having her nearby.

I ate food, but the hunger pangs didn't go away.

I felt exhausted as I went to bed one night, thinking.

My parents noticed, when they expressed their concern for me I felt the edge go off my need. Maua would visit, but she had to leave eventually. And I felt empty inside. I remembered Maua once telling me how she had eaten too much candy one day before meeting me, how she had sweated and tossed and turned in her bed. I wonder if this was how she felt.

I had this horrible feeling of becoming smaller, becoming less. Was I going to vanish?

My parents let me sleep in their bed with them, and I felt my insides stop shrinking.

I refused to show weakness. But inside I was scared of not being near my parents or Maua. I felt myself beginning to lessen a tiny bit whenever they weren't nearby. I began to sense the feel flowing off of other zebra as well, I felt it flow from them to those they cared about. It was the same stuff that came to me from Maua and my parents. Was it warmth? No it was more than that. It didn't exist physically, but I could sense it all the same! It didn't make sense! It was... it was.. love?

Did I have enough love to last me through a day with the performance group? Or out on a hunt? Did I have enough to last me through the night when I fell asleep?!

I didn't care there was something different about me from others, diversity were part of survival, but, what if they cared? Love was formed with things that were familiar. If I became unfamiliar, would the love cease? And would I cease with it? So many unknowns! Too many unknowns! It made my head spin. How could I make a choice when I wasn't even sure what the question was?! I had never felt control over my life slip away like this! Well, buck that, I wouldn't let it!

Why didn't I just try to make friends with the ponies around me? It didn't occur to me. Okay, I did try. But Maua told me I had been...too aggressive. She said I was 'trying too hard' and, how did she put it? I 'weirded' them out.

My mind reeled for a solution, any solution. Maua taught me many things about zebras. But I came to the horrible realization that my survival was in their hooves. Not mine. My destiny was no longer my own! Everything Maua taught me and every book I read agreed on the same thing. You can't MAKE somezebra fall in love. It was up to them. Whether I lived or died up was up them! No, my life wouldn't continue or fade by the whims of others! I wouldn't let it! I'd command my own fate!

Yet for all I raged... if my parents or Maua were drifted away from me, I'd be gone, my life was shackled to theirs! I'm like a shadow that needs a light to be cast. I kept up a loving demeanor around my parents, for my own survival, but it made me ill somehow too. Maua? She kept asking what was wrong, but she couldn't help. Only I could help me. I thought of that as I curled in bed, praying to our ancestors that I'd wake up in the morning. Wondering if I'd have the nightmare of drying up like a reed and blowing away tonight or crumbling into dust. Who was loved by all? Who was loved always?

Princess Celestia.

She was always loved.
She was always admired.

Ponies never stopped loving her. She was always loved. She was described as 'beloved' in every other sentence. She had to be. She...she was never in any shortage of love. For all the good it did ME! But maybe, just maybe, if I could be more like her somehow, some way. Bah! I was thinking in fantasies! And fantasies were Maua's department. I just presented them to audiences who wanted to be fooled.

That night, I dreamed again I was the Queen of All Equestria, loved by everyzebra, I understood all, everything made sense, the one in full control of my fate was me and not those around me, and I was never ever, empty.

Yes, that is how I should be!

I woke up and thought I was still dreaming. I didn't have the faintest idea of how it happened. Maybe creation itself had granted my wish. I had no idea, and I barely cared.

This was it, my new beginning!

"DEAR?!"

"KIFUKO!"

"KI'!"

"You're-you're-"

"You're beautiful!"

"You've become-"

I am an Alicorn. Who said ponies were the only ones who could be a, blech, heh, queen bee?

My mother looked at me in awe more than anyzebra else. Why shouldn't she? I had always been her spitting image. Now I showed her how she'd look as a teenage goddess. I flattered her just by being.

Now I really wish we had some visitors in town. I wanted everyzebra to see me as I was now. And they did!

All their eyes were on me. It was beautiful. I felt the stallions desire me. I felt foals be in awe of me. I felt the adults feel like they were before something greater than themselves. Some wondered if I was really Kifuko.

Some were scared, some were happy, many were confused, many loved me: but barely anymore than before!

Why?!

I was like Princess Celestia now! I was a goddess now! Why weren't they giving me every drop of love they had? It wasn't fair! It's not fair! Not fair! Who did this to me?! Was this their idea of a joke!? It wasn't funny!!!

The new love I felt, it was like watered-down soup, shallow, barely any substance to it. It was like the food I chewed in my teeth; no matter how much I took in, I remained empty.

I had enough. I'm sick of these games. I want my real body back if I'm just going to be jerked around like this!...

"Love is getting to know another soul," Maua had said, during one of our long talks.

Is Celestia loved after all? Or is she just feared? Is she so unknown that she can't be loved?

I don't know! I hate not knowing! You can't plan for what you don't know!

"Ki'?" She noticed.

I folded my new wings around her. I wish I knew how to fly. Or do magic with my new horn. I had read about it. But I had never had to put into practice before.

I remembered how my feats had inspired love before, maybe I could use this joke to my advantage after all.

I skimmed the now dusty books, and now unicorns moved things with their horns, and how pegasi flew. I didn't let anyone see me. I crashed only a few times. I didn't count how many times my horn lost its grip. But I have always been a fast study.

I chose to give Maua a private show to test myself out.

She loved it, watching me fly in the sky. Why stop there?

I used my horn magic to lift objects up around, then I grabbed Maua and planted her on my back.

"Ki'?"

"Just hold on, on second thought, I'll hold on with you!" I flew with her extra weight and holding Maua with my magic all at the same time! What a rush! I felt invincible! This was going to be perfect!

Then it was like a hole was opened in my underside and everything just drained out. I crashed, Maua's fall being broken by me. It was like everything had flooded out of me. No, everything had been flooding out of me, and now I had run myself dry.

"Ki' are you okay?!"

"No I am not."

"Let's get to the doctor!"

"NO! No doctor!" I snapped.

"Ki' you need help."

"There is no help they can give me!"

"You don't know that."

"YES I DO!"

"Why?!"

"I JUST DO!"

"Then what I am supposed to do?!"

"Please...please stay with me."

"...Alright Ki', I'll stay with you."

She did as I asked. Then it began to get dark. I used her as a crutch as she took me back home. My parents were dismayed at the sight of me, and I had to again fend off any chances for doctors. They couldn't help me. I asked Maua to stay with me. She did. Eventually her parents and mentor called for her, but she stayed with me. My bed was now a little bit too small for me.

I felt zebra wondering about me, some worried about me as part of the herd, but, none others were giving enough of what I needed now. In this shape I was trapped in that wasn't my own. Maybe this was the last part of the joke.

Maua's parents were worried I had some sickness and eventually forced her to leave me be least she be infected as well.

I wondered. Was I like a bonfire? Had I grown so large that the wood given to me now could never sustain me? Was my fate really just to burn out? It couldn't be. I wouldn't let it.

My parents. My lifeline. But it was pouring water down an endless pit. It wasn't enough. I couldn't stay like this. I wouldn't stay like this! I needed more!

As I lay there, I paid more attention to my 'feeling sense.' Becoming more attuned to it, like a shark with blood in the water.

The feeling, the flow coming from my parents into me. It felt like magic, it didn't seem like any of the magic I had read about. And magic, mana, could be manipulated by will and mind, the invisible threads that were everywhere.

When my parents were both near me, I became aware I could pull it, tug at it, maybe even make it come faster! Without a moment's hesitation I did.

It was a torrent, more concentrated and intense than those even at my debut performance or destroying the swarm. I wasn't aware of anything else. Only that I felt so much come into me, love, happiness, endearment, tenderness, the fire of emotion.

And I felt full again. I felt alive again! I giggled and laughed! More! More!

But suddenly it all stopped. Everything I was feeling flowing from them to me suddenly just, stopped.

I got up. No trace of weakness or emptiness remained.

I looked at my parents confused, and saw them looking at me like dolls. Not a feeling in them. Like a fire had gone out.

I was confused, and I felt bit afraid. I had never seen such, emptiness from even animals before.

"Mom? Dad?"

"Yes daughter?" "Yes Kifuko?" They said separately but equally indifferently.

"H-how do you feel?"

"...nothing really." "Not much of anything."

"I-I see."

Why? Why was I crying? I didn't understand.

They still went about things, doing their jobs, eating, sleeping, but with a empty indifference, a heartless demeanor. They dragged themselves about, like they didn't care even about themselves anymore.

="Betrayal" Silent Hill 2=

My parents acting indifferent and unmotivated even to their friends and our other family happening just when I recovered fully didn't go unnoticed by the rest of the herd.

Their eyes were all on me, their voices whispered.

A few days later I realized a new truth: I was hungry again. No. It was tiny, insignificant, like a grain of sand missing from a beach. But it was there, and growing.

I shivered when I thought of my parents, then like a light in the darkness, I remembered.

Maua, in one of her doomed attempts to teach me to appreciate arthropods, showed me the hatching of a nest of the kind I tolerated the most, spiders. I think we were both surprised at what happened next. The mother spider lay there motionless, was she already dead? Her own babies ate her.

Maua, I thank you. Parents provided for their foal. That was nature. Yes. If that's what it took for me to flourish, then I did only what came naturally. And every book, every text, every philosophy of Equestria, and even my own herd, held to that truth.

Do not be ashamed of yourself. Do not fear yourself. Do not hate yourself. What you are is exactly the way you were intended to be, and you should only be proud of that. Do not change who you are just to please others. You are you, and that is the best you can possibly be.

I understand.

"Kifuko. What happened to your parents?" She asks me at our normal spot. This place, it's been a constant in our lives for so long.

"I don't know."

"Why do you always try to lie to me?" This was asked without a trace of hurtful feelings towards me.

"I have to see if I can get one past you sometimes."

"Good luck with that. What happened to your parents?"

"...I ate their feelings."

Her eyes widened. But she didn't seem as shocked as should have been. "H-how could you do that?"

"I'm not sure myself. I can taste and eat food, but I've only ever gotten full when others felt good feelings towards me...After I changed, it wasn't enough anymore. I had no idea what the end result would be until it was over. I didn't fully realize what I was doing until it was all over."

"You can't help them?"

"There's nothing inside them left to help."

"They're-they're dead inside?!"

"I wouldn't go that far. They're still alive right? They can still think right? Your mentor looked them over, right?"

"Yes...Doctor Dawa did. He said he couldn't find anything wrong with them."

"There you see? So how can you call them dead? And what was there isn't gone. It's just a part of me now. I think. I was dying, Maua, I didn't know what was going to happen, I just wanted to live. Can you hate me for that?"

"...No, I can't."

"Thank you, Maua."

"I could never hate you, Ki'."

"Do you promise?"

"I promise. Do you think they'll be back to normal soon?"

"I have no idea."

"Ki', what are you?"

"I don't know."

"And...how long have you been this way? Needing feelings to eat?"

"As long as I can remember. Before I met you. I didn't even realize it at first."

"Why didn't you ever tell me?"

"I wasn't sure myself. I didn't know what to say. So I didn't see a point in telling anyzebra."

"...were you scared?"

"I don't think so. Maybe?" I said honestly.

"Some zebra are thinking your parents made a deal with a spirit of black magic to heal you. Others think they died of whatever you had and you brought them back as zombies."

"They're scared of me."

"Only a few of them are. I'm not. And neither is Doctor Dawa. And some Zebra think you're just a victim of some trickster spirit that gave you three wishes, and they backfired."

"A lion isn't a victim of being hungry. It's just the way it is, Maua. It's just the way I am."

"Ki', let's talk to Doctor Dawa! Maybe his alchemy can cure you!"

"There's no cure for what I am. No more than a flower can be cured of being a flower." I stroked a flower in her mane for emphasis.

"But there has to be SOMETHING that can be done for you! You can't be happy like this!"

"Whether I'm happy or not isn't the point."

"Of course it's the point! The point of life is to be happy, isn't it?"

"The point of life IS life, remember what my father said?"

"But we're not just animals!"

"Of course we are."

"Ki, stop it right now!" She snapped at me. I actually recoiled back. She was angry. "Don't do this to yourself! Please! You're my best friend! You're not just some animal! I'M not just some animal, either! You're Kifuko! I'm Maua! So please stop saying that!"

"You don't understand."

"Then help me understand!"

"...I'm just going to get hungry again, Maua. There's no way around it, there's no way to stop, and if I want to go on living, then I need to do what I did again, the love from all the herd isn't enough."

"Now your parents can't feel?"

"Now that my parents can't feel."

"You said this all started when you changed, what if I just find a way to fix you?"

"How? Start where?"

"Maybe get help from Princess Celestia of Equestria?"

"Do you know how to get to Equestria? Do you know how long the journey would be?"

"...no."

"Maua, it's okay, I'm not scared. Like the lions and the hyenas, I'll do what I need to do to live."

"Even if it means hurting other zebra?"

"I don't think my parents felt any pain actually, and my only other choice is to, burn out, die slowly, I don't want to die Maua!"

"I don't want you to die either Ki'!"

"Then please understand. I'm doing this to live!"

"I do understand Ki', I just know there has to be a better way!"

"You don't know that. You just want there to be."

"You don't know unless you try."

"Fish can't sing. Rocks can't live. Fire and water can't be friends. Dragons don't give. For them to even try is to already fail."

"Then please...let me help you."

And she did certainly did help me.

She became my partner in crime.

Maua had taught me before, but now she taught me with purpose. The fine art of what triggered what emotions. How to say just the right things to make somezebra trust a stranger, and how to turn a close group of friends on one of their own with just words. Words hold more power than anyzebra gives them credit for.

And I learned how to feed on zebra like never before.

I can't say I wasn't happy, just being with her. Even if it meant living day by day, zebra by zebra. I somehow felt whole with the two of us working together, stallions just our puppets.

Even the foals, now firmly becoming adults like I was, who had called me 'lucky amateur' and the ones who had called Maua 'weirdo' for her cloud-watching became putty in my hooves, they were particularly satisfying.

"Kifuko, I'm worried, is this us, just, getting back at them?"

"It's not revenge, Maua," I put a reassuring wing around her, "We're just doing what I need to do to live. Now they're doing something good with themselves. Isn't that better?"

Maua silently nodded at my logic. It made no sense, but sharing that time with Maua was when I felt the most alive in my life.

I gained a bit of a reputation of being a stallion's mare, and for stringing them along and dumping them leaving them in a empty state afterwards. I began wearing a cape or poncho to hide my wings. It got so hot at times. At least I was able to pass myself off as a hybrid 'virgacorn.'

But the best playacting in the world isn't going to do you any good when the audience is unwilling to suspend their disbelief. Sadly, my reputation of what state I left stallions in afterwards began to proceed me. They didn't know that I fed, but they could see the end results, and inserted it into a neat clean idea they could recognize: I left stallions 'heartbroken.'

Evil? Is a fire evil? Or does it just do what it does?

If a fire was aware, would it change what it needed to do to continue? If an arrow was aware, would that change its purpose? If the ocean was given a voice, do you think you'd have the right to argue with it?

The well was running dry. I began to actually feel ill, I can't explain it, but the looks more of my herd began to give me, the families of the stallions I used to live, it felt like I was being slowly poisoned.

Maua, bless her, she tried to stem the tide, but no zebra can push back drifting continents.

I didn't know how long I'd last. I did my best to restrict my use of magic and flying, to make my reserves last long. But my reputation was now self-procreating, and it became harder and harder for Maua to steer them towards me, and the sickness was getting worse. It wasn't like when I had been starving to death, no, this was worse, it really was was like I was being poisoned from the inside! And it only got worse when I was around the families of the stallions I had used, so I began to avoid zebra except my parents and Maua.

And Maua, of course they'd begin to turn their dark eyes towards her too. The witch's familiar.

Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.

I was trapped. I lost track of how many days I stayed alone in my house, my parents no longer really company.

I weakly raised my head when the door opened. Had somezebra come for revenge? I wondered if my parents would protect me, not that they cared, but it was part of what they did. Instead it was,

"Maua?" I said relieved, "Did you find one?"

"How are you feeling?" I frustrated that she ignored my question with a question but answered.

"Awful. It feel like venom spreading through my veins. Maua it's worse every day. It's killing me."

"You can't even defend yourself like this can you?"

"Maybe, I'm not sure." My muscles began to tense.

"I think I've waited too long as it is. I really hoped there was a better way. I didn't want this. You've been my best friend since forever, Kifuko. I'm sorry."

Maua took off her jewelry and flowers. She took my horn in her hooves and placed it against her head.

"The buck!? Maua what are you doing?!"

She wrapped a blanket around us.

"I found one last one Kifuko. Please, take it, take everything, take me, my heart, my mind, my soul, my spirit, take all of it."

"ARE YOU CRAZY?!" I actually struggled against her. But I wasn't in any shape to fight back.

"One last gift to you, one last wish for you," she nuzzled me.

"Maua this isn't funny! Stop, you idiot!"

"I always told you I was good at picking up things others don't, even about themselves," she caressed my horn, "You're hungry, I'm right here, do it." She pressed against me, our body heat mixing. "You want it, you need it, you desire it." She whispered in my ear, "I desire it."

My body trembled. It was like not trying to breath. The scent was overpowering. Her scent. I did want it!

- 'Magi' Madoka Magica -

It was the release of all releases. My spirits pierced the atmosphere and flew to the moon, the world moved, and shrunk down until nothing existed except the two of us.

It was like the sun, moon, and stars dived into me, I never had nor would again feel anything so intense and powerful, it dwarfed even what my parents had given me, I didn't need to pull it in, it came into me becoming one with me, uniting with me, being me, I felt emotions of every type but none hurt, only adding to the potency, for a flash I saw memories, heard thoughts, filling every trace of myself, with her.

But all good things must come to an end, and the last whips of smoke became one with me. As I recovered from the pure ecstasy, I heard from within, or I thought heard, or maybe I was just hallucinating from the rush,

"I'll be with you forever now, Kifuko."

I shook my head.

"Always. In. You."

I looked at Maua, or rather what had been Maua's body.

It looked and saw nothing, it heard but didn't listen, it lived but it didn't think. It breathed but it didn't nothing. It lived, but it was not Maua. It had body heat, but it was not comforting. It wasn't like my parents. Not in the least. This thing. It was empty. A limp and abandoned vessel.

I untangled myself from it, unable to even look at it.

It was over. My parents and Maua were now both gone. How could I have been so wasteful?

You think I was ashamed? Scared? Disgusted? Why should I be? She had offered herself of her own free will. I had accepted.

Don't feel bad for Maua. Her essence will be a part of me forever!

I began to gather my belongings, those I could carry with me. I had spent my entire life in and near this town. I had no reason to linger any longer.

There would be only one logical conclusions the zebra would come to when they found Maua's body, or if she were not to be found at all. I was the only logical suspect. I considered trying pin it on the stallions who I had used to feed myself, but I realized it was a plan with too many holes, and I stood alone now.

If I left, they'd know I was the one, they'd look for me, they'd tell other towns about me, they'd never stop looking for me. I knew what I had to do.

I burned or otherwise destroyed every record of myself.

Then I worked carefully and systematically, careful not to miss any zebra. There could be no zebra who knew of Kifuko.

I worked from house to house, to carry out my task. There could be none to follow me.

Stallion, mare, foal, it made no difference, I would leave none.

Looking into the eyes of another, my song could make them see what they wanted to see. I took what I could get, waste not, want not. Leaving them as my parents had been, as I had turned them into.

I worked quietly through the night, missing none, like a ghost, leaving no trace, silent and unopposed.

I calmly noted how sharper my sense felt, how much easier it was to read everything.

My sharper senses and my telekinesis saved me form the poison blowdart.

I'll admit I might have made a mistake in the order of my task, maybe that one should have been first, and not last, but only Princess Celestia is perfect (for now).

"How?!"

"You think me a fool?
If you do not know, I will not tell yo'!"

All night long, only brief struggles, no alarms sounded, and now he was here?

"Maua, where is my student, you vile freak?
You make a mistake if you think me weak!"

I tapped against myself with my hoof. "She is with me forever."

"So the monster's true colors now show,
There shall be no mercy from my blows."

"SHE chose to give to ME! It was HER IDEA! NOT MINE!!!" I hissed, surprised at my own anger.

"You must think me mad,
If that was the best lie you had."

"Believe what you WANT to believe!" I snarled.

"It is time for the final dance.
I should have killed you when I had the chance!"

"Yes," I admitted, "You should have."

I felt the pitter patter of raindrop on my head. Like a stupid turkey I looked up, and saw the dark clouds blocking out the night sky. A rain-dance? All by himself?! Lightning flashed.

"Here it comes, the rain and thunder!
Trying to fly now would be a blunder."

The old shaman... alchemist... witch doctor... whatever Low Equestrian name you want to give him, threw a bag from his pouch. The green smoke spread quickly. I was ready for more poison. Instead, I felt my magic sense begin to fill with 'static.' The rain didn't seem to do anything to disperse it at all!

"My own special bend
This is the end.
It's no use.
Your magic sense my powder has obtruced."

WHY WAS I STANDING HERE LIKE AN IDIOT LETTING HIM TURN THE BATTLEFIELD TO HIS ADVANTAGE?!

He had caught me off guard, and had hit just the right buttons for me to just politely stand by as he turned the terrain to negate my advantages.

More darts!

I caught them with my telekinesis and threw them right back at him! He blocked them with that old walking stick.

For some reason, just looking at the piece of wood made me feel small and vulnerable.

I tried to grab it with my magic, he pulled back, he's a lot stronger than he looks, then he stopped resisting and my own magic drew him in, and kicked my horn, causing me a splitting headache!

"Don't count on getting much use of that horn,
Now for to correct the mistake of you being born."

= 'Stains Of Time' - Metal Gear Rising -

I chose to remove the advantage of his blowgun by charging, I couldn't fly in this weather, but I could still use my wings to zigzag!

"You are no better than a cannibal,
You look out only for yourself, like an animal," he said, sidestepping my horn charge.

"And LIKE an animal I'll do what I have to to survive!" I turned and used a wing to tear off the blow gun necklace he was wearing.

"You think that justifies you in the least?
A lone wolf who abandons his pack is less than a beast."

He got his staff between my legs and twisted, causing me to tumble over.
Ugh! Had he been studying me my whole life? Or was he that good?

I kicked him back as he swung the staff down on my head, and I got to my hooves.

"Then I'll be a pack of one."

He retreated in the mass of green smoke that seemed to get bigger.

THAT NOISE! I had to dodge those the old fashioned way! He must have picked it up when he retreated! How many darts does he have?! I knocked one away with my wing, risky move.

"Do not waste frowns
and just lay down!
You're an actress, not a warrior
You might as well try to be a quarrier." His voice called. I'm not falling into a trap by going after it.

"And you're a doctor."

"That means I know where to hurt as well as heal
It'll be the last thing you feel," his voice came from a completely different direction.

"Isn't that violating your oath as a doctor?" Keep him talking. Think Kifuko think!

"In times of upheaval,
one must sacrifice towards the lesser evil." Different direction again!

"You forget, my father also taught me how to hunt," I hissed, "and my prey, now, is you!"

I fluttered my wings like mad, sending mud in every direction.

I listened to where the mud hit. And charged, first thing I did trample him, knocking the dart blow out of his mouth and smashing it this time. I managed to break some of his bones. Another bag of powder. This one exploded in my face, the white flash leaving me blind and bells ringing in my ears.

I covered my neck as he swung at it, I guessed where he stood and felt him block my attack, but I managed to push him back with superior strength. I felt his mass hit the ground. Or what I hoped was him.

I listened to my instincts, and charged.

By the time my senses recovered, I saw my horn had ran straight through him.

I breathed in deep, and let it out slowly, the green smoke was finally clearing. Of course. Naturally. Why wouldn't it? Head still hurt. Lots of bruises to boot. "Lucky amateur," I sighed.

By all rights he should have won.

But his green powder couldn't block my ability to feel others' emotions.

In other words, I got lucky.

"I win, I guess that makes me the better zebra."

"You are no zebra!
You're much closer to a hyena!"

He was still alive? I looked at him, still impaled on my horn, looking at me, his body limp.

"On that day your mother birthed you,
I saw the true you!
Your lie I saw through!"

"What are you talking about?!"

"A monster you were born
A thing of fang and horn!"

"You're delirious!"

"There is nowhere in this world you belong,
die trying to prove me wrong."

That was the last time he spoke. I slid him off my horn.

"...you're wrong. I swear you're wrong. I...you are wrong. I...I...I'll make my own place. And you'll eat your words in the mud."

I charged up his storm with a rain-dance of my own, pushing it past any safe limits, my dance wild and violent. Savage and free. Rain and clouds from miles in the sky was pulled in. The storm became a torrential flood.

And it washed away my past.

What did you call me? Monster? Beast? I did what I had to to live! Same as any living creature.

= 'Man's Road' Last Unicorn =

I wandered away from my past. Not really having a direction. Only carrying my wet and muddy provisions, which amounted to some blankets, a pillow, and some minor items.

I had really overdone it on the rainstorm. At least all traces of Kifuko would be gone from the world. I'd have to move on. I would have to start over. It would very hard without Maua. It was supposed to be the two of us. As had become normal, insects gathered around me like a bad dream. I placed my mother's mask near me to keep them away. I wondered how I'd blend in wherever it was I was going. It would be very hard with a horn and wings. Attention was the last thing I needed.

My dreams were black and lifeless, a raining void over a blacker sea, a storm of ghostly wisps and empty places.

I awoke in the morning. I stretched my wings, only to realize they weren't there. I fully awake in a flash. I turned around, and yes, my wings were gone, I felt my head, and, my horn it was gone too!

My legs suddenly fell back asleep. I looked up at the gray sky I brought about.

Dammit. It was still raining. The rain drops wouldn't stop getting in my eyes.

Heh. All that time. After my need grew so big with them gone. And now they were. NOW they were gone. NOW whoever was pulling this prank on me chose to take them away! Now that the game was over they didn't see a need to keep them around!

Heheh. HEHEHEHEH!

"HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!" I laughed to high heaven. I fell on my back, and kept laugh. I banged my own head against the dirt, still laugh. HEHEHEHEH! HEHEHEH! HEEHEH! After all that! NOW they go bye bye? BYE-BYE! HA HA HA! I giggled. I rolled around in the dirt and grass. I randomly squashed bugs and giggled. I bit a mantis' head off. Guess that means we're married now? What does it matter when I'm no better than them?! BWAAHAHHAHAHAH! I curled up, and giggled some more. Squishing the bugs between my hooves. "THERE! All your worries are gone!" I said to one bug as I crushed it.

Maua. Mama. Papa. BAHAHAHAH!!! Now that there's no zebra to hide from? Now that there's nozebra to show them off to? Now that it's all gone, now my hunger returns to normal? NOW? NOW!? HA HA HA!

Heh.

Episode 154:Chrysalis "Raising Of A Monster"

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Pony POV Series
Origins
"Queen Chrysalis"
Raising Of A Monster
By Alex Warlorn
Edited By Louis

Ahem.

I did a bit of wandering after that. Seeing the countryside, taking in the sights, being one with nature.

I tried feeding off the love of animals. In doing so, I essentially learned what a lion feels like when it tries to eat leaves.

What did my conscience say about all this? What would I want with something society tried to PROGRAM into me? That's why I smothered my conscience in its sleep. So I spent a little bit whining about how life isn't fair, then hunger set me straight, and off I went.

For once, I was happy Father had never taken me to any other town or city. This meant I wouldn't be recognized.

I shall...confess...on the grounds this is not repeated...I did apply for employment at...an escort business. I realized Maua's old rock collection had more love than these stallions, and I wouldn't let this filth touch my body. My...employer told me what he thought of my behavior. I introduced his throat to my hooves, and helped myself to a generous severance package.

Where was I? Oh yes.

I didn't bother remember the names of the cities or town I came to or from, why would I?

Let see now... I think that's when I happened to camp at the same spot as this young, handsome zebra stallion. He was in love with me at first sight before I actually did anything! It was discording. No, not THAT kind of discording! And no, let us set one record straight right now:

I would not work alongside that lunatic if he offered me the goddess of love herself on a silver platter! A world full of bickering, miserable, insane ponies? How is anyling supposed to get a steady supply of love in THAT mess? I might as well ask the windigos to return. The bastard can rot in Tartarus for all I care, if I was in Celestia's horseshoes I'd turn his statue into gravel. I'm embarrassed to admit that I was CHEERING for the ponies when they dealt with Nightmare Moon, Discord, and Princess Gaia.

The pony code against murder is stupidity defined. Sure, kill on the battlefield! Kill away! But present a pony with a chance to make sure an enemy can never threaten them again? Not in peacetime! Rejected! Instead, let's give 'em a chance to escape someday, so they may lay havoc another day! Idiots! So to sum it up, I'd sooner help kill Discord than ever aid him.

Who was I talking about again? The stallion? Yes yes, if you insist his name was Buibui. Or maybe it was Bovbov.

Either way, he made a good mobile food source. Said he was traveling Zebrafrica to see the world or something, maybe he was looking for a magic sword, or maybe he was a mail carrier... no, he was a mail carrier looking for a magic sword! I think. I spun a completely fictional name and past for myself for him to dig into, and acted endearing.

I think I could have told him I was a door to door hay-saleszebra and the moron would have still loved the sight of me. Idiot didn't know me, and he just loves me then and there? Zebra who fall in love simply from how somezebra looks are no different from stallions who pay for a night with a mare. That kind of love is reserved for small foals and idiots... not that I was complaining!

I asked him what he loved about me, but all his answers came back shallow. He only knew my appearance and the fantasy I had fed him. His responses could have described anyzebra he liked.

I kept him around until I neared civilization again. And for a while after that, and a while after that. Trying to figure out what was it he saw in me that made him love me instantly. But it always fell short. I don't like failing! There are two ways to deal with a mystery, uncover it, or eliminate it.

Finally, I asked him if he'd give me all his love, and he agreed, so I took it. Yum! What? I asked.

I visited what libraries I could find, and there were always a stallion in such places, desperate for companionship, someone to share his love with, and normally wouldn't be missed a fair while. Though my real point in visiting was to read up on fighting, hoof-to-hoof combat of Earth ponies, aerial pegasus dogfights, unicorn combat magic, and of course the zebra-style cane fighting that had almost done me in. Finding books on those was a challenge unto itself! Which makes the lonely desperate stallions all the more useful.

Sometimes a target would last me a good while. Other were about as filling as chewing gum.

After all, I just want to go on living. Like the timberwolves of Equestria. If the deer they fed on were suddenly replaced with ones who were more than their instincts, would that change what the timberwolves' natural prey was?

My day job? Well, on one hoof, love was the only sustenance I truly needed; and you couldn't buy such a commodity at the market! But at the same time... well, you'd be AMAZED how many things they'll stick a price tag onto, and last I checked, stallions didn't consider moneyless vagrants to be 'smoking hot.'

So I had been everything, a waitress, manual labor, I took pride in my skill in lying and manipulating myself into anywhere. My prey often provided most of the money I actually needed.

On a whim, I once visited a fortuneteller, who used pieces of paper with pictures on them to foretell the future. Perhaps I could pick up some tricks I could use for myself!

Things didn't go the way they were supposed to, when during their ritual the zebra drew a card that she looked very surprised at. "What?... This is impossible."

Instead of rolling my eyes I asked, "What is it?"

THe picture was some naked mare on top of a several headed lion, the mare holding what could have been a lantern or chalice.

"This is the eleventh Major Arcana, it's commonly called The Lust, but it's also known as The Hunger."

I stiffened. "What does it symbolize?" I heard myself ask.

"Well, in this case, it symbolizes being consumed by power, the strength that comes through dominating others, and thus is not true power, but the emotional high of abusing power."

I gritted my teeth. "So what is so 'impossible' about it?"

"I didn't put in my deck! It's not part of a standard Tarot deck but one of the alternate decks! The standard Arcana with that number is The Strength! I should not have drawn this card!"

I looked at the other cards on the table, a skeleton equine drawn from before, which overlapped a card underneath she said was called the Temperance.

The mare drew again, shaking, the card this time was of a tower being struck by lightning and equine falling from it.

The mare did a couple more readings, and that card, Hunger, kept showing up. I couldn't figure out what her game was since she did these readings as a 'bonus' and I felt her growing genuinely afraid and disturbed.

"It's like this Arcana is calling to you, or like you are calling to it!"

The Hunger Arcana huh? Sure. Why not?

My plans for the future? I had no real plans then, my goal was living day-by-day. Though I'll admit, even back then, just wandering about, going from town to town, feeding, moving on, and repeating the cycle really didn't appeal to me. There had to be a way out. Freedom from my. . . condition. And I was going to find it.

Oh, and I ran into some accidentally-summoned (not by me stupid! I'd never even read on monster summoning) extra-dimensional parasitic creature that ate magic and decided to make me his entree. I ate him instead. There was something sweet about his rantings on how I was a insect compared to him and HE should have been eating ME, and me proving him dead wrong.

I was on cloud nine.

Some time later I spotted my newest target. In some town that had a bunch of foreigners, like griffins about. He was good looking. Attractive. And he seemed like the kind that fell in love with a mares on the spot. I'll admit, he was rather hot.

I did my dance with him, and he did his own dance right back at me! Now this could be informative. Let it never be said I was unwilling to learn.

We talked about meaningless trivial things. Something about him just drew me to him. Funny... I don't think I ever actually caught his name.

I told him where I was staying, and where to come to me, I asked him not to tell anyzebra else of course, I wanted it to be private, of course he agreed.

I went back to my room to prepare for our 'meeting.'

Inside my room I found several griffins and deer, I wondered if I had gotten the wrong room for less than a second before I began to back up only to find the door closed behind me.

Then they came at me all at once. Oh, funny story, I ALWAYS make sure my room are soundproof, and don't have any windows. Really funny ain't it?

Door was nice and strong too, the kind that wouldn't be broke down quickly, the way I liked it. The zebra who gave me this room really did fill out all my needs.

They didn't bother with introductions. They didn't waste time on banter to give me a few precious seconds to size them up. They came at me, nearly all at once, just enough at once so I had nowhere to dodge, the rest waiting outside the first pile for me if I managed to squeeze out of that. They didn't let up for a moment. They didn't let me get a word in edgewise. Their attacks came from every side, behind front, left right, above below, but angled so if I escaped, they wouldn't hit each other.

I kicked, bucked, jabbed, punched, but for every one I focused on, there were two more getting in a hit when I did. Contrary to what you've seen in plays, they did not politely line up single file for me to knock down one-by-one.

I gave them plenty of black-eyes, bite marks, bruises, and broken bones, but there was plenty of them too. One slammed a collar around my neck. Then a muzzle on my snout. Then came the rope. By the time they were done, I was just a package for delivery. I never stopped struggling. It just made them beat me harder.

By the time I was in the bag, I wasn't in much shape to do anything. I was just able to grab my mother's mask with my teeth. And I had felt increasing dizzy ever since the collar had gone around my neck. It wasn't restricting my breathing, but I was feeling more disoriented the longer it was on, like, like my thoughts...were turning, into soup...so tired...can't think...ugh...the bumpy ride wasn't helping either. I lost consciousness.

I had no idea where I was. It stank. It was noisy, hissing and clicking noises all around me. I was dumped onto a dirt floor.

Monsters surrounded me. Zebra sized insects, with dragonfly wings, stubby horns, black carapaces, fangs and blue eyes. They went on four legs but in place of manes or tail they had what looked like skin flaps or something. They were ugly.

I retched at the sight of them, and huddled closer to mom's mask.

I was indoors. Everything had a black flowing shape to it. The lanterns burned violet. I had no idea what that was about. I was surrounded on all sides by a raised wall, with the audience of monsters looking on above.

"All bow to the Queen of the Changelings!" One of the monsters, wearing armor, called out. They spoke Zebrifican?

The insects all lowered their heads.

Then one slammed my face into the ground.

"WE SAID KNEEL, DESERTER!" Another armored bug hissed in my ear.

I felt a faint shuddering in the ground. I was so disoriented. Something wasn't right. And I mean more so than the bizarre nightmare I now found myself in. What was it?

The faint shaking again. The my head yanked up to face the ugliest horror I had ever seen.

It was fat, bloated, and disgusting.

Its body pulsated every few seconds, like intestines. Most of its body was the most putrid shade of white imaginable. The front half of its body was small by comparison and black like the rest of the monsters and covered in carapace. Blech, its head was big and ugly. It had a pair of wings that were far too tiny for it. It had the same blue compound eyes as the rest of the monsters. It wore a black crown with amethysts. It held a similarly-made scepter.

It was carried on a giant couched slab, with more of the monsters shackled to it on either side. All of them looked utterly exhausted and hopeless. They looked relieved to finally place the giant load down and getting a chance to rest.

"All Hail Queen Cocoon Mab Loth Avalon!"

The...changelings... hadn't that been was what the armored monster called itself? The changelings all chittered and cheered at the bloated thing.

A number of the monsters fluttered to the big monster's side, standing at attention.

The armored one next to me bowed. "My queen, we have captured the rogue we were sent to retrieve."

"Black Beetle." The big monster said... in Low Equestrian!... "How did this little creature escape the eyes and ears of your intelligence network for so long? How did it escape the nest without your notice? Who could have exposed us?"

Black Beetle suddenly looked terrified. "M-my queen, I do not know! It must have been a grievous oversight on the guards' part! They clearly have been slacking in their duties in keeping the gatherers and workers in line! They have allowed creatures like this thing to run about, causing trouble!"

"So it is the guards' fault? That is your best estimate?"

"Yes my queen! Certainly!"

"Black Beetle... give me all your love."

Black Beetle screamed tried to fly away, but was grabbed by two of the armored bugs and was dragged in front of the queen, who touched his horn with hers.

I watched transfixed as violet flames flowed out of the bug and into the queen, his body withering. It lasted several seconds. None of the other monsters said or did anything to stop it. I was still bound and gagged.

The violet flames stopped coming out of Black Beetle...his eyes were empty. Not empty in the catatonic sense, but empty as in like a costume. Hollow. The armored bugs let go of him, and his empty exoskeleton fell to the floor and shattered. There was nothing inside.

Changelings rushed in front of the queen and swept up what was left of Black Beetle into a bucket and dump it into a bigger bucket that was carted away. Like garbage.

The Queen looked back at me.

"Soldier #1983, what is this little creature's brood and serial number?"

The armored monster got closer to me. "STAY BACK!" I tried to snap holding up my mother's mask.

Soldier #1983 punched it in two and tossed it aside.

What was this pain in my chest? Seeing that mask broken?

The monster mare-handled me, pushing and pull me, making the bindings and collar bite into my body. As he did so, I got a look at his helmet, and the reflect there in.

My blood turned to ice. I recoiled in disgust at the thing looking back at me in the helmet's reflection.

Bad dream. Bad dream. Bad dream. Or that's what I would have said if I wasn't in so much pain right now! Bad dream! Please bad dream! I've finally gone crazy and now I'm delusional. It's all a fever dream, everything since the day I became an Alicorn, just a fever dream.

I heard the insects whispering. "She's a monster. She could have exposed us all."

"She's not so... blagh! Her eyes!"

"A deviant? No wonder she ran."

"Selfish freaks."

"Your Majesty! She has no serial number! And no brood mark!"

The monsters all gasped.

"THAT IS NOT POSSIBLE!" The Queen snarled.

"It is true My Queen! There is nothing!"

"They are removed?!"

"No My Queen, there is no sign of them having been there at all!"

"Little creature! What is your number and brood?! I command you to speak!"

They practically tore the muzzle off me. "WHO ARE YOU!?" I demanded. "WHAT ARE YOU? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME?! CHANGE ME BACK YOU SICK FREAKS!"

"These games do not amuse me, deviant! Answer!"

"I'm not one of you! Change me back! What did you do?! Let me go!" I knew that was unlikely, given I had already seen a secret society that wanted to stay hidden, but I wasn't exactly thinking straight.

"Do not try to pretend to be delusional, deviant. We know of your feeding and hunting. Your shapeshifting is bound by the collar little creature."

"You're lying! Your turned me into this! I WAS BORN A ZEBRA!"

"Converting cattle into changelings is a costly, time-consuming process: why would we waste it on a cattle's foal? Do not blame me, deviant, you are the architect of your own fate."

That last bit, was enough to give me back my focus. Thanks, Queenie!

"How is it possible you avoided being marked when born, and spend your entire life as such, and even left the hives undetected, deviant?"

"I've never been here before in my life. I've never seen you things before in my life. So buck you."

Amidst the sea of gasps, the armored bug smashed me across the face, knocking me down.

"Watch your tongue, monster, or I'll cut it out!"

"Monster? You look in a mirror lately?" He kicked me in the muzzle. It was so worth it.

I had no intention of sharing my life story with these giant bugs.

This continued for too long, the Queen demanding answers that I didn't have, ranting about things that didn't exist.

"If I'm not numbered... *KICK!* Then I'm not part of your system...*KICK!* So this entire thing is pointless!" *KICK!*

"...you may have somehow dodged being registered when you were born, little creature, but I promise your death will be not be so avoidable."

...Oh no...So this was it huh? Dammit. Guess I didn't get so far after all.

"Take her to the other deviants. I want her broken! I want 'Yes, Master' to be the only words she can say! I want this traitorous little worm to know its place! I want it know its words hold as much worth as flatulence!"

"HOW CAN I HAVE BETRAYED YOU WHEN I HAVEN'T EVEN MET YOU!?" I couldn't stand this insult to logic!

"You have endangered the swarm by acting without my command! Your genetic deviance endangers the gene pool! You show defiance towards your Queen! How could your actions be anything BUT treason? I'm done with this worm. Take it away."

Another of the armored bugs flew one and together the two of them dragged me away, still roped up, and still collared, dragged away on the dirt and then on the rough stone as we entered one of the passages that led into the circular dust bin.

I tried my hardest to memorize every passage and route we took.

We passed other changelings.

"Its eyes! Look at her eyes! She's an abomination!" Buzzed out one changeling.

"She's a deviant from the template! She's a mutant!"

Most however, didn't even look at me, or anything else. If I had to put a word to them, it would be tired. They trudged along.

I saw zebra, ponies, griffins, deer, with glowing violet eyes, looking deluded or like they were having the time of their life even if they were covered in dirt and stank like goats.

"Hey!" I shouted at one zebra, who looked at me dully. "Help me!" She took a trot forward.

"Ignore her," #1983 said. The zebra went back to sweeping.

Finally, they dragged in front of what, by any other name, was a prison cell. They cut my bindings. Big mistake. I kicked one in the face, and made a run for it even if I had no idea where to go.

Sadly, one grabbed me as I began to run, and I fell face first on a raised piece of stone. One of the fangs that now dominate my mouth broke, bleeding.

"Oh. Let me help with that." #1983 said, and then punched me in the face until the other fang broke. "See? That wasn't so bad! Both match now! NOW GET IN!"

The THREW me inside the slammed the cage door behind them.

I wasn't alone.

There were more of the monsters. But all of them slightly different; none were cookie-cutter identical.

One had violet compound eyes instead of blue. One's shell was gray instead of black, and another's was a darker shade of black than the norm. Yet another had red marks along her shell like flames. One had very large wings. Another was wingless but possessed bulkier armor, and yet another still was also without wings, but had a longer, more slender horn.

They all looked at me with sad pity, I snarled at them for that, but not before observing how they were all wearing the same collar I was.

I looked down towards the floor into a puddle of...something. My eyes. They weren't the same as the rest of the monsters. They were green and almost like a cat's. They were still my own.

+++

Yes yes, they introduced themselves to me, and I introduced myself to them. But I told none my name. Can we please skip over that part? It was just an exchanging of identities. Their stories were all same. Born different, threat to the template, but 'waste not, want not.' So they were spared to entertain the swarm, (and by 'entertain' I mean everything from the clownish to the carnal) or perform the sort of menial tasks fit for the lowest of the low.

The matter of real importance? I learned stuff. What was at stake here. What the playing field was like. And especially, the rules of the game. You need to know the rules of the game so you can break them.

Moreover, I learned the 'history' of the swarm. Not dates and names and such; but what precious little the swarm itself remembered from its centuries of isolation and self-ignorance.

And I learned nothing alive has the same eyes as me.

The last queen didn't have the same eyes as me.

'My mother?'

Ha!

That old hag was never my mother! Don't tell me all this time you were thinking that it was going to turn out I was some long-lost princess, do you? Destined to be returned to the rightful throne, and meet with the rebel resistance and restore all that was right once? Don't make me laugh, you romantic simpleton.

I also learned it was tradition to destroy all records of the previous changeling Queen when the new one was crowned. The death of their history and leaving only the now (that was one of the first policies I changed). Not that anyling could even REMEMBER when Queen Cocoon had started ruling. They didn't even know if there any other changelings besides them.

The secret origin of the changelings? They'd like to know that themselves.

'The first Changeling Queen was the Hearts and Hooves Day princess!' 'She was Queen Rosedust!' 'No She was Queen Rostdust's daughter!' 'No no no! She was the pegasus who killed the demigod Cupid! She has to be!' 'Bioweapon created by the centaurs!' 'Ancient mutant space ponies!' 'Ponies mutated by a sonic-rainnuke!' 'Fairy ponies risen from the dead!'

Take your pick.

I wish I could say I was given some holy vision, telling me it was my destiny to rise to the top. Or spirits telling me I was Queen Rosedust herself reborn. But I had nothing. And I wouldn't have cared.

And every discussion ALWAYS kept coming back to my eyes.

They didn't look the same as eyes of prey, but they weren't the eyes of my own kind, so therefore 'not-changeling-eyes' equaled 'prey-eyes.' Not that unreasonable. No wait... it was stupid.

To be a changeling is to have everything be your enemy. Creatures of chaos, hatred, and ruin, spreading despair and misery, destroying our crops before they can be harvested.

And that said nothing about other changelings. There was never enough love to go around, ever. Not as far back as the current generation could remember with Queen Cocoon on top, no matter how diverse the prey, no matter how many forms love took, there was never enough to feed everyling. I thought of the fat queen, I wondered why.

In the darkest and worst times, Changeling tore each other to shreds over the smallest scrap of affection to take the edge off our never-ending hunger. This chaos didn't last long. Those whose feuds escalated into full-out war were more likely to make the prey aware that those horrors called 'changelings' were REAL, and needed to be disposed of!

We have been called abominations, plagues, diseases upon the world. As if what we're doing was any different than any other beast that seeks flesh to fill its belly.

Oh right, prey think everything eats fruits, vegetables, or rocks.

My eyes. 'How different they are,' the others would prattle on.

'Changelings and prey were fundamentally different,' they insisted. 'Like water and alcohol.' Water and alcohol could LOOK the same, FEEL the same, but one burned, one didn't. And it had nothing to do with how it was raised or its choices.

Personally? I knew I was fundamentally different from THEM! And I swore I'd never forget that.

Back to 'my fellow deviants...' They all had numbers and brood markings. I had none. This made me a strange anomaly, even among them. Every changeling's birth, life, and death was documented, along with the love it gathered and had and was given. Like machinery. Disgusting.

The idea of earning love instead of steal love? Want. Take. Consume. After all, lions don't ask gazelles' permission to eat THEM. It's just nature.

For changelings, GIVING love is like vomiting. Which also happens to be how nymphs are fed.

Oh, let me settle that as long as we're on the subject. Contrary to myth, our young aren't born as grubs and mature into pony shapes. They HATCH in equine shapes, and grow from there, so the proper term is nymph.

GIVING love to cattle is a sign of mental illness. It's actually written right in the laws and our psychology textbooks.

I could appreciate that. After all, I couldn't go giving love back to other zebra, it's not like THEY need it to live.

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): You're wrong. Anything with a heart needs love to live. There was an experiment, long ago, with infants were fed and otherwise taken care of, but not nurtured or had affection expressed towards them...the experiment ended because they all died. Love IS needed for other creatures with hearts and minds to live.)

Well then, heh, I guess that means ALL creatures are changelings, doesn't it?

Now where was I? Oh, I and my fellow genetic deviants got to know one another, learned about each other, our likes and dislikes.

We also hatched an escape plan involving careful timing, distracting, knowing the exits to the surface (turns most of the hive was underground), and taking advantage of our 'disabilities' of course. Oh, and getting the collars off, but that one went without saying. We already had plans of where to go once we were free. Equestria was the one and only place we had any true desire to go. A kingdom so overflowing with love? We'd be fools to go anywhere else.

But our escape was foiled, thanks to a traitor in our midst. What? Me? Don't be stupid. I wanted OUT of that dung hole! And you think I'd be STUPID ENOUGH to believe any offer or promise the guards or the queen gave me? Me, the deviant whom they made clear they didn't even consider a person? Not worth the respect or handling even prey was given?

"You said you wouldn't say it was me!" Said red-streaks, aka #1992-PT, whom the guard happily outed as our mole.

"And you believed me," #1983 said kicking her back in with the rest of us.

What did we do to her?

I think I'll leave that to YOUR imagination. I certainly got to express mine that day!

I decided that day, if I was going to gain my freedom, I was going to have to do it myself.

Oh. What did we deviants do? Things. Lots of things.

Do I really have to tell this part?

Fine.

"Bring in the clowns."

The collars never, ever, came off. I was thrust into arenas more times than I could ever recall. And I never saw the sky.

Made to do tricks with minimal or no practice, ball walking (with our front hooves), fire juggling (with our mouths), and who could forget the cream pies infested with muncher beetles?

The costumes and makeup were not all that inspired. As a performer myself, I took it as a personal insult!

It was actually WORTH the beatings I took when I dared modify my costume and make up an act all for the sake of delivering a better performance. For the record, the audience loved it.

I kept my singing voice a secret.

I'll admit, mathematically speaking, and considering my survival habits, there was no way I could deny they were the same species as me. But how? There was no way in Tartarus my parents were changelings. And the myths about changelings replacing babies with their own nymphs are just that, myths. It made no sense, but I couldn't deny the evidence staring me in the face, or how so many pieces made sense.

One thing about being considered less than even your own food? Changelings don't care what they say around you.

So many were afraid. I was stunned what a truly cutthroat society this was. One less changeling means more love for the rest, after all. I wondered how many were hiding deviances behind their shapeshifting.

Queen Cocoon, surprisingly, had a vast network of changelings away from the hive, making sure the hive stayed current in global affairs, and information about the swarm was silenced, vanished, blown up, or if the discoverer was particularly clever, converted as the situation called for.

They kept speaking of everything in Low Equestrian, her and her entourage. Regardless of how important or vital it was. I never let on that I understood every word dropped about plans for revising her private chambers, additions to the hive, rescheduling the guards, and more.

I also heard how the changelings' numbers had been steady dropping over the last hundred years, at least. Of course feeding Her Majesty always came first.

I also realized, if I escaped, they'd hunt me till the day I died.

Cocoon never said any of it in Zebrafrican, but apparently there WERE adult changeling scouts and gatherers who had chose to feel empathy for their prey, and abandon their 'loyalty' to the hive and assimilate fully with the creatures they were posing as. Some 'going as far' as 'vomiting love' back at their prey. They were declared 'legally insane' on the spot, full of 'poisonous ideas' and were hunted down and often killed on the spot with a proper cover up of their death or vanishing following for their alias.

Can't have security risks, after all.

They also made nice scapegoats for why there was a perpetual love shortage despite the population dropping. When Cocoon felt whimsical, one traitor would be brought back alive for a show trial, followed by attempts to 'cure' them for the rest of their lives. When Cocoon felt un-whimsical, traitors were just eliminated to safeguard the gene pool.

There were even changelings who found the 'taste' of a particular prisoner so enticing, they tried to escape the hive with them. Preying Mantis' drones would find them, the changeling would plead they had 'fallen in love' with their food and Cocoon introduced them to their fate.

Thanks to the 'language barrier,' of me speaking 'only' in Zebrafrican, I never lacked for information.

I learned of the swarm's alchemists and bioengineers. A century ago, the bioengineers had attempted to breed a 'love tree.' Apparently, it got 'too friendly' and was burned to ashes after taking the most brilliant bio-alchemist of a generation with it.

They had tried a 'hive mind' collective dream with cocooned victims and... it was a disaster. Individually, zebra lacked the knowledge to conceive of a perfectly detailed world. And different zebra considered different things real and fictitious. Ergo, a collective shared dream would create countless contradicts.
Factor in the magic needed to maintain it, and the minimal return, and the whole enterprise equaled out to a fool's errand.

Hercules Beetle, was the master of the swarm's soldiers, and didn't mourn Black Beetle's fate. A new changeling, Preying Mantis, was now master of maintaining order within the hive. The one charged with finding and silencing rogues and traitors.

Digger Wasp was master of the swarm's spies, but his presence at the hive itself, was a lucky rarity. His sister, Jewel Wasp, was master of the gatherers.

All changelings who could perform magic cast the same identical COLOR of magic: violet. This could be problematic when infiltrating as unicorns en masse, but Digger Wasp often boasted of finding ways around this tell that were 'surprisingly obvious.'

There was Shield Bug, our 'head pediatrician,' so to speak, who oversaw the health of the swarm's nymphs. Queen Cocoon didn't care much for her, insisting she found Shield Bug, 'pessimistic.' Shield Bug would ask for more love from the 'royal cache,' saying she was being made to ration love to nymphs that needed at least over a third more of the grand total being given if they were to grow up healthy. Queen Cocoon said it would be a good chance to weed out the weak to increase the swarm's chances for living.

While it was hardly expectant for all the young of a litter or brood to grow up to adulthood... where was the logic in withholding love?

Hercules Beetle would always report the number of guards ready to defend the hive or wipe a settlement off the face of the map if we were discovered and a 'natural disaster' needed to happen.

I often suspected him of lying about his army's size just to make Cocoon feel more powerful. Yet it didn't have the earmarks of a con.

Their army was huge. Why, though? Everything I read about war said the same thing: armies were expensive to train, equip, maintain and FEED. So WHY was our army so LARGE in the middle of a century-long food crisis?

There weren't many countries that could match our swarm's soldiers in numbers. And they were up-to-date in equipment and training, with spies in nearly every country, providing tactical and strategic information.

And every last bit of it, this huge drain on resources, existed on the chance the swarm's existence was discovered, Hercules Beetle's second officer, Goliath Beetle, often bemoaned having an army and not even having a solid enemy to fight.

So to sum up: an army that did nothing. A black hole on resources even as the hive crumbled. Queen Cocoon was also telling the bio-alchemists' chief mad scientist Kabutomushi, to try and develop cloning for their army so they wouldn't have to rely on breeding.

Cocoon could have used prey to carry herself around, but she seemed to prefer using her own kind.

There were jobs cattle could be used for when not being kept in storage, but working upside down in the dark on the cavernous ventilation and cooling systems wasn't one of them. Plus, cattle was too important to risk injury. Worker grunts were more expendable.

There was no internal economy. You did your job; you were fed. If not; you were fed on.

Promotions seemed to be at personal whims rather than any merit system.

Names were a privilege. Unnamed changelings were just numbers in the machine: a poorly-ran one.

The worst part wasn't the performances, the collar, or the cell, or the way I was looked through, it was every time I had to bow down to that fat, bloated, impassive sloth, who cared only about her own belly, while the hive and her swarm crumbled around her. Resentment built within me like geothermic pressure in a volcano.

Then there came the straw that broke the camel's back. I spent a performance listening to changelings speak. Now outside the hive, artists generally aided in the gathering of love, as they attracted admirers. Inside the hive, artists who managed to keep the swarm distracted were left alone. But the changelings around me were all abuzz about a subversive painting called the 'Final Sunset' that had indirectly cast Cocoon in a bad light, and so its creator had to be eliminated.

Cocoon arrived, her slaves carrying her bulk on a great palanquin. #1983 announced her arrival. Then the proverbial straw fell, when among the ever changing titles and prestiges Cocoon gave herself, #1983 proclaimed her to be, "Protector of the hive, the swarm, the changeling people, she who protects and guards our future."

Something inside me snapped then. I dropped my props, wiped off my make-up and tore off my costume, to the shock of everyling, but before the guards could do anything, I sang.

"You claim to look to what is today's beyond,
Fate does not stop because you say it's done,
What fools mistakes the dusk for dawn?"

"You can't see the world crumble around you
So who is the greater fool?"

"You are blind both far and near
You say you're loved but all I see is fear

"Show us all games and fun
Distract a hive that comes undone"

"A sword treated like a shield
Is it to a coward that we kneel?"

"Beasts tear down leaders who are weak
So who is the real freak?"

"Our future is ours if we'll take it
Or one who can only fake it?"

"A spider who hides from her own web
The only kingdom she'll rule is one of the dead.

Awaken and look left and right, do not hide
Don't we see that all of us feel the same inside?"

Takes our wings and fly
And see through this lie!"

"Swarm, kingdom, hive,
We must remember what means to be alive!"

That got their attention.

Well, there goes the bridge. Only way now is forward.

The swarm looked at me in shock and varied other feelings: some fear, some confusion, some awe. They'd respond with their emotions first, then reflect upon it later in a way that would create the illusion that they had used reason to decide their action. I need to strike now that I've played my ace to knock them all off-balance.

"Look around us! Our hive is crumbling! Yet we are not given resources to restore it! No matter how our numbers shrink, our supply of food remains scarce! Our swarm is on a death spiral! Our Queen has a massive army, and has for generations, in case the cattle should ever, may eventually, possibly discover our existence. But what has her army done for us other than eat and bully us?"

That got the guards unhappy, but it also got a lot of the assembled changeling talking. Which I like to pretend got Cocoon scared.

"How many of us, as gatherers, have gone beyond the protection of her army that never leaves our hive? Only to have to kill ourselves rather than risk revealing our existence to the cattle? How many of us have lost brothers and sisters to this fear? Once our numbers could blot out the sky! Why did we not listen to our courage then?! We are predators! We are the hunters! And yet we cower and bury ourselves in the dirt like grubs! Is that who we are? Is that who we want to be?"

The ugly bugs looked at each other, surprised and unsure.

"How has Cocoon protected us? Or have WE been the ones protecting HER? Is THAT the changeling way? And at what cost? Our swarm? Our hive? Our future? If we serve a queen only to all die ourselves, then wouldn't that queen only follow suit? How is that a future?! Why is it, no matter how much we bring our queen, there is never enough? What has driven our brothers and sisters to madness and stolen cattle from the hive and fled? Why does this madness continue? Why have we done nothing to change these things? Why has our queen failed to bring us back from the abyss? If we are a swarm, then why do we never swarm? Why do we neither do anything with our army or scale it back as we starve?! Who can answer me? If even a degenerate slave can notice these questions, then who has been keeping us from asking them? Who has the the ability, the means, but never acts?"

Some of Cocoon's entourage looked like they wanted to handle things delicately.

"I have protected the changeling swarm from extermination! I have kept us hidden and unknown. Not given in to mindless recklessness that would throw us into the jaws of the beast. The ponies and their goddess have strength that would crush us the way a wild beast crushed even the most civilized changeling!"

"The right preparation and information can overcome strength!"

Cocoon narrowed her disgusting eyes. "Is that so? Then maybe we should test that way of thinking." She stamped one of her hooves and a changeling retainer came to her side. And told him in Low Equestrian to get a stick, a sack, and three potatoes (we've got to feed our livestock something). And soon enough, they arrived. The crowd in the meantime was hissing and clicking to itself. Until Hercules Beetle stamped a hoof, "BE SILENT!" And that got them to shut up.

The items were tossed to me without fanfare.

"Since you said information and preparation can overcome strength. Let's see that in action, shall we? There are your weapons of war." She and the guards laughed. "And, to show this great ability of yours, you will be doing battle with Wolf Spider." The queen and the guards roared with laughter.

A few of the audience gasped. My 'fellow degenerates' who had been as stunned silent as the rest, waved me goodbye.

Every muscle in my body tensed and I gritted my teeth.

"As for preparation, I think tomorrow sounds fair, don't all of you?" None disagreed with her. "And as for information, you can be near Wolf-Spider's cage all day and all night to observe and learn from him. I'm certain you'll figure out a way to win!"

She laughed at me again, and did her guards and entourage, and a few of the common monsters as well. "And when it is over, everyling will see reality, rather than the delusion you offer them. And that nothing you say matters, that nothing you think matters. Get this lying worm out of my sight."

Wolf-Spider was a changeling. Barely. He was a degenerate, mostly. He had been the test subject for some of the bioengineers, hoping for an invincible guardian for their queen. It worked... too well.

Wolf-Spider was huge by changeling standard. He was huge by ANYTHING'S standards. In the circus-maximus, Queen Cocoon feed him degenerates or cattle that'd been sucked dry by the normal changelings. He'd rip the emotions out in the crudest, most forceful way possible. Then he'd eat their physical bodies were they'd linger in his vestigial stomach.

He attacked on command... most of the time, and didn't eat his own guards... most of the time. But Shield Bug had actually begged Queen Cocoon to put the giant monster out of his misery after it was clear the experiments left him severely brain-damaged. The brute was now just slightly less intelligent than an average household dog. I overheard Digger Wasp say that Wolf-Spider 'was too dangerous to be allowed to continue.'

I wasn't taken to my normal cell. Instead I was taken to where Wolf-Spider was caged, the guards laughing and joking the whole time.

Alright stupid, get yourself of THIS mess.

The guards were keeping watch just outside this dungeon chamber, out of sight, just making sure I didn't try to escape. I considered breaking Wolf-Spider out of his cage and letting him go on a rampage. But decided against it, since he'd probably make me his first victim. I considered befriending him, but decided with just one day to form a deep emotional bond, Wolf-Spider was likelier to heed his caretakers than myself.

Three potatoes, a stick, and a bag. Okay, how do I win against a mutant behemoth with these?

Okay, Queenie, you want to prove brawn beats brains? Buck you. Time to teach you that battles don't happen in a vacuum.

I nearly forgot to mention the snakes. Snakes had been introduced into the hive to deal with the infestation of rats. The logic being that rats could tunnel into the egg chamber, break the eggs, and feed on the unhatched nymphs. Snakes were not so much a threat to us as rats. Snake fangs can't pierce changeling carapaces, and this particular breed of snakes couldn't swallow eggs as large as we CHANGELINGS lay them, no matter how wide they could unhinge their jaws.

Idiots forgot: zebra hide COULD be pierced by snake fangs, in particular ones in a happy daydream.

Once I became queen, my first extermination campaign was on BOTH rats and snakes in the hive, which I'm happy to say resulted in no survivors!

But I'm getting ahead of myself, aren't I?

Maua's mentor had taught Maua well, and she taught me in turn. Even if this scheme worked, it would require perfect timing. If it didn't...maybe this was natural selection's way of telling me this was as far as I go.

Fun fact about changelings I learned from the other 'freaks.' All changelings can...'produce' a green slime used as raw construction material and superglue.

And I wasn't kidding that Wolf-Spider's brain damage left him a little less smart than the average dog.

Next morning I was taken back to the circus maximus. Wolf-Spider, still in his cage, was brought along as well. The audience was much bigger than normal. I had never seen so many four-legged cockroaches squashed together, chattering animatedly, since the parasprites; even the slaves and degenerates had come to watch the show. It was easier to count which of the hive WASN'T here, (namely the guards and cattle-herders.)

Queen Cocoon spoke, "So here we are! Show us how the brilliant worm can dominate the poor dumb dragon."

Against all odds, stage one had worked. I counted down in my head. If I wasn't careful my victory was going to be posthumously.

"Could you have possibly picked a more exaggerated straw-changeling version of what I said? Were you that scared of being proven wrong?"

"I pick this as a perfectly reasonable example of how blind and childish your simplifications are. It suits the limited mind of a degenerate like you."

I couldn't count it down to the millisecond, but I could give a good guess. Just a bit more, and I'm in the safe zone.

"So much of the swarm has come! I'm honored you think so greatly of my idea that you need to bring this many together to prove me wrong with a jury-rigged test."

"This is merely to prevent your suicidal insanity from spreading. The swarm needs to be reminded why we don't throw away our safety for greedy upstarts who think they can not lose."

That should do it.

"So instead we have the self-defeating insanity of a cowardly sloth who is willing to throw us all... and those yet to be born... to the lions, if it means extending her life one second longer? I can appreciate self-preservation. But what about the rest of us? What is the point of a leader, if she doesn't lead us anywhere?"

Cocoon spoke in a flat voice; "Release Wolf-Spider."

They did so.

His caretakers directed him towards me. He took longer to respond than normal but didn't try to eat them.

And the hulking beast quaked towards me on his misshaped legs. Drooling like a waterfall and looking very drowsy, he moved like a puppet whose strings were crossed.

The entire swarm could smell that Wolf-Spider had wetted and soiled himself, which was surprisingly unusual for him. As he drew closer to me, it became obvious to everyling present Wolf-Spider was in terrible pain. I stood my ground. Wolf-Spider gazed at thin air and actually had to be REDIRECTED at me.

Queen Cocoon didn't look happy; this wasn't part of her script.

Wolf-Spider took a swipe at me, I avoided it like I would the blow from a bear-sized plush toy. He fell on his side, shaking the entire circus maximus.

His entire body trembled. His breathing become more difficult as everyling watched, confused, shocked, alarmed, befuddled, and at a lost. I trotted back only as Wolf Spider's caretakers finally rushed towards him and surrounded him.

"You're too late," I said, emotionlessly, "He'll be dead in minutes."

"YOU CONNIVING WORM! WHAT DID YOU DO?!" Queenie roared.

"I killed him," I said, "Before the fight even started. I used what the terrain gave me and what you gave me. To a creature of limited intelligence, three potatoes shish kabob'ed on a stick, covered in green slime bear a passing resemblance to a giant grub. And you can milk venom from snakes if you know how.

I looked up. "Now, I hate to throw your excellent judgment into question, Your Majesty, but out of ALL the snakes you could've POSSIBLY chosen to spread throughout this humble little hive we share, you selected BLACK MAMBAS? A serpent poisonous enough to kill an elephant in one bite... and you bred them as MOUSERS?! Talk about endangering our livestock! It's just one more example of your scintillating incompetence! Preparation and sabotage CAN overcome superior force and power! Conquest doesn't always hinge overwhelming force, but it ALWAYS hinges on brains!"

Fat changeling queen go boom.

"Conquest? Who said anything about conquest?! I could be...! I mean, our swarm could be put in danger!"

"Coward! You're so fixated on the idea that a face-to-face confrontation is impossible that you never bother to dream of some other path to victory! You're something else! You fill us with fear of you, but we're not cowering behind you! No, YOU are cowering behind all of US!"

Wolf-Spider's caretakers had rushed to get the anti-venom. It was pointless, he was a dead changeling twitching. The caretakers looked at me hatefully.

The rest of the audience, however, the rest of the hive, were struggling NOT to accept my words, NOT to embrace my reasoning, but it was a losing battle. They couldn't escape the truth now.

"Enough. I am done with you," said Queen Cocoon, with dark irritation.

"But I am not done with you!" I snapped back.

"Euthanize this disease!" Her Fatjesty snapped.

Episode 155: Chrysalis "Crowning Of A Monster"

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Pony POV Series
Origins
"Queen Chrysalis"
Crowning Of A Monster
By Alex Warlorn
Edited By Louis

"Euthanize this disease!" Her Fatjesty snapped.

Immediately four royal guards flew down into the circus maximus and surrounded me on all sides, Wolf-Spider's caretakers looking reading to enjoy my destiny.

Maybe I wasn't going to be queen after all, maybe all these revolutionary changes I was trying to set off were beyond my reach, maybe this is where my story ends and Queen Cocoon's begins for real.

But the rules of nature say: fight to the end! I tossed the cloth sack at one of the guards which caught on his horn. I jumped at him, spread my wings, grasped his neck with my back legs as I flew over him, and broke it.

The guards were completely stunned by this sight. One of Wolf-Spider's caretakers, who wasn't as stunned, snarled, "You deviant! You're dead! DEAD!"

The thing about changelings? They aren't as strong, fast, or magically diverse or powerful as ponies. But they're a lot more durable! They can use themselves as ballistic missiles and get up to fight seconds later! But nothing is indestructible when struck against itself.

Oh, the caretaker screaming for my death? I grabbed him and used him as an equine shield against the guard charging me on ground level and he got stabbed by the guard's horn. I rolled forward, forcing the two further into each other, and making the two other guards trying to dive-bomb me from the air, miss and instead slam into Wolf-Spider's shell, cracking it.

I used the speared changeling as leverage, holding the guard down with my own weight and forced open chinks in his body's armor in ways nature didn't intend. Bastards had broken off my fangs, and buck them if they dared to think I was helpless!

I had to to get the collar off, and fast, or I wasn't going to win this. I was going to run out of tricks fast in this exposed arena and the shock of me exterminating three changelings in a row wasn't going to last long.

A funny idiosyncrasy about Queen Cocoon: she didn't trust keys. Only a royal guard, like the kind trying to kill me right now, could get this moon-sent thing off! It would recognize noling else. I twisted at the thing around my neck, moving the horn hole from the back of my neck to more near the front, looking for a royal guard horn that didn't have a sack on a changeling covering it.

One of the guards I'd dodged before got the drop on me and smashed me down on the dirty floor, grabbing my head and pulling it back, exposing my less-armored neck. With me pinned, his teammate charged at me, horn lowered.

I slammed my head back into the guard holding my mane in his teeth, -AHG!-, nearly tore my scalp off! But it gave me the wiggle room I needed to twist my neck -just so-, and the guard's horn rammed neatly into the keyhole.

There was a slight, telling 'click'. I thanked the guard by telekinetically introducing his face to the ground, leaving a trench. Then I grabbed the guard on top of me with my magic and tossed him into his friend. Even more gasps from the audience! By now, many in the crowd were overwhelmed to the point of numbness. Ugh! That alone ate at the meager reserves I had! A slave's diet didn't leave me much in terms of energy. Time to fix that!! I stabbed my horn into the guard who had passed out from the pain of his carapace being pulled open.

"All your love is mine!" His body burst into green flames from the inside, and it was drawn into me, leaving his carapace hollow. I tore my collar off.

This DID get some new gasps, a few in terror at what I had just been able to do. I was mildly surprised it had worked myself, but don't look a gift horse in the mouth!

I know that last one had deeply disturbed Queenie. That was when I leapt at the two surviving guards. I pictured a lioness killing a gazelle with myself in the feline role, and green flames engulfed me, and my body changed shape and form once again. I didn't give it much thought as I tore the surprised guards to shreds, "THIS HAS GOT TO BE A NIGHTMARE!" One managed to scream.

I heard, 'Impossible!' being echoed among the hive now.

Queen Cocoon looked at the six dead changelings and bellowed, "You're a monster!"

I roared. "I. AM. A. SCORPION!" I shifted back and fed on the two guards before they could finish bleeding to death.

"STOP THAT MONSTER!" Queen Cocoon ordered. A couple of the rank and file guard flew at me, and stopped as I looked at them the way a lioness does a slab of meat, like THEY were the cattle! The dynamic had changed. "Do not fear her!"

"What kind of leader kills someling cause they'd find an argument against their point of view?" I asked.

"YOU ARE A BEAST THAT MUST BE PUT DOWN FOR THE GOOD OF EVERYLING!"

"Attacking the messenger is the only argument you have left? What good is the 'protection' you've given us if it's merely sentenced us to a slow death?"

"You're a degenerate! Stop speaking as if you're one of us! Now kill it!"

Several bugs moved to do they duty.

Seriously? It's not my fault if Queen Cocoon ordered them to feed me and prove her guards' ineffectualness all at the same time. They backed off when they realized numbers weren't working on me.

I had a full tank. I knew what they were and what they could do. I had wings and a horn to fight with, and I was sucking them dry a HELL of a lot faster than Cocoon could. Unless of course she consumed them slowly just for show...

The meaningful major effect, however, was on the assembled rank and file workers, farmers, deviants, slaves, and grunts.

"How is she even doing that?"

"This is madness and nonsense!"

"Her Majesty said only royalty could claim the love of another changeling!!!"

"Is she made of sponges?!"

"Only a queen should be able to hold that much love!"

"What if...what if she's right?"

"What if she's not a deviant?"

"Are you insane? Look at her eyes!"

"But...her power...what she's saying...what she did..."

I knew the guards' friends and family weren't going to fall in love with me any time soon. But the tiny wheels that actually turned the great machine were beginning to spin a different direction.

See, Cocoon? This is the power of words.

I couldn't control what happened next, but did I need to?

The unprivileged cockroaches wouldn't stop talking. Every society needs an illusion it can function under, and I had cracked theirs in a day.

"How can the guards protect us if they can't fight this monster?"
"Are the guards weak or is she that powerful?"
"Does that mean she's as powerful as The Queen?"
"She's just a mutant fake imitation!"
"But everything she said-"
"-Is dung!"
"Then why can't you explain why it's wrong?"
"Because it's so much dung than giving it a reasonable counterargument is an insult to reason!"
"But isn't what you're saying just going in a circle?"
"She's just a rabble-rouser trying to cause trouble! Pointing out what Cocoon is doing wrong without offering a solution!"
"How dare you say there are ways the Queen is wrong!"
"Why can't the bucking guards stop her?! They're useless, posturing, fat-flanked, bullying, piggish morons who can't even kill one deviant! They're a waste of space!"
"I say we make the deviant master of the guard instead of Hercules Beetle."
"Why are we treated with less respect than the livestock?!"
"To live is to serve, to serve is to live!"
"We need a new queen!"
"I'm sick of Queen Cocoon not letting me lay my own brood and still watching my friends' nymphs starve anyway!"

The nearby guard's action was reasonable, after all, a strike hard enough to crack off a fang had always worked before to keep the changeling rabble in line. Except 'the rabble' were no longer so sure of who was right and who wasn't. And it had had a day to simmer and the impossible had damaged their convictions further, so another rule took over: violence breeds violence.

-Labyrinth Soundtrack-Goblin Battle-

The crowd didn't cow like it was 'supposed' to. Instead the erstwhile mother attacked the guard who had struck her in a savage snarl, followed by others, more guards struck at them which incited more of the rabble. It spread like wildfire, and the more numerous worker ants attacked the soldier ants. I was momentarily forgotten by most.

Praying Mantis and Goliath Beetle dove into the mess to help clean it up.

"Tis' madness!" Hercules Beetle exclaimed.

Shield Bug was shocked. Jewel Wasp looked disappointed, but not surprised.

"CEASE! I COMMAND YOU! DON'T FIGHT EACH OTHER, YOU FOOLS!" Queen Cocoon ordered.

Few listened, blood was boiling.

I had read history. I knew what my most logical fate was. I couldn't flee, they'd NEVER stop hunting for me now. I was dead. She'd never let this humiliation go. Even if I killed her first, her supporters would just hunt me down. I had no paths left that didn't end in my death. But I was going to prove to that that morbidly obese slug that the brain was the strongest muscle, even if we both died along the way! She was just going to kick the bucket first.

Not that you didn't need trusty muscles to act on your thoughts: after all, I was going to be using my good strong hooves to strangle that nag!

Queen Cocoon and I locked eyes. And I felt her mind; so old, so vast, seated in that bloated body, crushing down on me. I had never felt anything like it. Decades -centuries?- of experiences, reaching inside me, like a great dark claw, to crush my own mind into dust. How could such a rigid and archaic being have such a sharp psyche? She knew so much. I wanted it for my own!

"Look around the bend,
Your reign will end.

Only your husk will greet the dusk.

You might be the ocean,
but see my maelstrom's motion.

In my black abyss you'll find no bliss!

Enjoy your throne,
You'll be but bone!"

Queen Cocoon broke contact between us.

"Hercules Beetle! Jewel Wasp! Shield Bug! Keep that creature from my chambers! All my royal guards, come!" The remaining royal guards flew to their queen as she directed her slaves to quickly escape through the back of the royal balcony, the membrane opening and closing as her fatness escaped.

"I SAID I'M NOT DONE WITH YOU!" I snapped and flew to the balcony.

One lone heroic changeling guard, of common stock but boundless courage, flew with fangs and hooves bared. Braver than brave, determined beyond determination to stop me from pursuing his beloved queen. Munch-munch.
NEXT!

(Interviewer's Notes(Unicorn): His name was Flash Bug.)

Who cares?

The much larger and more intimidating commander of all the changelings I had fed off boomed,

"Behind me, ladies! Stay were you be and accept extermination abomination! I, Hercules Beetle, have vowed to protect and serve the Changeling Queen, you shall pay for-"

"Hercules, look out!" Jewel Wasp shouted.

"What?" He looked around distracted.

Jewel Wasp stabbed him in the back, then zapped him with enough raw magic to knock out five changelings.

I moved to feed on him, but Jewel Wasp came between us.

She looked at me.

"Well, what are you waiting for? This riot won't last forever!"

If this was a trap...there were a million simpler ways to go about it.

"Good luck," Shield Bug said.

I flattened myself like a cockroach and slipped through one of the cracks in the wall. The Royal Guards were all watching the membrane that separated the royal hallway from the queen's balcony. They weren't watching every thin random hole in the walls.

From the membrane that separated the queen's chamber, the hallway branched off into the council chamber, the cells of her personal slaves, and other places that served the needs of the queen.

Cocoon was going to regret connecting the circus maximus directly to her own chamber.

"We need to protect Her Majesty while the rest of the guard slap common sense back into those brain-dead stooges that freak rilled up!" The one obviously in charged commanded in Low Equestrian.

These were trained soldiers, and I had advanced, in their eyes from 'deviant' that committed the crime of raising her head, to 'freak' that needed to be put down. They had seen what I did to their friends. And they were the only thing between me and Queen Cocoon. I was so going to make them fear me.

Now then, Spider-Mare, Spider-Mare, climbs on ceilings and walls Spider-Mare, makes green slime any size, catches guards just like flies, look out, here comes the Spider-Mare.

Zero down, five of them.

"Keep your eyes on the door! The freak or her sock-puppets might be able to get through!"

"Don't you have any faith in Hercules Beetle?"

"Cut the chatter!" snapped the commander.

"Don't worry. The freak's gotta be makin' love-horse-apples with all the love it sucked up!"

"Hey you're right. The piggy'll give herself away from all the surplus love she's radiating."

They blabbed right below me. Cocoon does so love her tall arched hallways.

The echoing corridors worked perfectly to my advantage when I shouted in a perfect imitation of Queen Cocoon's voice, "YOU FOOLS! SHE'S TO YOUR RIGHT!"

The mindless drones responded as they were programmed to. Like a bungie-jumper I slipped down, grabbed the one none of the others were looking at. "YOUR OTHER LEFT, MORONS!" Okay, last time I'll be able to use that one.

I feed on him, and glued his empty carapace to the ceiling. What? Waste not, want no. One down, four to go.

"DAMMIT!"

"Freak is playing with us!"

"But we didn't sense anything! That's impossible! She'd pop if she was holding that all in!"

"But the door wasn't even opened! Did she portal through?!"

"Stop talking crazy! Aphid did you see her?"

I shook my head at the question.

"We should split up. Flush her out," said of the guards.

"Don't be an idiot!" Said the commander, "Stick together! And keep the royal door blocked off! If it opened, rush for it!"

I considered opening the membrane myself and hiding and having them rush through, but that would leave me having to deal with them and Queen Cocoon at the same time.

We formed a circle, keeping an eye out for the 'freak' heh. I silently touched my horn to the changeling royal guard next to me. I work as quickly as I dared. 'An organized mind is a powerful mind, but it's the rocks and idiots who are the most resistant to assaults on the mind.' And these guards weren't exactly moronic, just conditioned to obey like good doggies.

I slipped the suggestion into his brain, making sure to leave an exception for me in there, then I said, "Does anyone see it?"

The guard next to me look to one of his teammates, scream, and attacks her out of nowhere. "YOU! What did you do with Grasshopper!" He gored her, looked at one of the others, screamed again and attacked.

"Yellow Jacket snap out of it!" snarled the commander.

"DIE YOU FREAK! DIE!" Yellow Jacket screamed, terror now running his brain as he looked and only saw me telling him how I had already eaten Grasshopper and was going to eat him next.

"Yellow, it's me! Blue Beetle!" Shouted the other changeling in alarm and panic.

Conditioned to kill or be killed, the three of us mobbed him and put an end to him. Damn.

The Commander smacked Blue Beetle on the head. "Idiot! Why in Cocoon's name did you do that!?"

"He was trying to kill us!"

"We had him tackled! You could have just knocked him out!"

"I have to agree," I said, I was hoping the commander was going to just knock him out too, now all that love went to waste.

The Commander looked regretfully at Grasshopper's wasted remains too.

And I let paranoia set-in. "So what made him go crazy like that?"

"I can't believe Yellow Jacket would just do that to Grasshopper," Blue Beetle said. "Where are you, you monster?! You just waiting for us to fight each other?! YOU COWARD!!!" Blue Beetle shouted at the hallway. I think he might have finally looked up and saw what was left of Aphid.

That's when I sunk my fangs into the Commander's throat.

Oh, my fangs? They'd healed after I'd eaten a few Changelings. I hadn't had much time to keep track of when. Mass revolt, fighting for my life, and all that.

Did you think I was going to leave the brainiest and possibly best fighter for last? I had one last stealth kill and I wasn't going to waste it. My horn was touching his, I drained the commander and dropped his hollow shell, now brittle and weak instead of strong and hard.

I shifted to my 'true' form, no use in hiding it now. I readied myself.

Blue Beetle instead looked at me, and fell to his knees. "I SURRENDER! I GIVE UP! JUST GO! I RENOUNCE COCOON! YOU ARE QUEEN! JUST SPARE ME AND I SHALL SERVE YOU!"

"You had me up until that last part," I said and stabbed him and sucked him dry like the rest. "As if I'd trust the allegiance of someling that changes their loyalty to save their own carapace at a time like this."

For whatever it would buy me, I shifted into the form of the Commander, and trotted to the royal membrane that separated Cocoon's Royal Chamber from the rest of the hive. There was no telling how little time I had left now, the rest of the swarm's army could be on me any minute.

The membrane opened and I passed through. No lock. Then again, the mere idea of challenging the queen was 'unthinkable,' wasn't it?

It had impressive size, and that was all. I lie, partially.

Giant tapestries from every corner and age of the world hung from the walls.

One that caught my eyes was of two crowned ponies facing each other. I couldn't tell what kind of wings the mare had. Between them was a heart with a skull at its center. Above them was a pair of chalices.

Below them was a rendition of a dragon over a broken castle.

Next was the mare from before, all alone and shedding tears, at her center was a heart-shaped hole.

Next showed her surrounded by other winged ponies, hearts going towards them, the winged ponies also with heart-shaped holes in them.

The final picture in the tapestry was a horned serpent with a horse's head and a goat's beard: laughing.

The air reeked of Queen Cocoon's scent. The entire hive was always warm; it was harder to keep it from overheating, but the heat here reminded me of the savanna's noonday sun. I enjoyed the reminder of what I'd never see again.

The ceiling was covered in glowing fungus and several chandeliers' worth of the violet flame torches.

Knickknacks and and trinkets of every possible country and era cluttered the place. The cocoons hanging from the ceiling were the kind used to store prey or mutate them, (or unlucky changelings.) They were all empty.

And at the center of it all was Queen Cocoon herself. She sat in a black and violet throne build just for her size and shape. Scattered around her were the emptied husks of prey, and of her own slaves I had seen alive some minutes ago.

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): The slaves and prisoners, what were their numbers and names?)

It's not important, noling cares.

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): That's why I do care.)

"My Queen," I said in Low Equestrian, "Forgive me, the hive is degenerating into madness, I fear for your..."

Her scepter came flying at me like a spiked mace. I grabbed it with my magic, stopping it from impacting with me.

"My Queen! WHY?!"

"You can drop the act, worm. You didn't prostrate yourself and call me 'True Mother Of All The Swarm.' No -civilized- changeling alive would forget that, even if bleeding to death."

Rather than trying to salvage my performance, I just transformed into my true form. "Alright, then." I tossed the scepter aside, far away. "Let's skip to where I kill you." I began to walk towards her.

"That's it?" She asked, underwhelmed, "No negotiation? No demands? You're not very bright, are you? At this moment, the tantrum you tricked my subjects into is being put down by my entire army. You have no way out of here that isn't going to filled with soldiers."

"Oh please, Cocoon. You expect me to believe you'd ever let me live, after contradicting you in front of your subjects? You'd never honor any concession made under a death threat, once the threat was gone." I didn't stop trotting towards her.

"You're a dead changeling walking, worm."

"I know. But you're marching in front of me, sloth. You said you saw through me because I didn't greet you right, so you didn't know I had gotten through? So that means you killed your slaves and stock based totally on the fear I would."

"Enjoy whatever random delusion you invent for my actions, worm, you're about to die."

"Oh, I know! How's this delusion? The almighty and godly Queen Of the Changelings, killed by some no-face, no-name out-of-town deviant in her throne room. Just imagine the paranoia and horn pointing as they try to figure out who must have put me up to it, after all, no way a stupid deviant could have thought up all I said by myself, right? A loser, a nobody? Too bad I won't be there to watch the show, but neither will you."

I was muzzle-to-muzzle with the bug-headed sloth.

It was just a flash of a moment, but I had sharp perception thanks to someone dear. I fell back as a jointed black spear slammed into the ground, impaling my tail, instead of spine. I bit off my own tail to avoid being bisected by a second jointed black spear.

"You were supposed to die just now. It would have been quick," said Cocoon, like she was speaking to a child who had hurt themselves. My heart hammered in my chest.

At last I took note that the 'spears' were made of carapace, they reminded me of insect legs the way they moved, it made me ill just looking at them. They were connected to Queen Cocoon's underside. One of the legs waved in a 'naughty-naughty' gesture. Four more of the legs slipped out from underneath her body mass. Those had been there this whole time?!

"What the Tartarus are you?" I asked, bug-eyed.

She rose up on those legs like an elongated spider, looking down on me. "Wolf-Spider was full of mistakes, and we learn so much from our mistakes!" She let out a war cry, and was engulf in a pillar of violet flames, her form within twisting and changing into something alien.

The pillar of fire dispersed, and she was nothing equine. I was beneath a dragon sized insectoid horror. Its head a set of compound eyes and mandibles, its body was covered end-to-end in blackish armor, and the sharp ends of its legs actually pierced the stone floor. Its different limbs were each shaped differently like a set of artist's tools. A pair of ship sail-sized wings folded on its back, and a wavy horn as long I was sat on its head surrounded by a growth of spikes resembling a crown. It vaguely resembled an ant queen.

I knew fear.

The one thing I respect that fat slug for is this: she'd played her part so perfectly, I'd forgotten that a weak lion didn't remain king for long.

"What tis this pest that's infested my house?
The fires of chaos it has set I'll now dowse.

It is time by far,
that I crush you like the worm that you are!"

-Metal Gear Rising: Collective Consciousness-
It was like trying to survive inside a meat grinder. The monster's limbs sliced, speared, and clawed at me, it took all my experience flying to avoid being torn to shreds. I flew through the changing maze of living blades, trying to get out of Cocoon's line of sight. I found myself stuck in the air by a violet glow.

"Stay still, butterfly, while I pin you." A limb speared towards me.

"NO!" My own telekinesis caught her off-guard and I flew out of the way just in time, feeling the breeze from the speed of the strike, where my heart had just been.

"Naughty butterfly, looks like I'll have to just spray." Cocoon withdrew its limbs and breathed in deep, so it still had lungs, then again insects can't really breath through their sides at that size and... ACID!

The monster spewed a fan shaped spray of acid in a downward motion, that it hit her collection of antiques didn't seem to matter to her. How did I survive not being melted? With nowhere else to hide, I did the tactically insane thing and dove straight at and under her. I didn't find any soft underbelly here; I clung to her underside.

One of Cocoon's limbs struck at me; I managed to avoid it and I took satisfaction hearing her cry out as she hit herself. Just as I was feeling good about myself, she decided to crush me flat by introducing her stomach to the floor. I flew out behind her a shockwave right behind me; everything underneath her was reduced to fine powder. She didn't have much experience fighting in this form, I hoped.

Cocoon began to scuttle about, the ground rumbling under her set of legs, I flew around, keeping to her backside, she changed direction once but so did I. She began to work her wings. She wasn't trying to fly, the wind she fanning was forcing me to the ground.

The beast managed to turn to face me as I fought against the gale of her wingbeats. I scurried up the side of the walls of the chamber. Cocoon laughed and breathed in again. I destroyed the hooks holding one of the tapestries in place and flew it over the monster's head just as she began spraying again, covering her oversized eyes with the tapestry.

"What do you think this is going to buy you!?" I hated to admit it but I was making this up as I went along.

Cocoon just reached up to swipe the giant cloth away, but at least I'd bought myself time. I struck and bit at her head, without result. I struck at her eyes through the cloth, compound eyes however, meant I didn't exactly blind her.

"GHA! GET OFF!" Not having a better idea, I grabbed onto her limb as she swept the wall-rug off.

"You think I don't see you?!" Another limb came crashing down on me. I let go and avoided the strike, but her two limbs struck against each other at high speed, shuttering from the impact. Did they...did they crack?

Cocoon breathed in again, "You're a mistake, worm, and as the Nyeusi Mbwa Mwitu says, mistakes should be erased!" Cocoon had forgotten a basic rule dragons knew: never ever use your breath weapon in close range except as an ambush, for reasons I demonstrated as I rammed into her jaws with the best sprint charge I could muster. UGH! That gave me a headache, but it gave her worse acid backwash.

"AAAAAAGH! WORM!! TIME TO BE EATEN BY A SPIDER!"

"Spiders are arachnids," I said without thinking.

"AND WORMS ARE LEGLESS!" Cocoon snarled as the black forest of death planted itself on me from above. I spun and dove as erratically as I could so she couldn't second-guess my movements, but the razor edges of her limbs cut through my carapace from near-impacts all the same, blood leaking out in thin green lines.

Think, think, think or you die, die, die! All she needed was one good solid blow to kill me, and all I needed was one mistake and I was dead. If I tried to drag this out, I'd soon have an army of changelings to fight on top of her!

Cocoon's horn glowed again and readied her for to try and telekinetically freezing me in place again. Instead the violet flames on the torches floated OFF the torches, moving like will-o'-the-wisps towards me, and multiplying.

Oh no, if she restricts my movements with those things...so I came all this way from killing bugs that wouldn't just leave me alone, being turned into one, and was now going to be killed by one. I had read one or two horror stories about little foals who tortured small animals and then were eaten by impossibly giant versions of those creatures.

I was not dying in a story as stupid and trite as that!

I magically grabbed her collection of baubles now half-melted from her acid breath and FLUNG THEM right at the huge targets she called eyes! She hissed and cursed. The multiplying flames formed a wall between her and me as she tried to shake her eyes clear of the acidic mess.

I snarled in anger and dove right at the wall of flames, I felt something in me scream to turn away from the fires but I pushed it down, and bursted out, scorching myself. Just in time I guessed the ambush coming and dodged the deadly sharp leg. I flew to Cocoon's side, flying up the leg, and grabbed hold of the base. "YOU THINK I CAN'T STRIKE YOU FROM THERE, STUPID?!" She twisted another limb around to bisect me; I did a loop-de-loop so the blade edge struck the base of the other leg instead. I took hold of it with my forelegs, and my magic, screamed in exertion, and tore the bloody thing out!

I had been pulling legs off bugs since before I quit the pacifier! I wish I still had my collection to add hers to it!

Oh, right, lots of little purple flames coming towards me. Good thing pain makes such a great distraction!

Adrenaline pumping and dumping as much love into my telekinesis as I could, I let out a war cry and swung my makeshift weapon across the monster's side, cutting through the armor like an iceberg through an ocean liner! Then I made another, and another, and another. The other limbs on Cocoon's right side twisted about on me, so I cut through all of them! Over-clocking my body and magic, I flew up. Even if I had time, I couldn't do a rain dance underground.

"GO AWAY!" Cocoon hissed, enraged.

I cut telekinesis away from the limb for a moment, hoping Cocoon didn't get the idea to grab it herself in those split seconds. I switched my 'kinesis to more of her baubles and THREW THEM at the floating fireballs, reducing their numbers and scattering them.

I swung at Cocoon's head; she parried with her horn, I struck again from the other side only to be parried again. "Moon-sent bugs! LEAVE ME ALONE!" I snarled at the insect queen, and did an overhead spin. Using the extra inertia and my magic, the limb speared straight through her head and down her insides.

Cocoon stopped moving, and so did the remaining violet flames. The half-legless beast collapsed on the ground shaking the entire hive.

I floated, more like controlled-crashed, to the floor, panting. I felt dizzy and spent.
How much love did I burn through with that last one?

"Nothing to do now but wait for the rest of them to show." I considered giving a fancy speech when they came and saw their queen dead, but meh, they could go buck themselves. I was done fighting, I got what I'd set out to do, it was over. There was no cure for what I was, for what I needed, for how I lived, there was nothing down the road anyway.

Cocoon's body burst into violet flames and died down to show her base form. Her front part just hung limply forward from her main body. She reminded me of a puppet without strings.

"Good riddance to bad rubbish," I verbally indulged myself.

The violet flames as one flew into the white main body, like ghosts passing through it. A light began to glow from within the white mass. Tiny bits of light flickered into being in midair and the ground, only to pull inward. It was like the ghost of a galaxy had come into being in the same space as the main body, swirling inward with a block hole as its center.

'Shooting stars' came next, zipping inward towards the light inside. The light inside grew larger and brighter; I saw the silhouette of a changeling nymph in the fetal position within. It grew up before my eyes like a time-lapsed film. I felt changeling magic being drawn from every direction around me.

The white mass was now a blinding lantern I covered my eyes from.

Then that white slug Cocoon called the majority of her body mass split open, creating one last flash of light as it was torn apart from the inside. Clear fluid spilled everywhere as the hide collapsed like a lanced blistered.

My eyes readjusted and I couldn't believe what I saw before me.

"You're...you're ME?!" I stared at the near perfect mirror image of my own body. Except looking neater, slick with birth fluids with a un-chopped tail. Her eyes, weren't like mine; they were the blue compound eyes of everything in this place.

"Minus your deformity, of course," it said in Cocoon's voice, "I can't believe, that a worm like you got so lucky as to KILL MY BODY!" She snarled. "You've done more damage than you have a right to! I never imagined YOU'D force me to possess my own unborn cloned spawn early...or accelerate her growth."

"So your fat ass is just your way of cheating death. I wondered why noling had a butt like yours."

"Your insults are meaningless. My frustration for you had goes past rage and reached nirvana. You've cut this body's lifespan down to barely a day, hours..."

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): That poor clone, her body was stolen by her own mother before she even had a chance to live.)

Poor me, having to listen to it whine!

"But that doesn't matter, because I'm going to just be taking yours instead."

I braced myself. "Fat chance, fat-flank." But I couldn't stop myself from asking, "But why do you look like ME?!"

She spread her wings dramatically, "Don't you mean, why do YOU look like ME, worm? Isn't it obvious? You're my clone. Kept safe and out of harm's way in case disaster struck the hive and I needed to abandon the one I keep with me and needed a spare."

"..." I rolled my eyes. "Did you expect me to buy those horseapples?"

"No, but it was worth a shot. In all honesty, I have no idea where you came from, worm, maybe your deserter parents left with some cattle to hide you, but I know where you're going: the grave!"

"Not bloody likely!" I hissed, spreading my wings and lowering my horn.

"You look so tired, it's alright, you can sleep forever," she said in the most fake motherly voice in history.

"I told you already. You first."

She flew forward in a blur, kicking me in the stomach, cracking my carapace and causing me to spin backwards landing in the messy pile of her acid-burned junk.

"I don't want to damage that body too bad, but I'm sure I'll be able to grow back the legs and wings after I tear them off! You will beg for my non-existent mercy, you little worm!"

"Worm, worm, worm! Wow! You're too dumb and lazy to even think up a different pejorative for me, eh, sloth?!"

She kicked me again in the face and I tried to get up, knocking me on my side.

"You asked what the Tartarus I am? Far older than you can ever hope to be!" She telekinetically grabbed my mane and slammed my face into the floor.

I used my own magic to grab a random chalice and thew it at her face, she caught and threw it back into mine, I tasted copper in my mouth. I tried to get up as she dumped an iron and marble table on my back, trapping my wings.

"It's actually adorable... you thinking your power could ever equal mine! I have the experience of countless loops of life! What fantasy possessed you to think you could EVER be my equal, deviant!" She kicked me in the cracked carapace, drawing blood.

I gasped for breath through the pain.

She leaned in close. "Go ahead, give me your best childish insult. Make wiping your very being from existence all the more satisfying for Your Queen!"

"You're right."

"About what?"

"You are something else, Cocoon...You're the first creature I've ever had to kill twice."

"Accept your role in nature or don't. It won't change a thing."

"THIS is not MY ROLE!" I telekinetically threw the table in her beautiful face, and use the distraction to burn through a good bit of the love I had left to heal myself, being all I could be! I was going to need it.

I hissed at her. "What does an pampered nag like you know about the rules of nature? There are no entitlements, only what you take with your own four hooves."

"I know more than you think I do, worm. You're a minnow in a pond that thinks it knows the ocean!"

A needle-like beam of magic was fired right between my eyes from her horn. I magically knocked it off course, shattering a vase instead.

Cocoon's eyes widened, I charged in that moment, fangs bared.

She kept me from getting at her throat as I used my wings to keep up the force of the impact, skidding across the floor, and straight into the stone wall, and made a new exit!

-Shadow of the Colossus: The Opened Way-

The stone walls shattered to reveal the hive wasn't a series of chambers in solid ground connected by tunnels after all. Glowing fungus and violet torches illuminated towers shaped like stacks of pancakes or squat ovals, looking like they had been cut right out of the rock and patched with green slime when needed.

There were countless covered tunnels, connecting one mess of chambers to the next. I saw what could be best described as skylights at the top of them. The hive itself was one big chamber.

They didn't build quite like insects should... all this space just for what? What was the point? It made no economic or military function. It could even encourage cave-ins and make the hive easier to be discovered. It was nothing short of total insanity. What could it be good for except flying underground? . . . Then again, if you had wings and never had a chance to see the sky. . . Did even bugs get sad if they couldn't fly?

Wish I had time to take in the sight, but I had regicide to carry out.

I hadn't stopped holding onto Cocoon, our horns locked and began giving off green and violet sparks as our magics tried to override each other. The conflicting aura making spell casting a headache for both of us. I poured MORE momentum into my push, right into the next windowless chamber behind her.

I smashed through the top floor, and several more stories, knocking Cocoon through all of them! We smashed through what was at last the bottom floor, turned out we crashed right into one of the hive's nurseries.

A changeling caregiver gasped at the sight of us, and grabbed the nymph she had been feeding and ran for cover, yelling at the other nymphs to do the same. The nymphs present scattered from us in fear. I didn't know if any were crushed by the falling ceiling.

A changeling egg a little before it would hatched tittered from where it was placed, and fell hitting the floor. It cracked in half, exiling the nymph inside. She cried at being forced from her warm simple universe into this cold and confusing world, she had my pity.

Sympathy is a weakness. Cocoon reminded me of that as she took advantage of my distraction and stabbing me with her horn. Blood spilling from my wound, I flew away up through the hole I made, severing the direct physical link between us.

Cocoon didn't waste time pursuing me, feeding off nymphs must have not been cost-effective right now. "NOW who's the coward, worm?" She taunted as she flew out of the underground building.

Momentarily dizzy from blood loss, I began to fall, but then Cocoon's magic gripped my wings just before I reached terminal velocity! Something wasn't right!

"You were bluffing!" I realized. "You need my body alive!"

"Anything short of brain death I can fix up after I'm done cleaning out the garbage in my new house."

I covered my body with a faint aura of my own telekinesis to disrupt hers.
We jousted each other in the air like ponies of the nearly-mythical Crystal Empire, each of us trying to stab the other with a horn. Like mad hummingbirds, we zipped past each other. But she knew this city like the front of her hooves. I didn't. I kept getting disoriented as she ambushed from seemingly random directions.

Changelings were finally spreading out like ants from their hills, seeing us fight. This was not good. I looked upwards at that ceiling.

"Catch me if you can!" I shouted, flying up, Cocoon hot on my tail. "Come on! Can't let your new body escape! I MIGHT HIT MY HEAD!" I laughed with total abandon.

"NO!" Cocoon screamed in alarm and a hint of fear.

I flew faster, faster, right at that brown and dirty ceiling, wondering what lay beyond it.

Cocoon caught up with me in the last few seconds and grabbed me, but I dragged her along for the ride! She gripped her arms around me as we were about to hit and violet flame flashed around us, and broke through one check point, a decoy base, and a cavern made to look as boring and un-extraordinary as possible, installed with some items implying losers and bums used it as a gathering place. Air vents made of mundane earth.

Then we broke the surface.

Both our eyes were on fire. The sun was out, there was absolute no sign of civilization or roads all the way to the horizon, or that's if I could see. My eyes watered, I did a headbutt to Cocoon, forcing her to let me go. Both of were as good as blind as Celestia's sun glared down on us without a trace of sympathy.

We both managed to land. If I was low on time before, now I was out of time. I didn't know if they'd recognize Cocoon, but she had to have some way of keeping the swarm loyal to her after she changed bodies, she was too scared of dying to leave something like THAT to chance! And they WOULD recognize me! The trouble maker and the freak of the day! Some might put two and two together considering the hole in the throne room.

Even as my eyes adjusted, I couldn't help but feel giddy to feel sunlight on my body and see the blue sky. When was the last time I'd seen the sun? When was the last time Cocoon had let herself see the sun?

I ducked down before Cocoon could sniper me. She made it clear with her first move that short of killing me, she was willing to do anything to me.

Can't wait for my eyes to adjust, time to let my other senses do the work, smell, sound, tell me what's around me. Wings buzzing!

-'Endless Possibilities Instrumental' Sonic Unleashed -

I rolled out of the way of Cocoon's four hooves as they slammed into where I had been a little before. I quickly became air-born, Cocoon was NOT letting me get away and followed. I folded my wings and dropped like a stone, landing an elbow on Cocoon's back, and my surprise weight knocking us both down again, thankfully Cocoon broke my fall, and my front knee broke some things of hers.

Cocoon was engulfed in violet flames, and a dragon her size knocked me off with her much stronger wings, before I could right myself, her tail sent me flying without her even turning around, and I landed, rolling in the dirt.

I flew at her horn lowered right at her back between her wings, she burst into flames again, and used her transformation to turn around. She transformed her body to face-AGH!

Looks like dragon claws trump changeling armor. If dragons weren't so egocentric they'd be ruling the world by now. At least my sight is improving.

I transformed into a leopard and instead of committing suicide by fighting a dragon head-on I ran into the tall grass, out of sight.

Cocoon responded by burning down the grass around her in a flash, turning the field to a circle of ashes in seconds.

I panicked at the fire and flew like mad Cocoon saw me easily as I gave up stealth for retreat and breathed fire leaving path of ashes and charcoal, burning away my fur and more and leaving me helpless and in unspeakable agony.

Cocoon took a couple steps forwards in triumph, shifting back to her changeling form. A zebra seemingly burst out of the ashes in front of her like a ghost. In reality, her stripes did a wonderful job of blending into the white and black ashen field, the zebra planted on their front hooves and kicked Cocoon in her beautiful face with the zebra's back hooves.

I lied. All Cocoon attacked was a mundane leopard. The zebra is me. Knowing what dangerous species are lurking around the continent has its advantages.

I grabbed her head with my back legs, still balancing on my front legs and forward flipped her into the ashen ground, creating a dust cloud.

"If you believe it was me you had caught,
Then you are not as sharp as you thought."

She used her horn from our position of both being on our backs to stab me in the stomach, I was able to twist my front hooves down and quickly sprint away, opening the wound but keeping her from consuming me.

"It take a second to suck my soul though that lance,
I shall not give you the chance!"

"You're a wretched monster who doesn't deserve to live!"

I shifted back to my changeling form.

I charged, she did the same.

At the last moment she changed into her dragon shape again to eat me. But I saw it coming, I'd have done the same, and in a flash became a unicorn and brought up a barrier spell that her face smashed into. Without giving her time I think I shifted into a zebra and kicked her in her knees, and stomach using them as spring boards as I struck my way up her like a gymnast. I shifted to a pegasus and backflipped as her claws clutched together to try and crush me, I flew one second upwards and folded my wings and dove down, shifted to an Earth pony and landed a rear hoof square in her draconic jaw, lifting her off the ground from the impact. Like an obelisk she fell.

I transformed back to a changeling landing squarely on my hooves. In a flame flash Cocoon went from a back facing prone dragon to a forward facing upright changeling.

"I can live with that!" I said.

"No you won't!"

We swung horns, but this time I increased the speed of mine with my telekinesis, and laying an extra layer around it, I didn't even try to aim for her, I aim for the base of that twisted twig sticking out of her head!

Cocoon's scream was deafening.

Violet magic leaked out of the stump, more like a dagger than a sword now. Which mean it was easier to get past my 'sword' rushed close like a mad mare stabbing what remained of her horn, her magic leaking all over the place with no regard for herself.

Did she not think to regenerate or couldn't she?

What was left of her horn hit home stabbing me again where her horn had struck before!

"I'll eat your essence and slip into your hooves!" She grappled my hooves with hers, her head below where my horn and fangs could reach.

I felt her reaching inside me, pull at me, began to eat at me. Making me less and making her more.

Something came between us inside. Neither of us saw this coming. But I felt it. I didn't believe it but I couldn't deny it. It was like a firewall rising up, greatly hindering Cocoon as she tried to consume me.

"What are you doing?!"

Then I realized. "I don't think I'm doing anything."

Maua. Always there for me.

"What do you mean?!"

"Like I'm going to tell you!"

It's funny, for one moment, my instinct to live overrode all.

I refuse to die here, I refuse to die here, I REFUSE TO DIE HERE!

And I felt something inside me roar.

Cocoon's eyes widened in horror. "WHAT ARE YOU YOU, MONSTER?!"

As we touched, as she continued to try to consume my self, I saw in her mind's eye a whirlpool with jaws at its center.

"I'm hungry!" I snapped, "Give me all your love!"

She screamed as I began sucking her dry instead!

She tried to get away, but wrapped my hooves around her instead!

Her life flashed before her eyes.

I didn't catch most of the beginning, I had no idea if she was the first changeling queen or not. But I did sense the fear. Acting on the collective fear of not having a home. The fear of all her experience and knowledge being lost with her when death claimed her from her swarm. Willing to make any sacrifice as long as she remained to protect and guide the swarm than trust it to an inexperienced newcomer.

I saw her take many lovers to starve off the loneliness of her isolated position, to make bearable the centuries of her protecting the swarm from itself and from outsiders.

I saw her out live them all, I saw her outlive her own children, never letting any of them near the throne. Making sure the useful were bred and the useless were not, and that those who could steal the queen from the swarm and replace her with one without her knowledge and wisdom never bred.

I saw her moving the majority of the swarm underground, where it could be properly protected and controlled, where discovery was less likely. No sacrifice was too great to insured that the changeling remained unknown. No insane changeling who tried to bring about an impossible co-existence between predator and prey was allowed to live long. Ideas or actions that might disrupt the system were crushed, nothing could threaten the safety of the swarm, not even itself.

Genetic deviants, those showing more and more traits of ponies, they had to go. Prey mimicked predators to survive, not the other way around after all.

Those who questioned her had to go. She was the swarm, what was good for her was good for all the swarm. Keep safe, alway safe, keep hidden, and always there, that pure absolute fear of death. And willing to sacrifice anyling and everyling to starve it off, it was for the good of the swarm after all.

She was resisting, or I should have taken it all in a flash, but I ate the love that was animating her body inch by inch, as I slowly killed her. I never imagined how wonderful it would looked watching her squirm, trying to wiggle away like a fish on a hook. The dread and fear on her ugly face as it dawned on her that this was her end.

Tiny cracks appearing in her legs and spreading as I consumed the love within her. I felt a near euphoric thrill at the sickened and panicked look on her grotesque face as she felt her body literally fall apart around her!

I twisted the knife. "You talk about how genetically inferior I am, but when your life is in danger you want this deformed body for yourself. You're a disgrace!"

"You'd bring us all to ruin!"

"Life is chances, something you've forgotten!"

Then Cocoon tried her hoof at bad comedy. "PLEASE! MERCY! THE SWARM NEEDS ME! THEY CAN'T SURVIVE WITHOUT ME! PLEASE! I SURRENDER! I GIVE UP! YOU WIN! YOU'RE THE BETTER CHANGELING! YOU ARE SUPERIOR! SPARE ME! THE SWARM HAS NO HOPE WITHOUT ME! THE SWARM HAS NO FUTURE WITHOUT ME! PLEASE DON'T DO THIS!!!"

"The swarm has no future WITH you anyway, and no PAST for that matter. All you believe in, all you care about, all you've lived for, all you've ever protected is the present."

"The past is dead and the future isn't here yet!"

"Correct on both counts. But the future will be here sooner than later. And being dead can make somelings more dangerous than ever, I'm about to make you quite dangerous. You will NOT be burned from the records, Cocoon, none shall ever forget your failure. And you'll serve as an object lesson against stagnation for all time."

Her back legs and lower body had become lifeless and hollow. The rest of her struggling all the more so for it. You have no idea how sweet it felt. Bugs should thank me for getting rid of her. I loved washing away her idiocy and arrogance from Zebrafrica.

I'll admit I managed to pick up a good deal of practical information as I watched her memories flash by her in final moments. It wasn't her whole lifetime of experience, because that had rotted away long ago. I strangely thought of Celestia, and realized this black bug was like a poor imitation of the immortal goddess. I laughed at the comparison. Then I laughed more as Cocoon cursed, screamed, snarled, cried, sobbed, pleaded, and begged more for mery as her body died.

In my distraction, her forelegs finally got free, and in a flash she was pressing them against my throat!

"I AM HER ROYAL HIGHNESS COCOON MAB LOTH AVALON, QUEEN OF THE CHANGELINGS! I WILL NOT DIE!"

She pushed all the strength she had left into her hooves, pressing closed my windpipe, I struggled to break the grapple now, but now she held on, I need air to live, I distantly thought that at least she wanted to go out fighting as natural selection wants us to. And hollow forelegs broke off and fell away like the empty shells they were now.

No, changelings are not suits of armor with love animating them, it's just Cocoon's method of consuming love from changelings consumes EVERYTHING ELSE related to love, like life.

And in that one moment, Cocoon realized she was already dead. I absorbed the last of her love, and the last of her ceased to be, and I gave her one way ticket to her reincarnation. Maybe she'll be born as a worker drone or a zebra this time. Or maybe even a head of lettuce.

Out of nowhere, a green shockwave of my magic burst from the two of us, devouring what remained of her violet magic, and spread and kept spreading through the ground and across the land and out of sight.

Hollow and empty, the body of the queen of the changeling fell at my hooves.

"Thank you Maua," I whispered.

I pushed Cocoon's lifeless carapace down the hole.

Sitting back, I relaxed, enjoyed at the sky and sunlight, felt the wind and savanna, looked at the beasts and grass, taking it all in, feel at home and alive just a tiny bit more. I was waiting to die.

They came flying and crawling out of the hole Cocoon and I had made. I didn't run. I had done what I had set out to do. I had nothing left. No where to go, nowhere to return to, no place to escape.

The mass of changelings of every cast and age formed a semicircle around me as more came up from below. They looked at the surface and the sky like a zebra would react to being on the surface of the moon. The air so fresh, the light so bright, the space that went on forever some cowered before it, others simply stared in awe, some actually began praying.

Those closest to me looked at me in uncertainty and awkwardness. What were they waiting for?

"Uh, excuse me," said a run of the mill, complete unremarkable changeling drone. "I mean no disrespect but what is your name?"

They wanted to know my name before they killed me? Fine. Last joke on them. I rose up proud, and told them my name: its translation into Equestrian that is.

"Hail . . . Queen Chrysalis! Long live the Queen!"

The rest of the swarm followed suit. "HAIL! THE CHANGELING QUEEN! HAIL QUEEN CHRYSALIS AVALON! MOTHER TO US ALL! COMMAND AND WE SHALL OBEY!"

What the buck just happened?

+++

Ahem. So yes. I was now the undisputed monarch of the entire changeling species. Roughly 99% of the swarm either embraced me as their new Queen on the spot, didn't care, or their oaths were worded as loyalty to the 'Changeling Queen' not Cocoon or myself explicitly.

Word of the swarm being under new management was sent out among gatherers and spies in the field (like Digger Wasp).

I could have and should have probably just changed what the rules of succession said, crowned a random noble, and left. Would have been much less trouble for me.

As it was, being Queen granted me protection from having killed the previous Queen in single combat with at least half the swarm in condolence of the deed thanks to my little speech and obviously possessing royal linage with Young Cocoon having the same bug face as mine. Now that I had a way to stay alive I didn't want to find out what would happen if I didn't have 'royal protection.'

Sure I was ready to die when I had no way out, but when a door opens, you walk through it and continue on, don't you?

It also meant I'd have a endless steady supply of love as long as I kept the big machine running efficiently. Blech. And it was in need of a major overhaul.

I knew my first batch of decrees weren't going to be that popular with the privileged few, but I'd rather have the majority on my side. And to be frank I liked tearing Cocoon's system apart. Hated everything about it. And her for that matter. I hope she's enjoying her time in Tartarus.

First, all changelings now have names. Many changelings acted like I had declared everyling nobility. That one little decree shook changeling society so far to the foundation it's a wonder they didn't feel it in Neighpon!

Next, in the middle of the infrastructure decay and love shortage, I declared full breeding rights to every female changeling in the swarm. I could spend five hours explaining how they stabilized the population, but that's not the point here. How many nymphs did the new mothers name in my honor? Erm, can we move on?

I also recruited a few willing converts of zebra mares whose line of work had been similar to changelings anyway.

The deviants were next granted education, names, breeding rights, and were expected to pull their weight as part of the swarm. I think my 'fellow mutants' saw me as their savior for that one. I promoted the ones with competency to positions where I needed trust.

Guard Number #1983? Guard Number #1983, or 'Scorpion' as he's called now. . . I visit him sometimes, tell him what a wonderful job he's doing, looking forward to "when I have you for, I mean at dinner," and trot off smiling. Seeing him squirm and anguish in paranoia until he dies of old age is sweeter than anything else I could do to him.

On a minor note all the flames in the hive are now green, as are the flames of changeling when they transform.

Accidentally grasping control of the swarm had been a near-lethal task, forging it into a true effective swarm to be feared was much harder! Queen Cocoon's incompetence lingered long after her corpse had blow away in the wind.

I am called Queen though I have no true castle. I am called a leader though I rule no nation. I am called mother though I had birthed no brood.

I remember declaring to the swarm early on, to the workers, soldiers, nobles, and the masters of the swarm's different branches, "We embrace the rules of nature."

I am Queen of the Changelings. My word is law.

(Interviewer's Notes(Unicorn): My Queen, what would you do if you found out you were born what you are and the way you are as a project of another?)

Murder them. Murder whoever put the project in motion.

(Interviewer's Notes(Unicorn): I have a gift for you, My Queen.)

Frakenpony? Thank you, but I've read it.

Even my supporters called me crazy for my next move. I granted the livestock a tiny bit more awareness and allowed interactivity with each other instead of just being kept in pods between feeding and work. This actually INCREASED the amount of love they produced (which shut up the dissenters), and would ultimately enable our number of livestock to slowly replenish itself on its own. And they were now were aware enough not to be bitten by random snakes. And able to handle far more complex instructions and some actually resisting being brought out of their happily little stupor.

And yes, I did decrease the size of the army and put them to different functions throughout the hive instead of just eating resources, their time would come. Cocoon had been a fool. While our army had exceeded most nations, our actual civilian population was barely a tenth of the size of even small nations. She apparently either didn't care that would leave the hive woefully, almost suicidal underhoofed if it did go to war or she wanted a war of mutually ensured destruction.

But still, this underground hive was a death trap. This hidden city would be discovered eventually. And now that so many of the swarm had tasted the sunlight and sky, they wanted it more than ever. They couldn't stand living underground now, and this spread like wildfire.

As Queen of the Changelings, it's my duty to find food for my subjects. And there was one land with more love than any other. I actually visited there myself a few times. After all, I was no Cocoon! What's more, I was our best shapeshifter and infiltrator. I visited Equestria as a little earth pony colt with 'parents' I had brainwashed, a wealthy unicorn heiress, a faceless pegasus maid in service of a certain princess, even a zebra fortuneteller.

As for the annoying possibility of Changelings falling for cattle, I simply perpetuated and magnified the idea that cattle would kill Changelings on sight. That they'd never see us as anything but monsters. That was so much easier than sending out a death squad, which in and of itself was likely to draw more attention in the process of silencing them. It was easier to instill a fear in their brains so even if it did happen, they'd be too terrified of death to dare speak up.

Meanwhile our other gatherers and infiltrators began their work, starting all the way at the bottom and working their way up the ranks and ladders of Equestria's military, media, and other vital branches, along with a few non-vital ones just to be thorough. It would take years to put every piece in place, maybe decades, but I was not an impatient queen. A prize like Equestria was worth the extra time and effort.

Ironically, our web of spies and infiltrators was actually downsized compared to Cocoon. As with her body mass, the fat slug had believed more was more. So while the spy network was deep rooted and quite useful, it was also painfully fragile due to being so spread thin and more heads meaning more possibility for equine error. It was only a matter of time before Cocoon's incompetence destroyed the very masquerade she sought to maintain, if not the hive itself. So it needed an overhaul. Instead of countless faceless spies everywhere I could fit them, I settled for fewer, competent spies aiming to reach key positions. Quality over quantity. We focused our numbers onto the prize rather than spreading them out.

We did a few 'practice runs' as we grew to call them. Not worth mentioning. Neither were the pin-head sized kingdoms that vanished and historians then debated over what happened to them after we added them to our livestock.

I remember the speech I made to my swarm.

"Since dawn of memory we have cowered in the shadows of history.
Feeding on you cattle and retreating like criminals into the dark.
Our nests hidden like some unholy shame.
Our own history forgotten.
Our true faces forever hidden.
We tire of this nomad existence.
WE DESERVE A NATION OF OUR OWN!"

But before all of that, came what I'll never forget: my coronation.

-"Goddess of Lies"- Lunar 2: Eternal Blue-

There hadn't been a coronation in the swarm for ages. And considering Her Late Majesty, Queen Cocoon's habit of generationally destroying records, we had to play it by ear. But if there is one I know, it's theater. And I gave my swarm a presentation it would never forget!

Virtually the entire colony was present, including new converts, some even brought some of their pet-zebra in with them.

There were so many torches and glowing fungus that the chamber was as bright as sunlight, which was the point.

Incense made from the ill-fated love tree's remains burned (bio-alchemists never throw away anything.)

I had the throne custom-built for my proportions, the previous throne being unfit for a queen whose rear end wasn't the size of an elephant. Black and greens, of course.

I also custom-made the carpet I trotted up to that throne on, a plush green carpet with gold trim with a pattern of bats, spiders, and snakes (they eat insects).

The entire swarm and their pets prostrated to me as I passed.

My coronation dress was made by livestock from Neighpon, which strongly resembled a black and green kimono, the bead tassels and bead necklace were my own customizations to it.

The song playing was my own composition, but right now was only the instrumental version.

It wasn't quite perfect, but I can't say I hadn't dreamed of this since I was small. All gathered around thinking I looked lovely in a gown. I didn't think this would be my fate at all.

I came to the end of the carpet, turned and beheld my subjects of bugs and insects gathered around me, as they always had since I was small.

I knelt down, my horn touching the floor. Two nymphs buzzed over to me holding my new crown.

I had little interest in the crown, so we just used parts of Cocoon's old scepter and replaced the jewels, and no, it was just a scepter, I made quadruple sure of that.

The crown went on my head. I rose up, and was now officially the absolute ruler of a swarm of shapeshifting love-eating bug equines.

Digger Wasp, Hercules Beetle and Goliath Beetle, Kabutomushi, Shield Bug, Jewel Wasp, Praying Mantis, and the rest of the swarm's movers and shakers knelt before me and swore their loyalty and obedience, their lives and love were mine to command.

I spoke to them for the first time as their queen.
"We were dead and buried, but now changelings are alive."

"Changelings are alive
The legends have to survive
We can never come undone
And we will be forever young

Changelings...have arrived!

I am a Changeling, I was a slave
We sleep through the daylight in our grave
In the darkness, in the shadows, here we are!

Here I am.

I want you to be forever mine
Together until the end of time
Like a performance, never ending, let us change your world."

A white changeling with black stripes, a new addition, kissed a nearby fancy dressed zebra with a gold tooth, and sucked him dry!

"Changelings are alive!

And we will be forever young!

Today is the day, live thousand years
Don't be scared, don't drown in tears
Captured spirit, in our passion, sell your soul!
Let it go!

From Elysium to Tartarus, enjoy the ride
You're here to surrender with your mind
Precious victims, our desires, live eternally

The entire swarm by now sang with me.

Changelings are alive
The legends have to survive
We can never come undone
And we will be forever young

We're alive! Changelings are alive!"

I made a small laugh. There was much to do.

~It Begins

Episode 156: "Birth of King Sombra"

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Pony POV Series
Birth of King Sombra
By Alex Warlorn

Once upon a time there was a tribe of ponies, forgotten by time, much as the seaponies, and flutterponies and their breezie cousins would be buried by the sands of time. They were at the time the youngest of the tribes, but they would not be the last pony tribe to come into existence.

They had come into existence at the great disaster that had ended the Age Of Wonders where Ponies had used computer, cell phones, ipads, missiles, artillery, jet-planes, automobiles, and had landed on the moon. The shock wave of the denoted and misused seven pieces of the Rainbow of Light, had killed many, cursed even more, but something happened . . . one of these castles that housed the seven pieces, was built farther north . . .

The heart of Ponyland, the crystal beating core of Ponyland magic, had been moved more than once, kept safe and hidden. Finally it was moved underground to the frozen north.

In the far future, in a dark timeline, the heart would be returned to the earth during the empire's second coming, were a tribe of ponies mutated into dogs-beasts by the lingering spirit of a greedy gem loving wizard would find the jewel, and become enlightened beings from its magic.

In the here and now, the heart of ponyland, in that flash when the castles detonated, its magic awoke and changed, exactly one castle of the seven was spared destruction in the truest sense of the word, and like all ponies who would have died in the northern castle's blast radius, it was completely remade. The rules of magic themselves having shifted slightly from the explosion. But the force of magic released, left most ponies to believe it had been destroyed like the rest. And who was going to brave an Arctic wasteland to check up on them?

The end of the Second Age was a new beginning for these ponies dwelling in the far north.

The shard of the Rainbow of Light that had been in the castle was blasted from the release of magic far, far away indeed. The reborn ponies, primarily former earth ponies, found the heart of crystal, drawn to it like it was now a piece of them, and they were pieces of it. And called it the crystal heart. They set it in the center of their home, as the heart of that place, where its magic could radiate out.

And like a silent teacher that spoke to their hearts rather than their minds, the new living crystalline ponies felt bonded to their crystal heart and each other, and knew as long as their hearts never gave into despair, their new home would always be safe. They were a new tribe, regardless of what they had been before, they were the crystal ponies.

Their leader, which would become a hereditary position, which would become a benign monarchy, realized that keeping themselves utterly happy constantly with no variance or tone would turn their happiness empty and shallow, and this would weaken the heart. And so, the crystal fair was established. A yearly event for the new tribe to embrace the joy of being alive and engage in the most lively or nonsensical of events all for the sake of simple happiness, and this would empower the crystal heart, that they realized now was indeed as much a part of them, as they were now a part of it. The fair became a source of blood to keep the heart beating and their home alive.

The centuries past, technology was lost as it was everywhere else, but the crystal ponies were spared the prejudice and hate of the three tribes, and the strength of their hearts allowed them to create means to provide for themselves. And their home was kept safe by hope that would destroy all evil that dared approach that place.

When the Windigos came, the crystal ponies were utterly invisible to them, like they did not even exist. The crystal tribe did not know hate, that the windigos were drawn to, the crystal heart had purified of them that, but they did know fear. And it had been their companion in the back of their minds. Some wondered if they were the last ponies left alive in the world. Others of their first generation wondered if they'd turn to immobile lifeless crystal if the heart powered down or they wandered from the city state.

Some would claim they had hosted a visit from the first Starswirl the Bearded, or one of his many namesakes, but whether this was history or myth was lost to time. Some feared they would be envied for their tiny paradise, and the other tribes would come and destroy and enslave them, this never happened, but the fear stayed with them.

Then Discord came. They did not surrender to despair. The crystal ponies continued to live their lives in absolute defiance of the mad god. They believed in the Crystal Heart's power to keep them safe.

Discord hated and cursed this city state, the light twin to Tambelon's shadow and machinery. He deathly forbid any mention of it. Death was never the intended end result of his games, simply an unintended side effect that happened a lot. He promised EFFORT in the painful death of any who spread word of this crystal city of hope and light that resisted all attempts for him to enter or effect. Even an attempt to indirectly destroy it such as dropping a meteorite on top, or a flaming flood, or an earthquake, all failed to harm the crystal tribe within. This further enraged the tyrant. The fact their simple statement of 'the Crystal Heart will protect us' was one he could not disprove made his blood boil.

It simply stood, a light against Discord's darkness, so Discord made sure no pony could reach this piece of salvation, and would make short of all who tried to leave to help others. And Discord's sheer hate of it grew and grew. The ponies inside, innocent and pure, never once touched by his evil, beautiful and sacred.

One place throughout of all of Equestria that he could not touch. Discord was the first to admit it was petty to hate one marble when you had the rest, but no one had ever accused the chaotic tyrant of not being petty. And the idea one thing in the entire world was outside his reach was like a foal who's friend had a toy they couldn't have.

If he could not destroy what he could not possess, Discord would see it corrupted if it was the last thing he did.

So he did the one thing he swore he'd never do. He asked family for help. Not immediate family. Freedom loved the look on his face at the sight of the one city on the planet to defy him, Darwinism saw them thrive in a harsh world without becoming stagnate and thought it good, Imagination saw a beautiful glimmer of hope in a dark world, and Fear saw a place listening to its fears and staying where it was safe. Even if his immediate family would speak to him, they saw no reason to have anything against that place. So he turned to other family even less immediate. . . more like . . . cousins.

---

"My Queen, the fears we crystal ponies hold in our hearts, they are a cancer, a whispering plague, the more we cling to them, the stronger they became, the larger they grow, if we let them, the light inside us that lets us empower the crystal heart will flicker out."

"Obsidian Zephyr my loyal subject, fear is a part of life, it what helps life be wary of danger, and protects us from carelessness. Fear has a place in pony's heart as long as it doesn't become our master."

"Yes my Queen, but please, think of the Crystal Kingdom. The strength of our home is connected to the strength of our hearts. We must protect our hearts from all possible inner demons that could shatter our inner strength, and shatter our protection with it. Especially from Discord who haunts the outside world, and could appear anywhere in Equestria at any time and smash any order or happiness he finds. The Crystal Heart is the only thing protecting us. We must safeguard against fears. For the sake of our people."

" . . . What do you plan?"

"A way to cleanse ourselves of all somber emotions."

And so the entire city had a rune grafted into it, that redirected the fears and nightmares and terrors of the crystal ponies away from them, and downward below. All assuming the sober emotions harmlessly dissolved into ether.

They didn't. They knotted, gathered, slowly coming together, like bits of dirt in a filter. The somber emotions, born of every crystal pony alive over the course of their lifetimes, and bathed with the magic of the life giving crystal heart.

Discord would not get to see the end results of his cousin's labors. He would be long defeated and imprisoned by then.

It would take centuries of nurturing and growth before this beast would become what its instigator desired it to be. As Obsidian Zephyr carefully observed and guided its growth, directing the form it would take, the truths it would realize, and the desires it would have. Chanting in an ancient, alien tongue as a stallion chanted lullabies to his foals.

"Orr'e hupadgh n'ghft wgah'n f lloig, ilyaa yar f' throd syha'h."

Until at last. A heart as black as night began to beat.

"The crystal ponies feared enslavement, they will be your slaves, they feared an end to their beautiful city, you will twist their home into a nightmarish mockery, they feared evil, you will embody evil, they feared helplessness, you will be more powerful than anything they have seen, they feared unicorns would oppress them as they did their earth pony cousins, so that is what you shall be, they feared the unknown, you, their tyrant, will be unreadable and unknowable. Somber emotions have given you life, form and purpose. And it is from their inner shadow you were born from so I name ye, Sombra."

" . . . No . . . King Sombra . . ."

"King Sombra then."

The crystal ponies had no idea where the tyrant came from, he came unannounced, without warning and without mercy. The darkness that had built over the years had erupted into a devil the likes of which they did not know could exist. Made all the more terrifying by the shape it took. The wrongness that a being so evil could appear in the shape of a pony.

Stallions, mares, foals, it didn't matter, all fell like flies as they were force fed their inner worst terrors, many even unaware of their true worst fear before staring it in the face. Warriors, royalty, adults, foals, all becoming whimpering wrecks against this being that was more fiend than pony. He became what they had made him, he became their worst fears.

When asked by his family why he had done this, Discord's cousin passed it off as a tribute to his Uncle Fear. Havoc was flattered and as Fear, was intrigued at the living manifestation of the suppressed fear of an entire city state...and as Tartarus, began keeping a list of the tyrant's crimes and checking it twice, preparing a special place within him for a dark demon's twisted soul. If it had one or would grow one. Weren't the crystal ponies only being enslaved by their own fears?

There was no real point in anything the tyrant that would become known as the Terror of the North commanded of his slaves, he only did as they feared he'd do: they feared they would not know happiness again, so he beat any memories of before his reign out of them. They feared the loss of comforts, so they were denied the finer things in life. They feared the loss of their dignity, so they were paraded before their king like circus animals. They feared being treated like beasts, and were put to labor that served no purpose or goal beyond realizing their fear. They feared no help would ever come, and so no help did. Their fear grew, and grew, and became the deepest despair.

But as his form became more powerful, he became more aware. Instead of merely acting on his instincts, he began to plot and plan. He began to think. The sum of that place's fears would begin to fear one thing himself: that as he had toppled the royalty, so too would he be toppled. Whether it was truly fears of his own or a relic of the fears of the royalty that had lead to his genesis, he feared that possibility more than any other. King Sombra put the cunning mind he had began to form to good use and sealed the now powerless Crystal Heart behind layers and layers of traps and barriers within his dark fortress, the first and chief of which was the terror his slaves held for him. The fear that fed and nurtured him. Perhaps deep down inside, the same fear of becoming lifeless crystal if their power source ran dry beat within the Terror of the North's black heart, and he feared that should his slaves' fear that gave him life ever dissipate, his life would end.

Or maybe all this was what the crystal ponies thought to try and justify or understand this devil that had been born from fear itself and his fear merely mirrored their own fear of death and his cunning a mirror of the untapped potential they were too afraid of him to let rise to the surface. Maybe neither is true and not even the Shadow of the Empire may know himself.

One small crystal pegasus filly, perhaps the last descendant of her original tribe touched by the crystal's magic, would not cower before the shadow given a form of its own. Her body housed the spirit of harmony and music itself. How or why another life was granted, none can truly answer. Perhaps she was sent to counterbalance Discord's cousin's intervention. Perhaps Bright Glow's life was more complex than believed. Perhaps Discord's birth causing a paradoxical tangle in time resulted in a distortion and she fell through the cracks. Whatever the reason, she was there. And her courage, would be the lance that would pierce the fear that no friends would ever come to aid the Crystal Empire, and brought the light of the sun and moon themselves down upon the darkness.

When her end came, she knew no fear, and in her heart of hearts she swore, even if overturned every rule of creation, she'd return here someday, and bring light back to her tribe and banish the darkness from a place it did not belong.

King Sombra knew fear as divine judgement finally descended upon the frozen north, the Royal Pony Sisters swearing upon their sister, the Concept of Justice, the reign of cruelty the Terror of the North had wrought would at last be punished. But he became like the primal beast he was at heart and fought back with the might of centuries of fear given shape and breath. But in the end, it was not enough.

And a small group of crystal ponies were able to escape the nightmarish city as the Sun and the Moon did battle with the Shadow of the Empire, and over the eons their line would lose their crystal forms, but their blood from the north would mix with that of Canterlot's nobility.

In the end the tyrant would throw his city far into the future before he reduced to the mass of living darkness he had always been and sentenced to his frozen prison in a combined cascade of solar and lunar light, the Alicorn sisters unable to bring hope and happiness back to his slaves in the meantime, and when his city returned, the despair and fear of the crystal ponies would give him the strength to escape.

Both would meet again, and have their reckoning, some day.

Episode 157: "Forgotten Pink Ponies"

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Pony POV Series
Forgotten Pink Ponies
Discarded Props
By Alex Warlorn

That . . . wasn't fun . . .

That wasn't fun at all . . .

Rainbow Crash lied, there weren't any balloon animals . . .

That hurt . . .

Where was I?

Where was the rest of me?

Uuuuuugh. It's super cold. Maybe there are some sunny . . . skies? . . . Why is the sky so black? What's this not day? It's like the inside of the cave . . . where . . . where I was born . . . and all my sisters were born . . . where I came from . . . from . . . from . . . first Pinkie Pie . . .. that's called a . . . a mommy right? I think, I don't think anypony ever told me...

Uuuuugh. I don't feel so good . . . like I was blown up too much and popped and then sucked into a vacuum. Then . . . a really BIIIIG nothing . . . I mean, bigger than a really large cake . . .

I sit up, the ground isn't nice at all, it's all like black ice cream, really cold, what does it taste like? BLECH! It taste like tar and rocks! Blech! Blech!

I shake my head. Hey! There are the rest of me . . . my . . . my sisters? Well, some of them were copied from me, and they were copied from the ones who were copied from them . . . does that make me a grandma? This is so confusing!

This is worse than when Buttershy invited me to the tea party and I was supposed to go the barn raising with Applesnack. And . . . first me, mom? She told me we just needed more of us.

So we made more and more, more of us was good, so even more of us was better right? More of us was more fun, right?

Then . . . nopony wanted to play with us, nopony wanted to have fun, they just wanted to shout at us and do mean things to us and hurt us and stuff . . . but it was for fun right? Right. Fun is the most important thing in the world. Right? Fun is why . . . why we were born right?

Mommy wanted us to have fun . . . so . . . why was she sad?

It was all just a game right? That test wasn't fun at all. And the others were making so much noise! How was I supposed to keep staring at the . . . borning paint . . . I wonder if I passed . . . I wonder how many of us passed . . .

Is mom here? Let me count . . . we're one short. That's no fun.

The rest of me, the rest of my family are waking up too . . .

"FUN!"

"FUN! FUN!"

"FUUNNNN! . . . fun? . . . This . . . this place doesn't look fun!"

I hug one of the twins, (she was copied from me, and her, uh, sister was copied from . . . mom. Does that makes them cousins and not twins? THIS IS SO CONFU-FU-FUSING!).

"THIS ISN'T FUN AT ALL!"

"Senorita! New arrivals!"

"From the heart world! This is great! They look good enough to paint a picture of! And familiar!"

"Bloody harmony! Did they finally do another bloody reboot?"

"No I think this is something else . . ."

"THEY WON'T GET AWAY LIKE DISCORD'S SPAWN DID!"

Huh? I just realize we're standing in a little crater, or maybe a dried up pond.

There were ponies all around us only . . . they were all see through and stuff, like colored shadows or something.

We all gather around each other, something about these ponies, screams not fun, like the opposite of fun, like, nuf? Was that a word? I don't know! Somepony tell me!

Ooooh, this pony had wings like a big butterfly, and she's really big too, I think she's purple her cutie mark is a big star around a little star, or is that a little star in a big star? There are so many things I don't know! None of this is fun! NOTHING! What am I supposed to do if there's no fun!? MOMMMY!!!!

She smiles at me, well, maybe that's a smirk? "Well . . . you're not OUR Pinkie Pie . . . but you'll do . . for now . . . and best of all, there's plenty for us to enjoy!"

The all laughed. The laughter wasn't fun for some reason.

"We haven't had this many new arrivals since . .. well, since we all got here Starsong!" Said a shadow with an artist pallet cutie mark.

"I think that deserves a special welcoming, Toola-Roola!"

"sí." Said the mare with a mexicolt accident, I wonder what mexicolt food tastes like . . . uh, maybe it's fun? Think fun thoughts!

"Uh . . . excuse me . . . but . . . I'm Pinkie Pie, and . . . well, we're all Pinkie Pie I think and . . . where are we? And . . . where's the fun?"

"Fun? FUN!? Hear that nopony?! They want to know where the fun is!" She laughed in my face. It wasn't a fun laugh. Please stop it! Please! Why did my mane suddenly go all flat?

"There is no fun here!" Said, uh, Toola-Roola like it was a big surprise. It wasn't a fun surprise. "Just us shadows of meanwhiles and neverweres."

I hear the rest of us gasp . . . why do so many of us have our manes flat too? The rest are shivering.

"Welcome to Oblivion!" They all shouted together.

"Uh . . ." Why were my knees knocking? "Well, me and . .. my other mes . . . we're all supposed to have fun . . . and . .. if you don't have any fun then . . . can we go please? It was really fun in Ponyville, and we' like to go back there now. Please? With sugar on?"

Why do they keep laughing? Please, you're making my sisters crying . . . I think, you're making me cry?

"I'm sorry, but I'm afraid, if you're here, it means you don't have a place anywhere, even Tartarus and Elysium won't take you. I'm sorry," said this pony with a puzzle piece and magnifying glass cutie mark, I wonder what bugs look like, no, I just wanna go home.

"There's Puzzlemint, pretending she still has a heart!" Teased Toola-Roola.

"You want a Ponyville?! Here ya go!" Said a pegasus shadow who grabbed one of my sisters and took off with her, we all followed, and she dumped her just a little bit off and . . . there were a bunch of gray buildings, with gray floors, gray streets, gardens without plants in them, fountains without any water to splash around in, shops that were empty of anything. It was like the fun thought the town wasn't fun anymore, and left.

"This . . . this isn't Ponyville! Ponyville is fun! Ponyville is . . .is . .. HAPPY! And your laughing! It's not fun it's . . . not-fun! It's . . . it's not nice!"

"They're so naive and innocent!"

"Just like we were!"

"It's almost adorable!"

My sister . . . I think she skinned her knee, she's crying. I run over and dry her tears.

"T-This is a trick, right? A...not nice prank or something?" one of my sisters asked, shuddering as we looked around.

"Oh, talk about ungrateful," said a unicorn shadow with a doggy necklace. "We gave you what you wanted, is it our fault it wasn't what you thought it'd be? Hehe, that feels a tiny bit nostalgic."

"We wanted Ponyville! This isn't Ponyville!"

"I'm sorry, this is the only Ponyville here," said Puzzlemint.

"W-well, how do we get out of here?!" Another of my sisters asked, I didn't like this 'not-fun' feeling growing bigger and bigger insider me.

"HA! You hear that nopony?! They want the way out of here!" Starsong called.

The shadows of ponies laughed, and laughed, but it sounded hollow, empty, lifeless. We weren't like that? . . . were we? I wasn't, right?

One of my sisters ran away from the VERY NOT FUN shadow ponies right for a big hole in the freezy blacky ground, she'd hide down there, Puzzlemint pulled her back just before she dived in. And Puzzlemint, and the other shadow, they began to sing. But the song, the was nothing fun about it, could be nothing fun about, and never would be anything fun about it.

"Watch yourself,
Don't fall into the gulf!"

A monster several times bigger than any Quarray eel burst from the ground, lamprey like jaws snapping with tendrils flying everywhere before zipping back in at the same lightning speed it emerged with.

"So yer all the new nopony's in town," Starsong sang.

"What's that sound? Is something moving around?" The twins sang hugging each other hearing THINGS move about in the dark.

Starsong flew and pushed them hard on their rears, that looked like it hurt. "Sit down for a spell, you don't look so well!"

"WELL Fiesta Flare, feels great!
You've just been screwed by fate!
You might as well just hang around," Fiesta Flare sang, then I . . . I made a really loud noise that wasn't a laugh . . . she had a rope around her neck, that one of the pegasus was holding her up from, she just made faces at me.

All the shadows sang.

"It's too late,
Now yer just Nature Fury bait!

"Now just relax,
You're all just empty sacks!"

They danced around us like a spider's web.

"It's after the movie!
This is the end of your show!"

"Welcome to being nopony!
But don't feel lonely!

"Don't be sad for nothing's sake!
All you feel is fake!"

"I'm for gettin' out of here!" One of the triplets ran off screen, only to end up right back where she started. She looked in not-fun, no, no TERROR! She screamed.

Terror! Afraid! I WAS AFRAID! I WAS AFRAID! I WAS SCARED! Leave us alone! Somepony help us please!

"No need to shout my dear! No-o!" Sung the shadow of a LITTLE FILLY pegasus while my sister being scared for her life and miserable was just a game . . . it was fun but . . . it . . . it was fun but . . . not . . . not . . . . not . . . good . . . fun. I'm sad.

I turn my head and see a sea! Maybe across the sea is home? I run for it. Puzzlemint stops me.

"Don't you go,
to the ocean down below!
There ain't no price
for good advice."

The shadows sang.

"There's nothing to do!
We're Her private zoo!"

The unicorn with the doggie necklace stood in front of a witch's caldron made of ice and floated a bunch of ice shaped into potion bottles an inch from us, then shattered them before we could touch them.

"There is no voodoo
or magic brew
That can reclaim you!"

"It's after the movie!
And this is the end of your show!"

"What do we have here?! New toys?! Oh pink gummy!" A mishmash of animal parts swooped in tried to bite Eleven in half, she didn't like this all, and her tail was now just a stub. The shadow dove down. The the animal-parts-monster just left.

Another of the triplet sang, "This is weird!"

"It's much worse than you fear!" Puzzlemint sang back.

I shut my eyes. "I'll just close my eyes and make the ghosties disappear-AAAGH!" THEY WERE ALL AROUND ME!

We all jumped together into one big pink pile looking out from all directions! All our manes were straight! All my sisters and I were shivering! This wasn't fair! What did we do?!
We sang out together.

"This is strange!"

"You and creation are now estranged!" Fiesta Flare sang at us, no longer with the rope around her neck, made another face at us.

The others hopped towards us, in sync, like a team of jumping spiders. They made the ground shudder.

"Won't the others be in heat,
That yer heart still beats?!"

I was at the top of the Pinkie Fort, I looked straight up, hoping for something, anything friendly to look down at me. I reached for a sun that wasn't there. Crying isn't fun. So why couldn't I stop?

"Where is the sun?
All I can see is the night.
Please turn on a light.
Somepony please tell me that fate has been kind."

"There is no way oooout,
you are out of your miiiiinds!"

They burst out laughing. And looked at me, like we were slices of cake.

"It's after the movie!
This is the end of your show!"

We backed up further and further into each other, scared out of our minds.

"It's after the movie!
This is the end of your show!"

They kept singing, but not words, just a not that sounded like...almost like a wind building up to blow us away...

"Stop it! They're not like us! They don't belong here!" They smashed Puzzlemint into the ground so hard she left an impression. Why wasn't it funny? Because . .. because she was hurt . . . Applesnack . . . did we . . . did we hurt her? Did we hurt Buttershy? . . . Is that why we're here? Is that . . . is that why we came here? . . . So we're bad ponies who don't belong anywhere? . . . So . . that's why we're here?

I give up. We were what wasn't fun. We belonged here with everything else that wasn't fun.

Another mean laugh but . . . it's from everywhere...Or is it nowhere, like where we are? I don't really care. So much anymore. What was the point in anything? What I do doesn't matter. What I say doesn't matter. What I think doesn't matter. My sisters don't matter. I don't matter. We were supposed to be fun and . . . we couldn't even do what we were born for. We belong-

"Excuse me, but you're in my way."

The shadows looked one direction at once, gasped, and fled as fast as shadows did before a light source. Puzzlemint looked up from the hole she was in, gasped, and covered her head, not moving an inch, her eyes closed.

Huh? Wha? Uh? Who? What? I feel . . . What was that? I was feeling . . . empty, I was feeling, like there wasn't a me anymore . . . Who is . . .

"I want to talk with you. Care to listen?"

We . . . my family mattered to somepony.

She's funny. She's all pink. She has wings like a pegasus, and a horn like a unicorn. She's a pegahorn! Ha-ha! That's so silly! I feel . . . fun? No . . it's happy. She wanted to . . . to talk with us?

"Well?" She asked again.

"Oh! Yes yes! Talk away!"

The pinkie Pegahorn asked calmly and casually, "Hello little ponies, . . . would you like a job? I need some messengers."

"Uh . . . do we get to leave this place?"

"Yes."

"Can we go back to Ponyville?"

"A Ponyville, I promise it'll be a much more interesting one than this. And more colors."

"Can all my sisters come?"

"Yes. I have need of all of you. You and I have much in common."

We all looked at each other, and all the black nothings all around.

"Uh, can Puzzlemint. come? She just-"

"I'm sorry. No. She doesn't have what it takes to leave. You all do."

"Please, don't think about me, just go. It's how things are," she said still not looking up.

" . . . thank you Puzzlemint., we won't forget you."

"You're not the first to say so."

"We won't! Okay! Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes! Uh, you guys all agree to right?"

"YES!" All my sisters shouted together.

"That's perfect!" She clapped her hooves. "Now let's get you out of here. You're hired!"

I didn't know who if what happened next was gonna be fun or not . . . and maybe that's what made it feel alive? Right! That's it! We're alive! We're here! We're seeing! We're hearing! We're feeling! I'm alive!!!

~See You Again, Pinkie Promise, cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye!

Episode 158: Silver Spoon "Character Rerailment"

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My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic
Pony POV Series
Silver Spoon
Character Rerailment

Sweet Apple Acres . . . I wonder if the other Crusaders are here yet, and if Applebloom has finished her chores for the day yet. Mom would have a heart attack if she saw me with mud on myself. Heh, helping Applebloom just might be worth it, being dirty on purpose would be a nice new thing.

I noticed trotting next to me is a pink filly with violet and white mane and a small diamond crown on her head that matched the one on her flanks (actually, vice versa).

But . . . Diamond Tiara wouldn't be caught dead here...

!

'Diamond Tiara!' I tried to shout at seeing my friend! I was ready to forgive her on the spot! I wanted my best friend back! I wanted to tell her that the blank flanks weren't so bad after all! That they were FUN to hang out with, and it would be more entertaining for her to BE with them than to be AGAINST them. That I wanted her as my friend back! That I wanted her to be friends with my new friends! And that Spike and me had really connected, and that her family and Applebloom's had been friends for so long, that it would be a WASTE for the two of them not to learn to be friends too! I wanted! I wanted! I wanted!

Wait...what?

I just kept trotting besides her, silently. Where was her dad? Diamond Tiara hated this place, she had to be dragged her by her father. Where had she been all this time?! I wanted to hug her! But I just kept trotting looking ahead with my self satisfied smirk on my face.

Why...why can't I say anything? My mouth isn't moving...

Finally my mouth allowed one of the things I was trying to say out.

"Diamond Tiara what are we doing here again?" Again? That isn't what I meant to say! what's going on?!

"Geeze dummy, I told you already, we're gonna poke fun at those blanks for making a stupid float in the parade."

The CMC were making a float or a parade? Why hadn't Applebloom told me?

"How do you know it's stupid?" Okay, I actually meant to say that...

"Because it was made by them! Duh! Are your pearl on too tight today?"

'Well, you did take my milkshake,' I heard myself think! But I didn't think that!

I admit, as part of the submissive persona my mother had tailor made for me, I had offered Diamond Tiara any treats of mine when we went to Sugarcube Corner or at home, to the point where she took them without waiting for me to offer them, and I never once complained or took offense, after all, don't rock the boat, just do as you're told. And she was my friend. Even now I'd probably share without question...share.

I try to ask Diamond Tiara where she's been, what's going on, but my mouth won't let me, and my hooves continues to trot on their own.

It's like I'm in a video game cutscene! I can see but I can't move!

We reach the barn, and I hear Applebloom and Scootaloo saying,

"Here it is! The official Cutie Mark Crusaders float for the Summer Harvest Parade!"

"As a member of the Cutie Mark Crusaders, you'd be able to ride on it with us! It'd be totally fun."

And somepony laughed sounding intimidated.

I saw Diamond Tiara grin and stuck her head inside and said, "More like funny..."

I stuck my head in and finished with her, " ...looking!"

We both laughed.

But! I didn't MEAN to do any of that! Why would I say something like that?! They're my friends!

And I see a giant pumpkin on wheels, Sweetie Belle must have been reading fairy tales again.

Wait...The looks the other CMC are giving me are NOT pleasant ones, where's Spike?

I asked them what's wrong or apologize for what I hadn't meant to say, but I hear myself say, "What is that thing, a giant orange?"

And we laugh again.

"It's a pumpkin," Bloom corrected us.

"More like a lame-kin."

I hear myself laugh. Ugh! Diamond, of all your insults, that had to be the least imaginative you've ever had. You've slipping. Why am I laughing?!

It isn't lame! I'm impressed! Why can't I say that?!

"Who's the new blank flank?" Diamond asks.

I notice another filly, I thought she was a colt when I first looked at her, and when I hear her speak, it take a bit for me to realize she's a girl. Brown, red mane, earth pony, and yeah, no cutie mark.

She looks SCARED. I don't mean just 'scared like she's at a new school' scared, I mean 'Sweet Celestia no' scared. I don't even think she meant to cover her flank with her tail, she did it like she was used to doing it.

Cousin Babs from Manehatten 'Bloom explains. Diamond is marginally impressed that she's a big city pony.

I try to greet her, to say it's nice to MEET her, but my body just stands there smirking.

"Suppose you're gonna join their little club? What's it called?" I hear my own voice say in a tone I know all too well, "The Cutie Mark Crusaders?" I say in a dumb-dumb tone spinning my eyes. Stop it! These are my friends!

Babs just stands there for a moment, looking back and forth between us and them.

"More like da Cutie Mahk Crybabies!" Babs says in a new cruel tone and chuckles. I see how she slips on the mask, a very real part of me is impressed even as I fight it, slipping on that mask so flawlessly and perfectly. Like when I slipped on the mask of the obedient subservient little filly, and it took losing my best friend to realize it'd become my real face a long time ago.

Still...her chuckle needs work...at least to me, it sounded forced. Not as confident as her mask made her seem like.

Diamond Tiara likes her attitude in spite of Babs being a blank. Then again, we both knew that them being blank flanks was never the real point. Diamond Tiara needed an outlet, and blank flanks just happened to be the most readily available one to vent her frustrations on. They weren't her, so what did it matter if their feelings were hurt? And I went along with it, I imitated her behavior and second guessed what next cruel thing she'd do. Be a good filly and do as you're told.

Wait! Stop!

Babs destroys their float with just one little kick! It was an accident, I can see it on her face when it goes rolling, but she plays it up like she meant it! "Looks like somepony's pumpkin just got squashed!" I hear myself laugh with Diamond Tiara!

Stop it! This isn't funny! All my friends' hard work just got destroyed!

Then Babs uses what Diamond and me never used, flat out pure and straight physical intimidation.

...Where did this foal learn to act like this? As somepony who wore a mask most her life, I know one when I see one...mom taught me my mask, who taught her hers?

"Come on, Babs, you should hang with us! Y'know, the cool ponies, not these babies!"

Stop it! Yes, I'd love a new friend but I want the Crusaders too! They're not babies! I want to tell Babs she doesn't need to act like this but my mouth won't move!

Babs eagerly goes along. I'm not even able to turn my head and look at my friends and apologize for what just happened! I just trot along with Diamond Tiara and Babs!

But I know they're hurt, of course they're hurt. Applebloom's own cousin just hurt her! And I'm not helping! I'm not giving Babs a piece of my mind like I did Miss Twilight before (I don't know if it'd be right or not, but I know I SHOULD have done it here)! This isn't me anymore! Did I fall through a dimensional portal and end up trapped in an alternate me or something? What's happening?!

We leave the farm without even looking back, like our entire purpose was to come there just to pick up Babs before we even met her...

I feel absolutely rotten inside but my body is smiling like it's having the time of its life!

Diamond Tiara peppers Babs with questions about Manehatten, fashion, the latest trends, whose who, you name it. I don't think she even notices that most of her answers are vague or evasive. After all, high class fillies like us are head over hooves to be able to socialize with a big city girl like her. THIS isn't that bad. A few of my questions I have ACTUALLY get through, but not the ones I WANT to get through! Not 'why are we bullying the Crusaders again?' Not 'why are you scared you'd rather put on this mask than be yourself?' Just about fashion and what it's like in Manehatten!

Both our parents are delighted that we made a new friend. And Diamond's dad is even more happy that she's finally made a friend with one of the Apples instead of always making enemies.

Daddy! Something's wrong with me!...Listen to me daddy! Please! I'm not happy! I'm scared! Can't you see that?!

I notice from the calendars that this is . . . several months ahead? Did . . . did Diamond come back, then I went back to being her minion, Spike was heart broken and couldn't bear to be with the other Crusaders anymore? Did I make some kind of split personality and it's running my body instead of me? Am I the split personality whose job it is to feel guilty for what I'm doing?! Is that why I don't remember anything? Is that why I can't control my body?

Did...am I just a personality that I made to deal with Diamond being gone?

No no! Please no! That can't be right! Calm down, Silver! Keep it together!...There's...there's got to be a good explanation...I-I hope...

It's surreal, seeing Diamond Tiara smiling so much, normally she's smirking or having that . . . sigh, that cruel grin on her face.

"See Diamond Tiara? I told you, the more the merrier!" I heard myself say.

Why couldn't this part be all there is? Me, Diamond, and a new friend sitting around and smiling and talking? Why couldn't the part at the farm just...not be there? Why couldn't the Crusaders just be sitting here talking and smiling with us?!

And things become even stranger. Diamond's always been an opportunist, looking for that one moment she can take advantage of, but she almost never tries to force a situation, she saw what happened when she tries to get the school to laugh at Granny Smith's story of how both their families made Ponyville what it is today.

But Babs, she takes things further! She has us actively hunting Bloom and the others! We've never done that before! Sure, when we had the bad luck of running into them, Diamond always had a snide remark to throw their way, seeing what got a reaction. But we never began LOOKING for them to tease! She's relentless! The biggest joke is? Diamond Tiara and me never do a single thing the entire time but laugh. Babs does everything. From ambushing my friends at the movie theater to tossing them out of Sugarcube Corner. Or stealing Scootaloo's Nightmare Night costume. Diamond and me are practically just along for the ride as we laugh at her hurting Bloom and the others! And we laugh, and don't stop laughing! It's like we're suddenly BOTH Babs' cronies instead of Babs being number three to our little group!

It's Babs who comes up with all the nasty things we do to them, it Babs who plans it out and sets it in motion, and we both just smile and nod, it's all just a game after all. To us. Even as I watch Babs makes my friends cry again and again.

I want to cry...But I just keep smiling...

...The scariest part is, I can still tell it's a mask. Her laugh never gets confident like mine or Diamond's were. It's like this is how she feels she's supposed to act. What happened to her that convinced her this is what a bully is like? Were did she learn this from?

...Are we scared of her? Is that why she's calling the shots now? Because we see a bigger fish than us?...No, Diamond wouldn't stand for that...

..Actually, knowing Diamond, it makes sense. If Babs gets caught: we didn't do anything wrong. Me? I was just the little minion, I didn't care who I was a minion of...

Who am I kidding? Diamond Tiara's way way WAY too full of self-confidence to ever DREAM she'd get caught at anything! Maybe she's just building up Babs to tear her back down? Using her because she knows it'll hurt Applebloom worse? Ugh...why can't I think of a NICE reason she wants to be with Babs?!

Diamond Tiara, she used words like a blade to cut as deep as they can go, and I was her understudy. Babs, she doesn't bother with sublimity or back-hoofed compliments, she just hits them and hits them hard! And I can just hear myself laugh and say, "Good one Babs!"

STOP LAUGHING! THIS ISN'T FUNNY!...I don't want to laugh...I want to cry, why can't I cry?

And then there's the contrast, when the CMC aren't around after 'hunting hours.' And . . . I actually feel like I have control of myself again. As long as I don't try to say or do anything that implies I was feeling sorry for my friends or thought what we were doing was wrong. We play dolls (Babs is actually allowed to be Princess one time), we eat sweets, play video games, go to the movies, Babs LOVES the size of our houses, and we spend as much time giving her the grand tour of our homes as much as we spend giving her a grand tour of Ponyville. Hey, it's not Canterlot, but it's still our hometown and we're proud of it! Then there's when we brushed each other's manes, and Diamond asks Babs why she keeps her tail so short.

"I just like it dat way," She says instantly.

"Maybe you should consider growing it out more, I mean, you don't want to be mistaken for a colt or some-"

"No! I gotta, I mean, who cares what some ponies dat are too dumb to tell a filly from a colt think."

Diamond blinked and conceded Bab's point. Of course I saw Babs' mask slip for the moment, but I didn't say anything. Couldn't say anything. But I could shudder in my own mind wondering why she felt that way.

Babs BRAGS about how she's kicked 'Bloom out of her bed. I feel like my heart broke but I don't act like it...

"I bet she's sleeping at that dumb little clubhouse of theirs," Diamond Tiara says.

Oh no. No no no no! Don't please! Please stop! Don't!

Babs' gets a HUGE grin on her face that reminds me of a shark. Okay, I don't want to know where she learned that from!

We're waiting for the others when they arrive at their clubhouse that afternoon.

Applebloom is already talking about how they still have their treehouse at least . . . except they don't. I want to scream to Applebloom but the words don't even reach my throat.

Babs rubs it in that they've lost their private sanctuary that Applebloom herself restored.

"Y- y- your clubhouse?! This is our clubhouse!" Scootaloo is besides herself in rage.

"Well, it was yours, and now it's mine."

"And mine." I hear myself chirp in. I try to bite my own tongue but it doesn't work!

"And mine," And Diamond adds in.

Bloom, bless her soul, she tries to REASON with Babs, but it's no use.

All three of us do our hoove shake. And it feels, so natural to have Babs there with us. She just, slips into place with us. Just like I fit in with Diamond like a puzzle piece. "Bump, bump, sugar-lump, rump!"

Why couldn't that be all there was?!

Sweetie Belle breaks down crying. And I can't do a thing about it but listen to myself enjoy her misery. I . . . wasn't THIS horrible was I? I wasn't THIS indifferent to the pain and suffering of others? Was I really THIS completely callous on those that got hurt? Did I really get off like this on hurting someone else?!

Babs takes things way beyond anything we've ever done to my friends, but . . . but we're just standing here, laughing and nodded as she does it...Why can't I say Diamond wouldn't do this?...Because she would have. Me and Diamond...Diamond and I had buried our hearts. We didn't even know what empathy was anymore. What kind of little monster am I?

We don't want the club house, not at all, we couldn't care less about it, our parents both respect our privacy enough as it is. But the point is that Bloom and the rest of her fiends DON'T have it, it's just one more thing to rub in their face. We just hang out there for a bit, chatting about little nothing . . . Oh, and because we broke the draw bridge, when we finally have to get down or dinner time . . . it takes a surprising amount of teamwork to get down in one piece. Hey, Diamond and I knew team work perfectly well, we just used it on blank flanks who never did anything to us to make them miserable for no reason other than liking plaything that actually cried when you hurt them...

Oh Celestia...We were just like that monster...We were sadists that just saw other ponies as playthings...

Babs will be leaving for home soon (thank Celestia), but we promise to keep in touch. And she promises that in Manehatten she'd tell all about about her important and influential friends she made during her visit...given what I gathered about her, I think I meant it when I told her 'feel free to.' Yes, I'm somehow trapped in my own head. Yes, she was a big jerk to my friends...but who scared her into thinking she had to be?

Then came the day of the big parade. We saw what the CMC had done, they had rebuilt their float alright, this time as giant shiny gold colored apple. Why couldn't we just be impressed by it enough to leave them alone?!

Sweetie sells it, and stumbles over her words about using the word 'smashing and 'hit' after what Babs did to their last float.

Then I see what they're doing. I don't have a clue WHY they want Babs to steal their float, but I've hanged out with these fillies enough to KNOW reverse psychology when I see it!

For once since this horrible adventure started, Diamond and my body simply go to watch the parade. But Babs notices us noticing her not putting on her tough girl act. So she does what she does best, and pushes it over the top.

Diamond Tiara compliments her on her new trophy, and made a rude comment about mules. But they never take offense.

I'm the only one who seems to notice she just played right into their hooves. Didn't anypony else notice the mattress? And I can't say a thing about it...I don't know if I should be happy or sad about that... I've liked hanging out with Babs. I've liked having her as a friend. And I've been happy to see Diamond being happy with someone else too. But I haven't liked seeing my friends hurt...Shouldn't I be happy to see them finally get some good fortune?

At least I FINALLY get a break from watching my body enjoy their misery!...I...I don't know how much more I could take...

Then the CMC rush to Bab's float, I don't know what's changed, but they shouted something about 'trap' and 'payback' with sorry looks on their faces...What?! Trap?! Payback?! Girls...That isn't you! You never tried to get revenge on us before!...Because we never pushed you that far...we never made you cornered and hurt, just like whoever tortured Babs made her feel...So you tried to protect yourself...just like her...

Then they jump in Pinkie Pie's veggie float (of all the things I've endured, that one was the strangest, Pinkie Pie driving a VEGETABLE float?).

Yes! I get it! I'm noticing all these little tiny details that don't matter! It's either distract myself with the small stuff around me or go bucking crazy from spending Celestia knows how long trapped in myself watching my friends be put through Tartarus and my body enjoying it! I feel like somepony squeezing my heart between their hooves, I...I just want this to be over...please...just let me look at the distracting little details...please...

And Diamond and I . . . we just stand there like idiots. And the floats race clean out of Ponyville and . . . I still just stand there. Why can't I help them?

The Foal Freepress prints a story with a photo taken by Shady Daze. Didn't Featherweight decide he liked being a photographer better than a editor?

Other me doesn't piece it together, but...I don't think the float ended up in the lake on accident...Not with them talking about payback...Thank Celestia they're nice, if they wanted payback on me and Diamond, I think we would be the ones in trouble. At least they were okay...

Babs . . . she avoided us for the next few days . . .Diamond Tiara didn't understand it at all, and she didn't look too happy either. After all, she had something precious taken from her. She made some off hoofed excuse about needing to take care of family business, but she was short and curt about the whole thing. I think I was hurt a little inside the way she said it. Diamond didn't pick up on it, since it contradicted her view of reality. Still..she didn't chew us out or be mean...maybe whatever happened, she still wanted to be our friend...And I finally got a break from watching my body take that sicking joy in seeing my friends suffer! I...I don't know how much more I could have taken...

We still decided to see her off.

I think only I noticed Babs wearing the CMC cape (I had one like it in my closet). Come on come on! Say it! Say something nice! Maybe...maybe this can end well...please...

"So you're leaving huh? Great! Now we're stuck here with these lame blank flanks." Diamond said.

NO! Diamond! Why?! Why did you have to say THAT of all things?! You couldn't just say goodbye?!

My friends were hurt by her words, AJ looked ready to chew us out on the spot. Diamond is being a lot more ruthless than normal, since when does she hurt them when adults can see it? . . . Is she going to miss Babs that much?

"Hey! That's not how you talk to my friends!" Babs storms over to us before Applejack can say anything.

YES! Come on! Please! Mouth say what I want! Please, just this once?!

"F-friends?" I hear mysellf gasp out. They're my friends too!!! YES! Please! Care more about your friend than your stupid grudge!...I don't know if I meant me or Diamond.

"Yeah, you got a problem with that?" Babs said address both of us, of course, we're two sides of the same two headed dragon after all aren't we?

No, I don't have a problem with it! I'm happy about it! Dang it! Mouth, just speak! Speak before Diamond can! Maybe if she sees you still want to be Babs friend it'll shock some sense into her!

Of course I don't...I'm being the nice little minion not wanting to rock the boat...

Diamond isn't one to ever lose face, even if it means she's likely to get worse if she doesn't back down. Her self image is one of her most precious possessions. "Well, what if I do? What are you gonna do about it?"

"Tell your mothers about your bad attitudes!"

Sorry Babs. That wouldn't be as good a threat as you think it is, I don't know if my mother would care what you have to say (my dad on the other hoof...) and . . . Diamond looks like she's just been threatened to have her heart ripped out. I swear I hear it CRACK.

Babs gives us the same killer look she's been giving the CMC all this time, I feel my heart leap into my throat. We back up and . . . into the mud we go. What idiot put a pig sty right next to a train platform? How does that make sense?

Okay, NOW my mom is going to be furious.

A pig gets on Diamond's tiara by accident as she's still laying there in the mud in shock, I look up, mud on my glasses, the world was blurred. The pig dumbly looks at me, like I belonged there with the rest of the swine.

Babs and the other fillies all high hoof each other.

Okay, maybe Applejack would just stand there before, acting like we deserved it (I admit it! We did before! We WERE little monsters! Sadistic, spoiled rotten little monsters whose parents should've spanked them a long time ago!) but she knows me now! Why would she just stand there?!

...Am I really going to let this happen? Let some freaky curse or split personality take away my friends? Take over my body and make me back into the monster I stopped being? Stop me from making a perfectly good friend when she's standing right in front of me?

Babs gets ready to leave. If she leaves, I might never get the chance to be her friend, she'll remember me as a bully!

Am I really just going to stand here?

No...NO!

I can't take it anymore! This isn't right! This isn't me! These aren't my friends! This isn't my life! These aren't my choices! I wouldn't do this! NOT ANYMORE!!

I feel like I'm pushing my way out of being buried in the ground, but I MAKE my body move. I FORCE my mouth to move how I want it to! Diamond stares at me in shock, I don't think she knows what to think.

I've been somepony's little puppet all my life! I'm not being a puppet of my own BODY! I'm cutting the strings NOW!

I push my way back up onto the planks of the train station, and scream at the top of my lungs, "BABS I'M SORRY!!!"

Everypony's faces are the picture of shock. My words echo across Ponyville it feels like. I feel like I just broke the laws of physics...again...except this time without the improvised time machine. They look at me like I've grown two heads or something. Babs turns to look at me, her face the picture of confusion, when was the last time she ever heard a bully apologize for anything?

Then she flickered like a buggy monitor, her face frozen still, and then I heard static clawing against my ears. And it was like the entire world cracked in two before my eyes leaving a white jagged line across the sky and through the ground and through ponies who stood perfectly still like a picture torn in half.

I noticed I could finally move on my own again...what happened?

"Silver Spoon, that wasn't like you at all," Diamond Tiara said calmly, except now she was standing on the top of the platform in front of Babs and the others were frozen solid. "Silver Spoon never apologizes for anything to anyone. Silver Spoon never says she's sorry. And she certainly never apologizes to a blank flank let alone one who just got her dirty."

I got up fully on the platform. Fog began to slowly creep in. I wiped the mud from my glasses.

Diamond Tiara had a horn and wings. Her face didn't have any expression at all. She just seemed...blank. I won't say like a doll, but...

...I don't care. I've had months to think of what to say here. And now that my mouth is working again, I'm going to say it! She could have turned into Queen Tiamat for all I care! I'm not keeping my mouth shut!

"I do apologize to my friends!"

"You don't have friends Silver Spoon, all you have is those you leech off of, and those who you smile and nod to."

"Yes I do!"

"You don't MAKE friends, Silver Spoon, you're a heartless sadistic little creature that gravitated towards a BIGGER sadistic little creature. You would've have become a bully with or without us ever meeting. You're just a bad seed."

"That isn't me!"

"Silver Spoon this is the real you, don't be so stubborn," she said like I was refusing to take my cough medicine.

"This isn't the real me! I just always did what I was told! Even if . . . even if that meant helping you make other ponies miserable."

"Silly Silver Spoon, that's just an excuse you tell yourself. You're as sadistic and selfish as me, you were always destined to never be more than my shadow, that was just a delusion that you had any sort of goodness in you. You love seeing ponies squirm, you love the looks of fear, sadness and futile anger. Your heart sings for joy at others' despair...no, that would require you had a heart, which you don't. If I was gone you should have done your duty and melted away into nothingness as a bully's toadies are supposed to do."

"I WAS YOUR FRIEND! NOT YOUR TOADY!"

"You're a little heartless bully who latched onto a bigger heartless bully and that's all you can ever really be! Sooner or later you'll realize being bad feels better than being good, and you'll just bully your 'friends' again. You'll become another me, just like a two headed dragon if it lost one head is still a dragon. PONIES LIKE US CAN NEVER CHANGE! We're not allowed! It's in the rules!"

++++

'Well my dear? Did you enjoy your little peak into the heart world?'

"I have no heart. I don't 'enjoy' anything."

'So you got nothing from it?'

"I learned. I saw. I understand."

'And what was that?'

"I am a monster."

'And?'

"And that is the only thing I can be."

'I didn't quite hear you, say it again.'

"I am a monster, and it is the only thing I can be."

'Care to elaborate?'

"I am cruel. I have no heart. I am vicious. I am petty. I am sadistic. I am selfish. My friend was just an add on. I am the filth of creation, and who gives a hay? I enjoy hurting others. I despise giving praise, I despise giving kindness or mercy or being generous. I see all others as playthings. I despise hard work. There are four lights. Two plus two equals four. A is A. I was born into this world to hate and be hated. I loath the happiness of others. This is all I can possibly be, it is all I could have ever been. I was all these things before I ever met you. I was MADE to be this, there is no escaping reality: a little monster is all I ever was, and the greatest thing I could hope to grow up into, is a bigger monster."

'WONDERFUL! Wonderful! It took me millions of years to realize that one! Oh I'm so proud! You're catching up so fast!'

"Yes Father."

++++

"Since when do you care about rules Diamond Tiara?!"

"Are you going to resort to semantics now Silver Spoon? I'm disappointed in you."

"But it's the truth, isn't it?! Name one time you've ever cared about the rules!"

"It doesn't matter if a rock cares about the rules or not, it'll stay just a rock all the same. There are four lights. Two plus two equals four. A is A. And Silver Spoon is still Silver Spoon, and Silver Spoon is a little shameless bully who only cares about her only 'friend', because they're in the same tax codex and it's convenient to their fathers."

"...You're wrong."

"And why is that? Because you're my victim? I 'made' you a monster? I was never your friend, I was only using you as a minion?"

"No...Because I made myself a little monster...and you know why I did?"

"Simple, because you were born to be a monster. That is all you exist to be."

"No. Because I didn't want to leave you alone."

"Of course you didn't, you were just my posse. That's what you were made to be. My accessory that was a pony. You couldn't leave me alone if you tried."

"...I wish I could say I wasn't like that, but the truth? I was...I had no personality without you. 'Do as you're told,' I was excusing myself."

"Exactly. And without me, you have no purpose. All you would be is the pointless accessory a little girl lost behind the sofa and never wanted or bothered to look for."

"...Then why am I still here when you've been gone for months?"

"Because I'm still here obviously, you can't free yourself from me. Your entire purpose would END after you ditch me. Your entire function then would be just to say how awful a little monster I AM, and then walk away, then vanish into nothing."

"...You were an awful little monster who tortured three innocent little fillies just to make yourself feel better, and so was I!" I said pointedly. And then waited for a few minutes. "Still here."

"You didn't mean it, that's why."

"...But I did. I KNOW we were sadists. I know we were monsters. I know we were so spoiled rotten Queen Tiamat could probably smell us from here."

"Then why aren't you just walking away? If I'm such a monster, why aren't you leaving?"

"...Because I'm not a monster anymore. I'm one of the Cutie Mark Crusaders and proud of it."

"That doesn't make sense, Silver, you have a Cutie Mark."

"Yes, I do...and I don't have a clue what it actually means!"

"It means you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth. Just like mine meant I was born to be an entitled little brat."

I actually face-hoofed. No, not at her. At myself for the fact I used to believe that. "Then why did we earn them in things that had nothing to do with being spoiled rotten?"

"Stealing my mother's jewelry doesn't count as spoiled rotten? Pst."

"And me getting mine at a charity drive?"

"Simple. You were handling money. Charity drives look nice, but really? They're just a tax deduction for the one that does it. That's the only thing that big businesses see them as: tax write offs. Do you even remember what charity it was?"

I cringed...I didn't...

"Exactly. Because it didn't matter. You did it because you were told to do. You did it because your mother told you to do it. You did it because you're a toady for whoever wants you to be. That's your special talent, Silver: being a toady. Doesn't that make sense? What use is a spoon with nopony to hold it? None. It's worthless. Just like you without me."

My eyes shrunk to pinpricks.

"You're only good for being rich and a little minion. My minion, your parent's minion, the Crusader's minion. I bet if Discord returned, you'd make a wonderful minion for him. You aren't good for anything. You're WORTHLESS. You're right, you're spoiled rotten. And what does Miss Applejack do with rotten apples? Throw the worthless things away."

I felt tears well up in my eyes...no...this is...

"What have you ever done, Silver on your own? Who has ever liked you when you weren't of any use to them at all? Who would miss you if you died? I know I wouldn't. Your parents?They'd just have another foal to replace you. Fillies like you are a dime a dozen. You're a worthless, pointless, little waste of space."

"What have you ever done, Silver on your own?! Who has ever liked you when you weren't of any use to them at all?! Who'd miss you if you died?! I know I wouldn't! Your parents?They'd just have another foal to replace you! Fillies like you are a dime a dozen! You're a worthless, pointless, little waste of space! Who needs you? Not me."

...Diamond hasn't lost her touch...I felt like she'd cut me it hurt so bad. I...I remembered that day...that terrible moment when the Diamond I'd known had broken my heart.

The scariest part was...she had no emotion as she spoke. It was like this was logic to her instead of insults.

...Yes, I admit it, I feel like she was trampling my heart...but I remember why that moment changed my life, how it did. How I finally stopped being everypony's eager willing puppet and started actually being somepony with a mind of her own.

"...I...I'm not worthless...I'm not worthless!" I snapped back, not caring I was crying. "The Crusaders took me in! They didn't need to! I wasn't of use to them at all back then! I was their BULLY! That was the only Silver Spoon they'd ever known! And they STILL helped me...they still SAVED me...My Cutie Mark...I don't know what it means, but it's not 'being born with a silver spoon in my mouth' or being a minion...the heart in the handle is more important. Just because I don't remember the charity doesn't mean it didn't matter to me!"

"So what I said that day didn't hurt?"

"Of course it hurt! I've never been hurt worse in my entire life! Even what Discord did to me didn't hurt that bad!"


'Good work, my little engine of destruction, oh I'm so proud.'

Not now, papa. I'm busy.


"Oh, and let me guess, you'd never have done the same thing?"

"...No, I wouldn't have...but only because I'm not as good at it as you are. You've always had a tongue like a sword, Diamond. And you've always loved to use it...I...when you first bullied a pony, I didn't want to...I did it because you did. I admit it, my heart was never in it like yours was. Oh, I ENJOYED it! But you LOVED it."

She rolled her eyes. Not in annoyance, but like Miss Twilight did when someone said something stupid. "So you're the lesser of two evils, how original. You're absolutely right, Silver. I loved breaking hearts. When I look back at what I did? I just wish I'd been a better villain instead of just a little brat. I wish I'd broken their hearts so thoroughly they considered killing themselves. And if the powers that be had allowed it, to the point they actually did."

I shuddered.

"Am I lying?"

"I...I don't know..."

"Well I'm not. If I had a do over, I'd tell Scootaloo if we were in a world where it was true, she'd be spectra by now. I'd tell Sweetie Belle she's so far behind every other unicorn in existence that she can't even use any magic, and is either too dumb to learn...or maybe her horn is defective. And I'd have told Applebloom her parents didn't love her enough to stick around to see her grow up, that maybe if they hadn't had her they'd still be alive. And then I'd pick and pry away at it until they couldn't take it anymore and..." Her horn sparked for a moment and...and...

NO! I'm NOT telling you what image just flashed in my head!

"And you know what? I would have made that lecture to you hurt even more than it already did. I would've ripped your heart out instead of breaking it. I wonder how your daddy would've felt coming home to find you hanging from-"

"STOP IT! THAT'S ENOUGH!"

"Did I make you mad, Silver?"

"...Yes."

"Does the thought of me wishing I'd drove your 'friends' to suicide make you furious?"

"...Yes, it does."

"And me wishing I had to you?"

"...It makes me feel sick to my stomach...it makes me think you're a monster..."

"Then thank you, for setting ME free. I told you you'd fulfill your role perfectly. Tell me to 'have a nice life', or a bad one, or that I should die instead, tell me 'I'm done with you' tell me 'you've made this a lot easier than I thought it was going to be' say how you've cut me loose from yourself like the bad influence I am!"

"...No."

Diamond's expression didn't change, but her voice seemed somewhat confused. Like someone was asking her to divide by zero and how ridiculous that was.. "What did you say?"

"No, I'm not done with you," I said, sternly. "...Because I know if you had been like that, I probably would've just reacted however you did. I didn't HAVE standards back then, your standards were mine. If it wasn't too low for you, it wasn't too low for me. How can I condemn you for something I would've done?"

"Because I'm worse than you. I'd be dancing on your friends' graves right now if I had a do over. And yours."

"...That's lie."

"Oh no, I really would."

"I know you'd dance on their graves, but you wouldn't dance on mine...and I'd never dance on yours."

She actually seemed surprised...I think. "...You would. If I died right now, you'd sing a song and celebrate."

"No, I wouldn't. I'd bawl my eyes out and plead with whatever god I could find for it not to happen."

"Are you stupid? I just finished telling you that if given the chance I'd literally destroy your friends' wills to live."

"And I just told you I would have helped you. I had no will of my own, I was your toady. I was a minion...but I changed. And if I'd have been however bad you were, then why should I think you couldn't change?"

"You just said you hated what you used to be. You said we were alike. Therefore you should hate me moron."

"You're right. I hate what you ARE, but I don't hate YOU."

"That makes no sense."

"Of course it does. Just how you still missed your mother with all your heart even though she wasn't even herself anymore!"

"...The petty, cruel, vindictive, heartless, shameless bully IS myself. You're the one who isn't herself anymore."

"If you're so petty, cruel, vindictive, heartless, and shameless, then drive me to suicide right now!"

Yes, I know exactly how that sounded...And no, I didn't think she couldn't do it. I'm an emotionally fragile filly with serious self esteem issues and she can cut like a knife with her words...but I honestly didn't think she'd do it...not to me.

She stared at me with a perplexed look. Not confused, that'd be an emotion, more like analytic. But she didn't move.

"Come on! You said you were so heartless! Do it!"

"...No."

"Why?"

"Because there's no point to it. It'd not do me any good. It'd probably cause me more trouble than it's worth."

"...Well you know what? You're right, I'm not the pony I used to be. But I'm still Silver Spoon. I hate what you DO, I hate what I DID. I hate what I COULD have done. But...I don't hate us...I don't hate you. I just want my friend back and to keep my NEW friends!"

"You think I'd be caught dead being friends with a Blank Flank?"

"Yeah, I do. You were friends with Babs in this...whatever this was."

"...No I wasn't."

"If you weren't, then why did we show up to send her off?"

"That isn't what I would do."

"No, I think it is. Because you and I never cared about the fact they were Blank Flanks. If they'd earned their marks, then we'd have just found something else to pick on...I think I'm the one who should be complaining about this not being how I'd have acted."

"You'd have done what you were supposed to: been my toady."

I took a deep breath. "No, I wouldn't have. Not anymore...If things were like they were headed now?"

I thought back to how this...whatever it is began. "You wouldn't have been there, I'd have been going to Sweet Apple Acres to help them work on their float and so would've been Spike."

= Determination Towards Battle - Lunar Silver Star Story Complete =

"Hey Applebloom...Who's your new friend?"

"This is mah cousin Babs! She's from Manehatten!"

"Oh...Hello, Babs. I'm Applebloom's friend, Silver Spoon."

"Uh...hey..."

"So...are you going to join the crusaders? I see you're a bla-I mean you don't have your Cutie Mark."

"I admit it, I'd probably slip up a little, I'm so used to calling not having your Cutie Mark a blank flank, it WOULD be force of habit...and then I'd see her reaction to it. Babs wasn't like us, Diamond. Our motive was to feel better about ourselves, it was a pain reliever we'd got a addicted to...her's was terror. She was terrified of bullies. And you saw how tough she was. I'm honestly scared to think of how nasty a bully would have to be to have that effect on somepony."

"Are you okay?"

"Y-Yeah, why do you think I ain't?"

"For one, you're acting like a dog expecting somepony to hit it."

"...Is it dat obvious?"

"No, I've just got experience with reading ponies."

"So the little pony destined to be good gets sympathy and I get hate?"

"Who said you'd just get hate? I just hadn't gotten to you yet. If I had it my way?"

"...I...I guess I just feel worthless without my mark...like I don't matter."

"I know how you feel," YOU would say.

"But, why would I be there?"

"Because I know one thing about you, Diamond...you don't like to be alone. And I wouldn't leave you. Even if I had to spend every moment from the...present to that moment trying, I'd be determined to be both your friend and the Crusaders'."

"But that's impossible, you aren't supposed to have a goal of your own."

"I'm a Crusader now," I said, giving a smirk. No smugness. No cruelty. Just a friendly smile. "And Crusaders can be quite determined when we put our minds to it."

"...You think I still have a heart, Silver?"

"Yes, and if you don't, I'll get you to grow one. Now, where was I?"

"Wait, so yer a Crusader? Ya got a Cutie Mark..."

"Yes, but...I'm still learning what it means."

"...Den what about da dragon?"

"I'm knda the chaperon."

"Oh...I gotcha. I think..."


"Milkshakes on me!" I called.

"On you? But there's like seven of us..."

"Don't worry about it, my allowance will cover it."

"Yer rich?!"

"Yeah, one of the richest in Ponyville."

"Ya don't act like any of da rich ponies I know..."

"I probably used to...but I learned my lesson."


The seven of us would ride in the undestroyed pumpkin float, Babs proudly wearing her CMC cape.

Pinkie would still be driving her veggie float...for some reason...She's Pinkie, even I don't know why she would be.


"So you're going to start up a Manehatten branch of the Crusaders?" Applebloom would ask.

"Yeah, and tell my sis about da bullies."

Applejack would still offer her support if she needs it.

"And tell those rich snobs your friends with the Riches," you would say.

"...Yer name is Rich?"

"Yes."

"Diamond, we kind of used to be rich snobs," I would remind. "But she's right. Tell them the Silvers are your friends too."

"Will do."

"And if that doesn't work, you could always act crazy," Scootaloo would say. "That will probably freak them out."

"How 'bout doin' this?" Babs would ask and do that creepy smirk of hers again.

"...Why do you know how to do that?"

"I watch a lotta horror movies..."

"...Does yer sister know about that?" Applejack would ask.

"Uh..."

"Don't lie to her, it's a waste of breath, trust me," I would advise.

"...Some of 'em."

"See yah later, cousin!" Applebloom would shout, hugging her. Then the Crusaders and us.

Then the three of us would get together...

"Bump! Bump! Sugar lump rump!"

"And that's how it'd go."

"You just made all of that up."

" . . . but that doesn't mean it isn't true."

"It doesn't mean it's true either."

"But it's what I want to be true," I told her, looking up at her. "I want you to be my friend. Mine and the Crusaders. I know you can be a good pony, Diamond...if I can, I know you can."

I approached her slowly.

"What are you doing?"

"Showing my friend I care," I reply, getting closer.

"You think you can hurt me?" Her horn glowed.

"Who said anything about hurting you?" I didn't stop.

"Because." She said matter of factly. "That's what that friend of the villain means when they say 'showing that they care.' That's how it's supposed to go."

"I know. I've read comic books with the others. But I'm not a comic book. I'm Silver Spoon. And you're my friend." I smiled at her, and I think of every happy time we had together, that out-numbered the times we had spent hurting my new friends.

"...It's time you woke up, Silver," she said.

Suddenly, black...I don't WANT to know came off her in waves. Gah!

Each wave...it felt like it was...trying to rip something out of me...what...what am I feeling?

I fall to my knees, looking up at her before me. She doesn't care...I'm hurting but she doesn't care...she doesn't care about anything. Nothing matters to her. She has no heart to reach. There's nothing to save...

Who am I kidding? Diamond's irredeemable...she's a monster. It's pointless to try to reach her. It's like trying to teach the darkness to be light. It's like trying to teach a leopard to change its spots...

The Diamond I knew is de-

"NO!"

The Diamond I know is NOT dead!

I force myself to my hooves and move forwards, staggering each time a wave of darkness...of despair...of nothingness hits me. Each one whispering in my ears it's pointless...that I should just give up on ever trying to save her. That trying is like trying to make a Manticore a vegetarian.

I won't lie...I came this close to believing that so many times I lost count...but she's my friend...the Crusaders didn't give up on me, I'm not giving up on her.

I finally stood right in front of her, using every ounce of strength I could to stand my ground.

She took a trot back and flared her wings, her horn glowed more. "Stay back."

I unsteadily got on my rear hooves, I nearly toppled forwards and backwards a few times, the waves of hopelessness trying their hardest to knock me on my flank and almost succeeding more times than I could count. I reached out my forelegs to her for a hug.

"This isn't supposed to happen, you're supposed to break or disown me."

"Sorry, Diamond, but I'm not following that script."

I don't stop. And I imagine the other Crusaders, me, and her, hugging each other, and smiling, being happy to have friends. My hooves actually touch her. I feel like I'm reaching into freezing water, but I don't recoil. I don't care if I have to thaw an entire lake, I'm going to save my friend!

"Get away!" She screamed like I was threatening to rip her heart out. She stared at me shaking and back-peddling for a moment as I didn't stop my attempted hug. It was strange. It...It looked like that little bit of fear she had for a fleeting moment was wrong to be there...or right and the rest of her was wrong. Suddenly, a ragged black cloak was wrapped around herself, and she flew away, fleeing into the mist like I was a fire and she was made of wood. And that was when the entire world turned white.

I stared up at where she'd gone. I wasn't disheartened...I think in a way, that just made me more determined.

"I meant it Diamond..." I said out loud. "Someday, I'm going to save you...I'm a Cutie Mark Crusader now, and I swear, part of my crusade will be saving you."

I found myself in my cape. When had I put it on?

"Hey! Silver!" called a voice.

I turned to see my five friends standing behind me.

"We're going to go be Cutie Mark Crusaders mecha pilots, wanna come?" Sweetie asked.

"Didn't we do that already?" I asked.

"This time we're using TRANSFORMING mecha!" Scootaloo says.

I rolled my eyes, but gave a smile. "Sure. But this time I get to control the head, okay?"

"Aww! Ah wanted the head!"

"You got it last time!"

I followed my friends on another silly adventure. I didn't know or care what we would get into this time. All that mattered was I was with my friends. And someday I'd get my other friend back.

I'm not that Silver Spoon anymore. And I never will be again. But I'm still me. And I'm still Diamond's friend. Whether she's here or not. Whether she thinks I am or not.

Where was that knocking coming from? I hope the giant robot didn't lose its arm again.

Our maid Clean Dishes/Clean Bandages called, "Silver Spoon! Time to wake up!"

Huh?

I was in my bed. I breathed, I blinked, I moved, "T-thank you!" I called. I could speak on my own. I could move on my own! I checked the calendar . . . it was the day after I had gone to bed. I looked around, silver finery and stuffed animals everywhere. It was my room. I looked at myself in my large bedroom mirror. It was me. It was Silver Spoon. I ran to my closet and opened the door, happy to see the CMC cape still hanging there. I breathed the world's biggest sigh of relief.

"Thank you," I whispered to Luna, Celestia, Cadence, and any other Alicorn listening. I stroked the cape a few times, and then looked at a photo on my dresser of me and Diamond Tiara last Nightmare Night (last one we had together at least) and our giant bags of candy.

We'd actually not even realized which costumes the Crusaders were wearing until after it was over...We didn't care. We'd...we'd just been FOALS. Time to head out. I smiled,


I used to think hurting others was really neat.
I didn't need new friends, the game was such a treat.

But then I saw the price of this release, it didn't makes me best, it make me least.

I am no bad seed,
I am a friend in deed!

I Let my heart grow stale,
But some things aren't for sale!

Being a bully, I didn't care it wasn't right.
Why be a blessing, when it's so much fun to be a blight?

But why was I helped by those I was a bane?
Why show me kindness when I gave was pain?

I never cared how ponies hearts were frail.
But my own enemies gave me shelter from the gale.

Through it all they never failed,
Even when ditching me was easier they saved me from the hail.

And now it's here I'm sure you'll agree,
It's not just about being under the bigger tree,

Cause now I finally see,
That happiness shared by many friends is the key to being free!

I am no bad seed!
I am a friend indeed!

~Fin

Pony POV Series
Silver Spoon
There Are No Bad Seeds

Episode 159: Invitations Sent And Lots and lots of Ponies

View Online

My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic
Pony POV Series
Not The Wedding You Remember
Part 1
Invitations Sent
By Alex Warlorn

Please understand, a lot of our interview notes, and on the sight recordings were destroyed or lost in the conflict that was to come. And we kinda didn't have time to get these really orderly with all that's going on.

So we're sorry if we write briefly in more than a few places. MANY ponies and other creatures were involved here. And we don't have the time left to give full credit and detail to all of them. But I hope what we've managed to recover and bring together here, will help you appreciate these grand events you have demanded to see.

Also, with recent revelations, and changes, we can finally show a complete exchange between us, and Shining that we dearly wanted to share before.

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Wait... you mean that wasn't the real ending?! WAAHHHHH!)

Oh Celestia, don't cry, don't cry... Just think of it as an alternative ending! Like how Colonial Mareines is an alternative ending to Xenomorphs... And is somehow worse than Xenomorphs 3 and Xenomorphs Revivification...

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): I'm... I'm not allowed to read those books... mommy told me a long time ago they'd give me scary nightmares.)

Your mommy sounds like a very smart mare. Well then, we can't be having nightmares now, can we? Here. Let me gets these tears off your face. Somepony as nice as you shouldn't have to tears on her muzzle.

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Oh... uh, thank you. you're a good hugger. Can you give Smarty Pants one too?)

Huh? Oh sure! There she goes.

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Thank you!)

Even when he wasn't aware of what we were, his heart still was.

--Half-Light Noon

+++

"Pitcher Plant."

"Yes my Queen?" She responded to the queen who had named her after her premature hatching the day Chrysalis had become queen.

"Until I call for you and our workforce and nymphs, I leave our home, Hive Jormungand, in your care."

The changeling in constant Zebra form curtsied, "Yes my Queen. May your day be perfect."

++++

"You may kiss the bride."

The lovely couple kissed, and everypony cheered, and everydonkey too!

Cranky Doodle could be stubborn, but even he could admit when he was wrong, Filthy Rich had been right: it was good to finally marry Matilda after a donkey's lifetime of looking for her. Which for a donkey was a very long time! (It led some to wonder if Granny Smith had any hinnys stashed away in her family tree.)

Pinkie Pie had offered a blond toupee in exchange for Cranky's black one (never mind how she EVEN KNEW he wore a toupee!), but Matilda still liked his black one and that settled that.

Matilda was also the only person who Cranky had told the real story of Cranky's day of Discord. Not the lie he told everypony else. He had been traveling between towns, that was true. But Discord had taken notice of him. Cranky wasn't one for deep story telling and kept his descriptions brief and to the point.

Cranky slipped and slide along the road as it turned to soap and the landscape turned to checkerboard, and Princesses were apparently squabbling as sisters tended to do. And a tree he swore stepped into his way so he'd bang into it!

Having been blessed to be born a donkey instead of a pony, Cranky didn't have a cutie mark for Discord to imitate, the king of anti-understanding had appeared in his true form.

Introductions had been swift and to the point.

"So you're the one causing this stupid mess?"

"It's not stupid, IT'S SENSELESS!" Discord grinned absurdly wide his pointy teeth glistening. "This is stupid," he said, snapping his fingers and creating a candle, which he promptly lit at both ends.

"You think this is fun?" Cranky asked his face straight as an arrow.

"Confusion and disorder are always fun!"

"I'm not smiling."

Discord snapped his fingers.

"There! Now you're smiling!" Discord had grinned.

"I'm not smiling stupid, you're just making my face smile."

"What's the difference?"

"It's not real you idiot!"

"You mean like THIS?" Discord grabbed his toupee.

"Hey!" Cranky grasped for it, but Discord kept pulling it out of his reach like a dog trainer.

Discord looked at it, "Now why would a donkey, so stiff and stern, be so ashamed of being bald? Oh why why why?...Could there be somepony, excuse me, someJENNY that you want to look nice for if in a one in a million chance you happen to find her?"

"Leave her out of this YOU LOSER!"

"...do you have any idea what I could do to you?"

"Exactly what you're going to do if I pretend to be nice OR tell you how pathetic you are anyway!"

"Whose really the pathetic one little donkey? The all-powerful idea of chaos itself, who can do whatever he wants? Or the old, very bald donkey whose spent his entire long life going from town to town trying to find a jenny he met once in his life?"

"The 'all-powerful one' who STILL needs to bully others like a foal to feel big!"

"Like you felt big that one tiny night in your entire lonely life?"

"I've made more than a few friends over the years, there's been nothing lonely about it."

"But you've still constantly looked for that one jenny who made you feel special that one time. Tell me, how can you even forgive her? For making it sound like you'd spend your lives together, and then she vanishes without a trace."

"This should be fun for you, because I'm betting it doesn't make sense to you, but donkeys are, ponies are, Equestria is about love, it's what makes us special. And love doesn't hold grudges!"

"I know!" Discord rolled his eyes, "Ponies, they're all full of compassion and forgiveness. They trip over themselves ready to forgive, almost anything. It's their inherent weakness-spot."

"As a non-pony, let me tell you: it's a strength."

"For some reason, you make me think of the one I 'borrowed' my wonderful winning voice from."

---
(In Another Universe Far Far Away)

An all powerful being disguised as a pony in a star fleet uniform sat in a infinite and complex quantum nexus currently disguised as a gas station in a desert. He held up a sign that read,

'That ******* Discord. I'm going to ******* ****** his ***** up his ****** then ******* his *******!!!!'

A blond member of the same race of all powerful beings popped next to him.

"Greeting fellow member of omnipotent single letter species, what is that on your shoulder?"

The sign now read, 'It's called a conscience, thought I'd give it a try.'

'It looks like a draconequus.'

'Bought it off of E-Bray.'

"How's that working out?"

'Well, mortals seem to like me more.'
---
(Back In Equestria)

"Oh whatever!" Discord tossed the toupee back to the donkey, "Know why I'm giving that back to you?"

"For the reason you're about to tell me."

Discord growled, "Because! There's nothing I can do to you, to make your sad little life MORE miserable! You've done my job for me! Your sad, lonely, empty, shallow, with nothing but memories and trinkets to keep you company, pathetically throwing away your ONE life looking for a jenny you met once!...Or...I could tell you where she is...assuming she's alive of course...all you need to do is say 'Discord is funky, and super tubular,' and mean every word."

"Matilda..." Cranky whispered. "BUCK! YOU!" He told the beast.

"Remember . . ." Discord said cheerfully, "When you die all alone, unloved and unmourned, it's because you couldn't give someequus a compliment! Bye-bye!" Discord laughed and vanished.

Cranky spat air, and continued down the road after the wave of rainbow light repaired the world.

Last night Matilda wouldn't stop whispering, "My Doodle, you were so strong and brave facing up to that big-lipped chimera."

Cranky had said, "He was no different than a foal carrying around a pie like it makes them a king.."

But that was now all in the past, and both of the donkeys had their long lives ahead of them now.

Pinkie Pie cried gushers at the wedding, "It's so beautiful!"

Tootsie Flute nodded, having served as flower filly.

As fate would have it, many of Ponyville's big-name residents were out of town, and that was fine by the donkeys. Cranky believed in making his own fate. Their friends in Canterlot had told them a major royal wedding in was in the works, which drew all the attention away from two no-face, no-name donkeys tying the knot. And Cranky couldn't be happier about it. This was his and Matilda's special day, he didn't want a bunch of look-seers and fair weather friends crowding it. It made the perfect time.

And Filthy Rich's very generous donations to the festivities had not gone to waste, the wedding had all the beauty and prestige of a miniature Grand Galloping Gala. Cranky didn't care for it, but he knew Matilda loved it, and that was the point.

Filthy Rich himself however, was not in attendance, his maid, Shiny Star, had attended in his place. She only said Filthy Rich had very personal, and very important family issues in Canterlot, but he wished the newly wed couple well.

+++++

Cheerilee looked at the clock on the wall, she had managed to complete the grading of that week's pop quiz before they got here. That was good, she wanted to give these foals her full attention.

She knew she should have given this task to a royal guard, but these three fillies had proven very fast, and very good at avoiding authority figures from police to their own parents. Sometimes you needed to fight fire with fire.

"LETUSGOYOULITTLEBLANKS!" "YOUREGONNABESORRY!" "WHENIGETMYHOOVESONYOU!"

"Cutie Mark Crusader Truancy Officers Take Two! YEAH!"

Cheerilee groaned. "Girls...you didn't need to tie them up."

"They wouldn't stop squirming," Scootaloo defended.

"They tried to bite me!" Sweetie Belle said in her sweater and dream-catcher.

"DID NOT!"

"We still get that extra credit right?" Applebloom asked. The CMC didn't care much about extra-credit, but they did care if it gave them brownie points with their teacher to get more time to perform more experiments to find out what their special talents were.

Cheerilee sighed, she didn't like encouraging this type of behavior. Sadly she hadn't bothered to include 'not to hog-tie' on the list of ways the fillies couldn't get Checkered Flag, Grace Lightning, and Hot Wheels here to speak with their teacher.

"I'll...let you girls know. Can you please give us some alone time?"

"Are you going to be okay Miss Cheerilee?" Applebloom asked. That Cheerilee had been one of Princess Gaia's willing supporters, the same Princess Gaia who had trapped Applebloom in tease of getting her cutie mark, had done very very little to defuse the foals positive view of their teacher.

"I'll be fine girls, I promise, now scoot along." Cheerilee realized what she had just said when Scootaloo gave her a look and the founding members of the CMC left.

"Untie us already!" Checkered Flag snapped.

"In a minute," Cheerilee said as she sat down in front of the foals.

"You girls have been absent from school for a long time. I allow home schooling, but your parents are all worried, your grades have been dropping. And the attitude you've been showing other foals at the roller rink has not been encouraging. I've talked it over with your parents, and they've conceded that you need more socialization in a noncompetitive environment."

"School's a competition, same as any other, there's winners and then there's losers," Hot Wheel said.

"If I may ask, why did you even tease Dinky to begin with? Do you even know? Did you even once think about it? Did you ever have a reason to begin with? Why her? Why not her? Did it make you feel better? Or were that bored and uninspired that it was all you could think of?"

"HEY! We're not stupid!" Hot Wheels snapped, "And it was just a joke."

"SHE didn't think it was just a joke."

"That's her fault!"

"It's always somepony else's fault isn't it? You three barely even think of yourselves as yourselves anymore. It's always the three of you. I've seen friends who act like they're one pony before, and it's normally healthy. The three that brought you in are a good example. But you three have turned it into an excuse to do whatever, and then just say 'it was part of the group' 'not my fault.' You don't even try to think about it."

"That's not true! We're plenty ourselves!"

"Is it Grace? Or have you noticed I've been talking to all three of you, and none of you have objected to that? Like you three are the heads of Cerberus. Like you three are carbon copies instead of three parts of a whole." The roller fillies eyes widened and they looked at each other, looking a tiny bit scared.

"I ask again, why did you tease Dinky?"

The three roller fillies look at each other again, confused, scared, showing the foals they were underneath all that bravado, desperation hoping one of the other two had the answer.
-
I give them a full minute before saying. "In other words, you were just doing what you thought everypony else was doing," I said flatly.

They settled down. And humbled and smaller, I knew this wasn't the end solution, but it was a start in the right direction.

Dinky...that filly had gone through so much. They all had, but she had more than her share even before The Day The World Unzipped.

Many foals were naturally the same race of pony as their parents, and were confused and unsure of a unicorn having a pegasus for a mother. It didn't help that Derpy Hooves was generally considered Ponyville's resident featherbrain who more than once got Rainbow Dash's direction wrong for winter wrap up, some weather peagsi actually took sick days when she was scheduled just to avoid her (Rainbow Dash being Weather Team Captain didn't have that option).

This all came back down on Dinky, who was teased for being as 'stupid' as her mother. I don't blame Derpy's elder daughter Sparkler for fleeing Ponyville to start a new life in Canterlot for as long as she did.

I don't blame the doctors and civil workers for checking in on Derpy and Dinky after the day of chaos, given everything that was said about Derpy around town. I actually heard Dr. Whooves actually made things worse by trying to bully some of them into leaving Derpy alone. I don't know about them, but if I was trying to make sure that a parents was truly caring for their child, and somepony tried to intimidate me into dropping it, I'd only be more determined and then be a little bias against the idea this single parent had nothing to hide.

I'm just happy that Derpy was able to prove she was a worth while mother after all. And I am happy Dinky chose to try harder to prove them wrong instead of believing what was said. But in my humble opinion, Derpy should stick to being a mailmare like she's good at. A weather pony she is not.

In spite of her campaign against Applebloom and her friends being the stuff of legends, Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon had shown minimal interest in bullying foals besides the CMC.

Tiara had always been full of herself, but after getting her cutie mark she singled out Applebloom and Twist as her playthings until Twist earned her cutie mark and had become invisible to the filly while Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo were now on her list for defending Applebloom.

Alula, always wanting to make friends with the elitist filly but not having a clue how to go about it, had tried to imitate Diamond Tiara's style of teasing 'blank flanks' and had brought more unhappiness down on Dinky. When Diamond Tiara pushed Dinky out of the way once to read the school newspaper that was free, Derpy had assumed Diamond Tiara, whose reputation proceeded her, was the main source of her foal's misery at school. Ironically by then, Checkered and her two friends had vanished from my class room.

All in all, I don't blame Derpy for making Dinky home school as long as she did.

Thankfully I didn't have parents pulling their foals out of class after Princess Gaia's brief reign. Though a few made gratuitous threats about 'having an eye on you', and 'don't think we're not watching.' Which I found more agitating than intimidating. While I didn't make a secret that I still loved my Princess, I made it crystal clear to the parents I was not going to try and 'convert' any of their children, and that as a teacher, I had to be above religion and politics. My special talent was helping each flower bloom, not stay a bud, and I would never forget that again. It more than one talk with Derpy to help her understand that I wasn't going to try and 'steal away' Dinky from her.

At least I had Zecora for my own support. I hadn't given the zebra much thought before, besides being that 'strange witch' who lived in Everfree, and she did a wonderful performance with her alchemy on Nightmare Night. Now however she was one of the few ponies I could talk openly with about that both of truly understood what Fluttershy had been trying to do, and that she had learned and grew from the experience, even if her methods had been misguided, everything had turned out for the better in the end.

And there was my sister, Berry Punch, I was happy she had never tried to take Ruby out of class. Ruby's actually sorry she didn't get to play with her mother when she was a filly.

I think Berry was grateful for a day where she wasn't dependent on hard cider and come to me for help. And I've been trying as hard as I can to do so, like any sister would., and learning what Ruby wanted when given a world where she could have had anything, gave Berry strength she needed to finally start swearing off hard cider. She's gone weeks now without touching anything. And we all love her for it. She's free.

Bridges were finally healing. Though I did get an odd note from the CMC about missing a day or two of school for 'royal business.'

++++

Blueblood looked in the mirror, for the first time other than to enjoy his own beauty. He wanted to look his best: for the first time, he was having a date with a mare more than once. Until Arcane Spell, it had been a long line of rejections starting with his early foalhood.

"Are you crazy? You're stuck-up, cowardly, rude and only think about yourself. I wouldn't marry you in a thousand years!"

Blueblood could still remember the royal horseshoe print on his royal face, when a naive and ignorant royal colt had asked his cousin to marry him. Like any hurt child, he had lashed back at her, reminding her of the disaster of the royal love poison incident. She had calmly accepted it, talking so much like an grown-up when she did that it was scary.

Rude, stuck-up? His mother and later his instructors had made it clear exactly how he was supposed to act around others if he didn't want a ruler to the flanks.

"Stand up straight! Not that fork! You're royalty you get others to open doors! You don't swallow commoner food, you spit it out! You get others to shield yourself! You don't need to think, just look pretty!"

Cowardly? The ramparts of Canterlot Castle hadn't been walls of his home, they were the borders of his prison. Why do you think he accepted being an ambassador? Thought only of himself? What did she know about what he thought?

'And in these decades that followed, I became exactly what you said I was cousin,' Prince Blueblood though.

In his heart of hearts, Blueblood couldn't deny the truth, he envied his cousin. She had the freedom that was denied him, parents there for her, by a random whim of fate she was born what he wasn't, Celestia paid her more attention than him because of what he wasn't born as. They were both nobility, but he was worth LESS than her because he didn't have the horn AND wings.

"Why do you get to be a pegasus-unicorn and not me?!" Little Blueblood had demanded. If he had wings, he could have flown away from this castle.

"That's ALICORN. I embody all three tribes," little Cadence said repeating what Auntie Celestia had told her.

He even envied her for foalsitting uncontrollable, hyperactive, destructive, violent brats, at least she was allowed to leave the castle, away from instructors, away from guards, away from having your every move watched and measured, being made into what others wanted you to be.

And for the first time in a long time, Blueblood was ashamed of that envy. Auntie Luna's envy and hate had transformed her into an unholy force of eternal night...It was like even the forces of darkness didn't care for Blueblood.

Blueblood was never one to care much for animals, but he couldn't help but feel a momentary form of kinship with the caged birds he occasionally saw in the possession of his fellow nobles. There was a joke going around Canterlot that Blueblood was kept around just so Princess Celestia had somepony's presence to punish the rest of the elite with.

Once upon a time, Cadence had actually sent letters to her cousin when he was finally away from the castle as a diplomat (the whole reason he had taken the job, and Auntie felt he was good at saying one thing while meaning another). Blueblood had simply returned them unopened. If she wanted nothing to do with him, then he'd have nothing to do with her. Now he wished he had read them. Then, he had finally gotten the royal news, and for the first time ever, he wrote his cousin.

+++

I shall admit, leaving Blueblood solely in the care of his mother was not my, most thought out decision. Having lost her husband, Blueblood was all she had left, her only foal and her only heir. She protected him like a glass doll, while at the same time grinding him to become what she perceived as the perfect royal stallion.

I still know not where Hemlock Blood (the name she was born with) or rather 'Lady Pure Blood' learned the Royal Canterlot voice.

Blue Knight, or 'Blue Zenith' as he changed it after marrying his wife, was not a coward. Something he had didn't have time to impart unto his son. While Blue Zenith did say "Yes dear!" as his wife wished, this had nothing to do with his courage, he did all she asked because he loved her, nothing else to it.

I think Blueblood actually smiled at her funeral when she finally died of a heart attack when abroad. No pony called him heartless for it. Yes I was sad at her funeral, I mourn all my ponies. In particular the ones I wasn't able to save from themselves.

Cadence had power she had to learn how to use right, and not to think of herself as 'superior' to the mortals around her. You're surprised to hear me say that? Let me ask you, is the ocean 'superior' to a pony? Is a mountain? The two are so different that even measuring them against each other for what they are is illogical. And as Queen Tiamat told me, Concepts in many ways needed life to give us meaning. The life giving sun exists because life needs warmth, without them, it'd just be a ball of burning gas floating in space. That is something Discord never understood: a universe without the mortals he saw as nothing but toys would have nocreature to 'appreciate' his chaos.

I learned, after the fact, while I was with little Cadence one time with her parents, that Blueblood had somehow found his way down to the crystal mines, the same ones reopened by different greedy diamond dogs and later ponies throughout history. I believe the sections he'd found were ones no pony had seen since the Pre-Chaos era. And by the time the servants thought it important enough, or rather had become brave enough to tell me, the foal had found his own way out, and had unwittingly gained his cutie mark in the process. Turns out my little prince was very good at making maps.

After both his parents were lost I should have made more time with him, of all of my nephews, he clearly needed me.

But at the time of course, I had been making sure Cadence didn't become a second Nightmare Moon, while at the same time preparing for my insane sister's return and...having to start over in those preparation due to my own mistakes with the loss of a beloved student...There is good reason I wanted Cadence and Twilight to not see the world revolve around them. Power and that worldview are a disastrous combination.

I know why Mother and Father insisted we be born without the ability to feel regret. It would kill us if we had to endure them for as long as we live them. So no, I feel no regret for what I did through neglect through Blueblood, I made my choice, nothing else to it.

The worst part is the rumors between myself and Blueblood, not all tabloids are written by Sunny Day. Most write that I'm just waiting for the right excuse to have Blueblood imprisoned, exiled, or...eliminated.

Yes, I did choose to tell him how attacking Princess Gaia's fog would be sure to inspire respect among his peers. Using his personal battered and misused guards of course. For his guards, it was the paid vacation they had never gotten, for Blueblood, it was the foalhood he never had.

I wondered if anything I said to him struck home in that heart he had sealed off from everyone in a wall of mirrors. When my information network revealed him dating his MAID, Arcane Spell, I worried for a little while he was trying to claim Rarity Belle vicariously, her coloring and species being the same as the Element of Generosity.

I do not believe either of them noticed the pink and milk white sunbird, sunfish, and servant-filly who chaperoned their first few outings and made no secret of being there with them. My nephew knows maps and high-society but I've fooled much smarter ponies than him.

But I'd learn I was not the queen of manipulation or subterfuge, that title belonged to another. There were those who lived and breathed deception.

I, and the many adults turned foals for one day, Applejack, and Princess Gaia, and three others, all laid down the foundation and most fill the glass, and there were certainly improvements....But it was one unicorn maid, no blood relation to the Paradise Ponies or those of the First Ponyville, with a Earth pony little sister and an ailing father, was finally the tipping point my nephew needed, and become a better pony. And I love them both for it.

I was able to carry a bit of happiness when I made my centennial visit to where I died. A foolish young goddess who made a deal with Discord's Mother for the means to end the hatred between ponies, and got the windigos for her childish naiveté. As punishment by My Parents: live a life of an Earth Pony, experience the hatred they felt at the unicorns and pegasi, die after seeing everypony else around you freeze to death, and your last breath cursing whatever brought about this fate, and learning the moment after your death, it was yourself.

How can I be happy at that? Because, for all the prejudice that might linger, all the classism, all of it that exists today put together is still not even a shadow of a ghost of the unbridled fundamental hate that dwelled within just one pony in the days of the Three Tribes. Even the most stuck-up, elitist noble in Canterlot, would still gasp away in horror at even the softest 'solutions' that the tribes had for each other before Equestria. My ponies have grown, my ponies are learning, they can grow up.

That's why I use Earth Pony Star-Catcher's form for my Sunny Day persona: she's grown up and learned too. You can't force ponies to make the right choices.

Starswirl The Bearded? He has as nearly as many stories circling him as myself. Rumors ranged from him being Discord's mortal form to creator of the Windigos to being a female Earth pony in a costume with a quick mouth. I think it is all to cover up that Starswirl did indeed think 'pure blooded' unicorns were superior in magic to 'tainted blood' one, but in his day and age? He was considered a radical! And his fellows would have been scandalized if they knew he had taken a 'part-dirt-pony' apprentice. My little ponies, they try to fit growing out of their prejudice they fell into as black and white. It wasn't. The circumstances that gave birth to ponies like Pansy, Smart Cookie, and Clover The Clever were one step at a time, much like their downward spiral into tribal lines to begin with.

And they keep getting stronger, always becoming just a tiny bit wiser, their children only learn a fraction of the lessons their parents did, make new mistakes, and learn from them as well, and I'll always love them for that.

I took a walk in the gardens when I returned.

++++++

Blueblood was not used to ponies banging on his door, opening it, he found Arcane Spell looking at him red-eyed and crying.

"Arcane? What's wrong?" Was all he could think to ask.

She grasped for words like she was trying to eat soup with a fork.

"They've... I told mom and dad, but I... Blueblood, Princess Celestia found Neatly Spell."

"...what happened?"

"... She won't say."

"How is she?"

"S-she refuses to say!"

"Why would Auntie do that?"

"She says she has her reasons, and...oh, Blueblood. I was so looking forward to introducing her to you. Neatly would have loved you!'"

"But Arcane, this doesn't make any sense! Why in Equestria wouldn't Auntie be able to provide a simple, straightforward answer?! Is Neatly alive and unharmed? Or injured? Ill? Even if some horrible calamity had happened, even if, heaven forbid, the poor girl were DEAD... what is to be gained by keeping such a thing secret?!"

"...The Princess says Neatly is alive. That's all she WILL say, though." We both found out eventually. And I understood a need for this to be quiet. Too bad it didn't stay that way.

++++

The most logical suspect was deemed to be a pegasus who had been Neatly Spell's overseer in the castle. This pegasus had vanished the same day as the filly had. But how he could have possibly rendered Neatly Spell to this state of being, was a mystery unto itself. One which the authorities would eagerly question the pegasus about, once he was in their custody.

The status of the poor filly was spread by castle staff and guards like a virus, whispered from one to another, becoming somehow more fantastic and grim with each telling. One pony suggested her status was due to being another of Clockwork's victims, and the paranoia erupted like a wildfire. It didn't matter Clockwork had been found and forced to see that turning fillies into sapient dolls wasn't what her father, Watch D. Wotch meant by 'saving' foals. Or that her father himself had died performing the magic that saved his terminally ill child, and that she had magically assumed her father's identity.

No. It didn't matter one bit. And the rumors just grew more fantastic from there, it was almost like somepony was fanning the flames, taking advantage. And the source of the rumors, poor Neatly Spell, was all but forgotten in the paranoia, save for her family her friends, and their families.

It didn't help matters that several ponies had been found petrified outside the city walls. It didn't change opinions that it was most likely a rogue cockatrice attack (which the ponies revealed as the truth once they were returned to their flesh and blood). That was drown out by the rumors.

Long Haul, Equestria's long-standing Chief of Intelligent and Security, with intelligence gathered from reliable sources, declared that there was indeed an unknown threat at play. This gave the ponies something to focus on. Long Haul approached the Princess amidst other high-ranking guards and submitted security measures to be taken, new troop positions, and new flight patterns for pegasi guards...Celestia accepted them all, knowing they would keep her ponies happy. And hopefully keep them safe.

+-----+

"And now ladies and gentlecolts! Twilight Sparkle will perform wonders not before seen by pony eyes!" Spike called out on stage built in Hoofington square.

Then she brought up our comrades. Rainbow Dash, Rarity, and Applejack, the same three friends I first tripped up in my first Ponyville show.

Twilight took out a horn seal, she first used it on Rarity to prove that it wasn't a fake then placed it on her own horn, but she STILL could get enough magic out to do telekinesis and the like as she showed off with some of Fluttershy's animals. That's impossible. How?

The rest of the crowd (including my sisters and brothers) loved it.

"Now behold!" Twilight hit Applejack and Rarity in a flash and . . . they were fillies?! Since when did Twilight learn THAT magic? Who am I kidding? What magic doesn't Twilight know?

The crowd was enthralled.

Then she returned the two to normal and . . made Applejack an old mare?! Then returned her to normal again just as easily!

Their hoof claps were deafening.

Then she looked at Rainbow Dash and blasted her, and when the flash cleared . . . Rainbow Dash had been doubled . . . I don't know if the world is ready for this. But it's incredible! The two Rainbow Dash flew and circled one another. The crowd was loving it.

I couldn't tell how she was doing this magic at all! Yes, I had been reading the book Twilight gave me.

Then she made Pinkie Pie play a dozen instruments. Followed by her climax of changing Applejack into a stallion! I went numb.

"The great and powerful Twilight! The great and powerful Twilight!" They were cheering. I . . . politely clapped, putting on the best smile I could.

Behind stage, I asked, "Twilight! That magic! How did you do all that?!"

"Oh it wasn't magic." Twilight smiled.

Explanation. Just smoke and lights. And her friends and their families in make-up and wigs to make them look like the our comrades. And 'Pinkie Pie being Pinkie Pie.'

"So . . . So you did all that, with stage magic?"

Twilight simply smiled and nodded. "It was all so easy. So simple. It was a breeze for a change instead of hard work."

I felt my heart sink. "But . . . Twilight, stage magic is my special talent."

"And it still is," Twilight patted me on the back. "It's still your little thing you can do."

"Little thing?"

"Sure, a little thing for a little pony. You know that Element of Magic inside you is the only reason I was able to save you. You need to accept that without it, you're not anything, you whine that it's a curse, but it's the only thing that makes you worth while. Without it, you're a fraud and a weakling whose special talent is being all flare and no substance. Otherwise you'll just be setting yourself up for disappoint after disappointment. And I care too much about you for that." She hugged me. I didn't feel better.

I backed out of the hug, "Uh, I have be going Twilight."

"Bye-bye!" She waved happily.

I had to get out of there, I couldn't breath. I sat down on a empty bench, feeling my heart pounding and my body heavy.

"The Great and Powerful Trixie shouldn't have to take that."

A unicorn stallion was next to me, handsome like a statue, gray fur, black mane, red eyes (I don't judge by appearance) and an odd red jewel pendant topped with an Alicorn as a cutie mark.

"Who are you?"

He did a bow.

"Your biggest fan. I've heard so much about you, Great and Powerful Trixie. I've felt you, sensed you, seen you, heard you, known of you," he held out one of the posters for one of my shows to me with a quill for an autograph. I signed it after examining it closely. I'd wanted to sign autographs for a long time, but Discord had left me a little weary of signing things without checking first. "And your family, we have a history, we've worked together before, but it's been many years, then you came along . . . you had such HATE in your heart Trixie. You wished to bring DESPAIR to all who had laughed at you, mocked you, belittled you, dismissed you as being just another unicorn, sentenced to die in obscurity. Why did you give up your STRENGTH?"

" . . . It wasn't a strength, it was a weakness, all my hate ever did was blind me. All my grudge did was drag me down."

"It's what gave you the strength to keep moving forward after you life was destroyed."

"And it's what kept me from going to my family for help when I needed them most."

"You shouldn't need them. But they aren't the point. The point is what Twilight Sparkle said to you. As an Element of Magic you are superfluous, and as a magician on your own, you are a triviality. But that doesn't have to be your fate. You can change it."

"I am."

"Are you? Or are you just spinning your wheels? But I can help you. Like I've helped other members of your line in the distant past. You and I are bound by fate. By destiny. Together, we can crush those who looked down on you! And you can achieve the greatness you've always wanted."

"Trixie makes her own destiny!"

"And make it with me. Think it. Cow everypony who ever laughed at you. Those who sneered at you, enslaved. Torture all who slighted you. Silence all who berated you. You don't need to take their judgment. Together, you and I. I, the one forged from the remnants of despair, the piece of the black rainbow, and empowered by The Great Dark One. Given life by anger, given mind by hate. And you, the one of your blood who does not fear to sacrifice all in the name of power."

He reached out his hoof.

"So what do you think? Do you want to be great and powerful again?"

. . . Was that what I wanted? Did I want to push into the dirt all who brushed me aside and treated me like I was nothing? To make their lives ten times the misery mine was? A hundred fold? A thousand fold? To become Great and Powerful again? To become feared again?

I slapped his hoof away. "Go clop yourself."

"What?"

"It wasn't the magic of HATE that beat Discord, Nightmare Moon and Whisper. It was friendship! And I've FELT the difference! All my hate and bitterness ever did was WEAKEN me!"

"You didn't embrace it ENOUGH!"

"If I embraced it anymore I'd have been a Nightmare! The fantasies I had of what I'd do to Twilight were petty and vicious! All that would be is me back sliding into the mare I used to be! A WEAK pale imitation of a pony like you."

"You can't do this! I need you! YOU NEED ME! You're a weakling and will always BE a weakling without me!"

"You're offering an EASY way out! You think I'm scared of EARNING power? Trixie is many things, but afraid of hard work isn't one, or I'd have curled up and died a long time ago! Now excuse me!"

I got up from the bench. He pointed a hoof at me.

"I swear this truth, this reality, this FACT: One day, when your heart embraces hate so pure it blocks out the sun, you heart will call out to ME and I shall lead you to me."

I narrowed my eyes at him. I trotted forwards, staring him down.

"Sorry, but that's not happening, EVER." I pushed him back onto his haunches. Then hit him with my fireworks spell at point blank range. He shattered like glass.

And I saw a filly, I knew all too well standing behind where the stallion had been like he had been obscuring her.

The world changed. I was on stage, and I saw my friends and family all clapping and cheering for me, throwing flowers onto my stage.

"Congratulations!" Mother said.

"One and only Trixie!" Twilight shouted.

"Right on!" RD called.

I looked around at my friends...at my family. This was where I belonged...I didn't want to throw them away...I was afraid of losing them. I was happy to have them. Happy to be with them.

Princess Loving-Bright-Shinny-Star Sparkling-Dawn-Flower The Eighty-Eighth galloped up on stage and hugged me, I hugged her back. "I'm so proud you Trixie! You beat the bad stallion! You really did! You really did!"

I slowly return the hug and nuzzle her. "Yes, I really did. And I did it because of my friends. Do we have time to play princesses again before I wake up?"

"I think so! Wait, you want to play after all this time?"

"Maybe I'm overdue, for a little playtime."

After saving Hoofingtonia from the Smooze and being given my own personal dragon and giving Princess Loving-Bright-Shinny-Star Sparkling-Dawn-Flower The Eighty-Eighth one last hug I woke up. And found I had fallen asleep on the bedroom desk going through my junk mail.

Trixie, I, made it a point to never let my family see my mail. There were some things that still creeped in that Trixie wasn't proud of.

I got some weird letters from Pinkie Pie, who kept mentioning buses for some reason. She kept signing them 'Pinkie Diane' instead of 'Pinkie Pie.' Trixie cannot believe it, but she is actually sorry she has not gotten any mail from the ego with wings.

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Maybe you can find a full of themselves Earth pony and you three can combine into the Alicorn of Big Egos!)

...While being an Alicorn is tempting, Trixie would rather keep her individuality, thank you, and where are the rest of you?

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): We're kinda spread out, with different opinions, can we please keep this focused on you?)

Never did Trixie once dream she'd have to be asked that! But yes, I was sad that I hadn't gotten any mail from Rainbow Dash. Trixie hates to admit it, but somewhere deep down, I think we're more alike than I and Twilight are.

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Rainbow Dash wanted to be the best to test her limits and challenge herself. You wanted to be the best so everypony would look up to you and love you.)

Pst. Twilight gave me all her notes on what had happened in Ponyville before. I know about Mare-Do-Well. Rainbow Dash has as much need for others to acknowledge she exists as I do.

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): You admit that?)

Where have you been? I'm done hiding from myself....But Rainbow Dash, she found something more important, she found her friends. Once upon a time I would have considered her an idiot for that. Now I'm forced to admit she's a wiser pony than me. ...She realized her dreams...didn't hold any value unless she had somepony to share them with.

And she's now more famous than Trixie has ever been, she's better than me as an performer...she is the best. No Trixie isn't crying. If they were, they'd be tears of joy, for a friend. Trixie might have an ego, but she's no longer focused solely on herself.

And I have very dear friends indeed! Ponyville wasn't just another town where my act had gone south, it had hit the south pole!

Snips and Snails' parents weren't rich enough to be worth suing. So instead the pony whose home had been destroyed by my worst fear made flesh, demanded bits I didn't have.

You see while the most of Ponyville didn't connect with the bully I was before, it's easier for a pony who lost their house to recognize the one responsible.

I won't give her name, Rarity told me they're normally a good pony and a wonderful mother, and having your house destroyed is enough to fill anypony with seething hateful rage: I speak from experience.

While their insurance had already paid for the damages (how anypony insured a town right next to the Everfree Forest was lost on me), their demands for restitution from me were crystal clear. If I had enough bits to afford a house, would I have been living in a gypsy cart?

Having just recovered from my ordeal involving, that thing inside my mind, I was surprised when Rarity, the mare who I had gleefully humiliated, came to my defense. So yes, Trixie DOES now consider her a friend!

"Darling, how much do you honestly expect to sue out of a traveling showmare who has also lost her home, all her belongings, and her job?" I had to give Rarity credit, she could have been a good showmare herself if she wanted. She knew how to use the proper language to a pony in their particular emotional state. She was angry and hurt, so she spoke of anger and being hurt.

But the U-Ursa did crush her house and she did have a foal to raise, and needed something to give her a conclusion. I gave my apology after Princess Gaia's festival, in private, in a low voice, apologizing was something I was still getting used to doing at the time. It only cost me the exact amount of my royal commission to perform during the Gaia Festival. I didn't move back in with my family just because I wanted to make up for years of ignoring them.

But . . . I don't regret it in the least, I still got a show, the ponies of Ponyville now love my magic, my friends were there to enjoy it, and talk about me HAPPILY, who wants money when reputation can't be bought?

Did I ever say I was sorry for my show in Ponyville to Rainbow and the others? Hadn't I just been putting on a show? Why are we all going over this mess again? I'm about to put on a show that tops all this!

They had accepted my challenge of their own choice, and tripping up ponies on their own signature tricks had always pleased the crowd from my earliest shows and had become a staple of mine.

Had I taken pleasure in seeings others squirm? Seeing others humiliated and laughed at? It gave me a sense of power, just like lying did. And power carries a sweet seduction all its own. Like any narcotic, it took time to let go. It's an addiction and breaking it wasn't easy.

And I'm HAPPY I had friends to teach me not to give myself the chance TO humiliate ponies who just wanted a good magic show.

...I still don't want to be submissive and humble, apologizing for everything and anything I've done. You will NOT find that Trixie here!

I don't want to be another face in the herd. I wasn't sorry for putting on a magic show that involved wrong-hoofing challengers...I apologized that I rubbed their muzzles in it, like they were clowns there to entertain me. I apologized for being a sadistic bully, not for being a showmare. And they accepted my apology! And not with cold and icy glares like I was used to! They truly honest did! It was like a delusion at the time, but a good one!

I still have the book Twilight gave me. It's proving interesting reading, Starswirl The Bearded For The Laymare. A part of me now wonders if there is a point in picking up studying magic again, now that I can just replicate any spell I observe. A quick road to power, like I always wanted, for the respect and admiration I had wanted so badly.

...

But how was I supposed to put on a good show everypony wanted to see, if all I could do was everypony's else's tricks? I surprised even myself with that realization.

I had everything together for my grand performance in Canterlot, including my new costume. My dream had finally come true. A command performance in Canterlot by one of the Princesses themselves? The elite would be talking about it for ages to come, I'd be getting contracts left and right after this. Everything from theater shows to overpriced birthday parties for nobles' spoiled brats. Well, maybe I'll have enough to pick and choose a little. And everypony will see Trixie's grand performance! And they will know Trixie! The One And Only Trixie!

And I wasn't sure I wanted to go.

Instead of waiting forever for Twilight to convince her friends to spend an episode of their lives in Hoofington for no apparent reason, I could have simply gone to them instead. I'm an adult, I could have moved to Ponyville if I wanted, it wasn't like I had a standing address at the time.

But mother, father, Mixie, Pixie, Nyxie, 'Hexy', Puck, Robin. I didn't want to just leave them again.

This was everything I had wanted as a showpony. What I had expected to happen naturally years before, what I had kept telling myself had to have been just repeatedly lost in the mail or something, was the only reason I wasn't given a Canterlot command performance sooner.

Was the fact I was a good magician the reason why I was asked to perform after Gaia's Festival? Or just because I was friends with Twilight Sparkle? Never really having had friends before, I have nothing to compare it with: and for the first time in my life that feels like a negative.

I wasn't scared of messing up, I wasn't scared of the nightmare that grinning zoo mash-up had forced me through becoming real, I wasn't scared of being dismissed and known through out Canterlot of being not worth a first glance.

I was scared of dumping my family for a second time.

I made a point of not letting my family see my mail, least they read something that might upset them...I didn't want to lose their love after I finally appreciated it. I was afraid of losing it, I admit it. I was afraid losing genuinely love now that I knew I had it.

The longer I delayed, the less time I'd have to set-up, and the more things that could go wrong. But...could I just leave them again? Ditch them again? What right did I have to do that? I had a lifetime to catch up on with them, did even the chance of a lifetime have the right to take priority over that? I wanted to be a new Trixie. If I left my family hanging again just to make it big, had I really changed at all?

"I'd wait for you tell me what's wrong dear, but I know you'll just keep it bottled up until you implode."

"Mother?!"

"Last time I checked dear. So please, can you tell your mother for once what's hurting you?"

"What makes you think anything is hurting me?"

"You and your sisters got your bombastery from your father. Whenever it starts to wane, I know something is bothering you."

"Maybe I've just changed."

"Yes you have dear. But that isn't something that has. Your ability to read ponies you got from me, I'm not easy to fool. Now please open up to your mother."

"I don't want to."

She sighed. "And I can't force you to. But I have no intention of letting you begin to hurt yourself again. So My Little Trickster, please tell mommy whut's hurtin' you so bad."

I cringed as she used that voice. No pony in existence I knew san Fluttershy knew the stare. But mom had her own verbal version that could work on us! I would not surrender! "T-that isn't going to work mother!"

"Is that so?" She gently hugged me, and gave me a loving nuzzle.

"T-That's not fair!" I squealed.

"Everything's fair in war and love, now speak to me your worries," she whispered.

My resistance to her will dissolved like powder in water.

"I'm invited to do big show in Canterlot. A royal wedding."

"And?"

"I don't want to just leave all of you for it."

"Why?"

"Because I don't want to act like you don't mean anything to me...Like I acted for so long. I don't want to let you go."

"And I think that's enough dear." She let go of the hug, and the 'spell' was broken.

I said nothing. For all things in creation, me at a loss for words was something that just felt wrong.

"Did you know dear, when I first got my cutie mark, I thought it meant I was like a 'wicked queen' like in the story books? That I was good for nothing except hurting others?"

"Yes mother, you have. You told Mixie that story after she got her cutie mark, and thought it meant she was a wicked witch."

"And I told her my how cutie mark actually meant that I was good at USING POWER, knowing how to use not too much, and not too little to accomplish things. Trixie, your damaged reputation isn't going to change if you stay cooped up at home."

"How could you know that?!"

"You're hardly sublime where you go Trixie, I've been keeping informed of your shows since the day you left home. If you don't believe me, I've got a scrapbook of newspaper clippings."

I couldn't bring myself to ask how much she knew.

"And I was disappointed young lady, that you didn't come to us for help after your first show in Ponyville apparently flopped and you lost everything. I mean, I heard you even took a job at a rock farm for a while. And you didn't tell us hello when you came back to Hoofington."

My bowed my head. "I'm sorry mother."

"You're forgiven, you've been through enough already, and my baby had grown up so much since then. Going too strongly is one thing, but going too timid is just as bad Trixie. Where is that confident trickster I raised and loved?"

"She got too confident, fell, and broke into pieces, and when they put her back together again, it got left out."

Mother looked at me deadpan like I had lied about my hoof still being in the cookie jar. "You're getting far too out of practice Trixie. You used to be an excellent liar."

"If I rise, I might fall and break again, but much more importantly I don't want to leave all of you again!!"

"Do you still want to be seen by other ponies? For ponies to love your magic and stories?"

"...yes mother. But I...I...I-!" It was like drinking tar, "-I can't enjoy it, if I had to shuffle you all off again."

"Trixie."

"Yes mother?"

"Listen very carefully to what your mother has to say. You've made me proud my little trickster, that you're thinking about me, thinking about us, instead of just yourself. But I'm afraid you're a little...stunted when it comes to these things." For some reason, I thought of Twilight and her friendship reports. "You are not abandoning your family my little trickster to take up a royal command performance. You're making us proud that our Trixie has made it this far! I know you like to be your own pony dear, and I'll never stop you from being that, but you make us all happy too when you reach the stars . . .

"See the world outside, why miss anything?
Time to show the world you exist.
You can gain so much, but lose nothing.
So why should you resist
Showing the whole wide world your brand new face?
Show them you're not the same.
We all love you, Trixie, don't think you're a disgrace
There's no need to hide in shame

Listen to your mother, my words are not lies
Go see the world out there.
Hiding yourself away would be most unwise
Being ignored you can't bare
You're your happiest when seen by every eye around.
There is nothing more important
To me than seeing that my foals' happiness abounds
If I've failed then I'm impotent.

Listen to your mother, don't sit and hide
Being special is hard to do
But impossible if all alone you abide
Don't you doubt I care about you
So you want to show the world your new self, Trixie dear?

So long as you are happy that way
You have my blessings, so you have no reason to fear.
If you're happy...happy I will stay.

If you're happy...happy I will stay..."

I had already gathered my things (including the dress given to me by Rarity Belle). All I need now was to tell my family that I loved them and, not good-bye, but that I'd seen them later.

What I said to my sisters, brothers, and parents is private thank you very much. And uh, maybe we'd be here for the next several hours if I had to recount the entire exchange between us. The Lulamoon clan does love to talk and is very large. Hexy had time to make herself a sandwich as Puck and Robin gave their good-byes.

Maybe I could convince an elite to finally give Mixie the funding she needed to bridge the gap between unicorn and zebra magic. Give a word in edgewise for Pixie to get a performance, or get one of Nyxie's works published, and 'Hexy'...I stunned my self. I shocked myself as if hit by lightning. Here I was, Trixie, thinking about my sisters?! About what I could do for them?...How much had I changed?

I didn't even flinch when they all admitted they couldn't attend the royal wedding on such short notice. And I'm happy for that. Theirs is a world without having to fight mad gods, without having to save the world, without magic trinkets empowered by the heart, they had endured enough as is. I was happy I was able to keep their world separate from the world I entered with Twilight Sparkle, at least just for now. I knew I was holding back the inevitable. But I needed to see, after the Gaia Festival with my sisters saving my flanks when I was caught with my saddle down, that I could still put on a show as the One And Only Trixie. Maybe then, I could finally let them into this new world I had stumbled into.

Time to show Twilight Sparkle isn't the only mage unicorn in Equestria! Abracadabra! Alakazoo! One epic teleport later, and the One and Only Trixie is in Ponyville central!

All eyes on me, shock and awe! I look up in pride. I don't think ponies are used to seeing a unicorn and luggage teleport right into the center of town!

And all her things being twenty-five hooves above her! Catch!Catch!Catch!Catch!Catch!Catch! Rainbow coordinated teapots! Save!Save!Save!Save!Save!Save!Save! Thank Celestia for telekinesis.

All props present and accounted for? Check. Blech. I almost sound like Twilight Sparkle. Funny considering what Princess Gaia's fog revealed what I wanted in my heart of hearts.

Well, saved my props from being all destroyed again. And I saved myself from becoming a blue pancake. I think I may have impressed some ponies by being able to catch that much stuff. Uh, you don't need to write this particular scene down...

Now then...I really should have brought a cart. Maybe I can borrow one or learn a materialization spell.

Library...no sign of Spike or Twilight, wished I knew how to speak owl. Maybe I should cheek out the Carousel Boutique or Sugar Cube Corner next. I hope they aren't all gathered to face another evil force again... .Maybe Trixie will end up having to save them all in a solo adventure. Then again I doubt even fate has that warped a sense of humor.

Hmmm? A note?

To Who It May Concern

Golden Oaks Library will be closes for 1-3 Hours starting at 12:30 PM. All personnel are presently on a picnic with our friends in the second highest hill in the park.

If you have a book to return, please return it through the book slot.

If you are are a friend, feel free to join us.

If you are a villain seeking to do evil, kindly turn yourself in.

If you are...

Ugh! Twilight! can you even make a note without a checklist?!

If you are the Cutie Mark Crusaders, don't touch the matches, I hid them all.

Twilight Sparkle, Librarian of the Golden Oaks Library.

A picnic?

Well that takes the fun out of things. Ick. Now I almost sound like Pinkie Pie. Maybe it's true and friend do rub off on you...wonder if that means I've rubbed off on them any. I don't feel as upset at that idea as I should. I should be upset at the idea of being 'diffused'. Maybe I've stopped being a one note pony after all. Well I'm sure Twilight won't mind me keeping my props here just for a little bit. Time to add my beat to the melody.

++++

We all saw her make her big entrance in Ponyville square. And almost get smashed by her stuff. Guess we won't be Cutie Mark Crusader Paramedics today.

Okay...maybe that was mean.

But she was a big jerk to Rainbow, Rarity, and Applejack when she first showed up!

"It's her," I said, she didn't notice us. "How about we give her a piece of ours minds?"

I was surprised when the others just looked at each other and then me.

"If Spike was here I know he'd agree with me." Spike had run off a while ago after burping up a scroll.

Can't Princess Celestia teach him a less gross way to do that? I mean you'd think he'd realize Rarity might like him better that way. Not that I mind, Sweetie is the 'refined one.' It's just kinda a mood killer whenever it happened.

"Actually, Spike told me," Silver Spoon said, "That while he's not Miss Trixie's biggest fan, telling her how big a jerk she was has really gotten old."

"How would you know?"

"We talk a lot. And I don't know about her mean show, but to me she's the pony who helped break Miss Fluttershy's dream world." She shuddered, remember the tease of being with Diamond again I think. "And everypony LIKED her magic show at Miss Fluttershy's festival."

"Rarity talks about her now like she's a friend. It would mean to say bad things to a friend of my sister's."

"So does Applejack, and . . . " Applebloom crossed her legs uncomfortable,"Considerin' how we hurt her back already when we were Gabby Gum, that's somethin' we AIN'T proud of, and wouldn't it be like diggin' up old bones, like Miss Twili did with talkin' 'bout the Want-It-Need-It Spell just 'cause she didn't want to feel guilty . . . wouldn't it be like we're holdin' a grudge when our sisters ain't?"

"And if she helped save Fluttershy, and our big sisters forgave her already, and we want to bring up stuff from a year ago . . . ins't that what a bully would do? And Silver Spoon's our friend now." She put a hoof on her shoulder.

Silver nodded with a...oddly serious look. "She's right...I know more than anypony that a jerk can change their ways..."

"Okay, okay, I get it, treating her like she hasn't changed would be . . . hippocritical."

"That's hypocritical." Sweetie Belle said.

"Dictionary."

"Thank you," Sweetie Belle said smiling.

Applebloom said, "Hey, do you think we could be Cutie Mark Crusader Magicians? Dang, she's gone, Ah don't think she ever noticed us."

Episode 160: Lots of foreshadowing and character driven stuff

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My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic
Pony POV Series
Not The Wedding You Remember
Part 2
By Alex Warlorn

Okay, let's back up some here. Like you were told before, we really got our notes scattered or destroyed in the invasion. So let's rewind a little bit. I know you all want us to get straight to the action, we do too, but we need to give credit where credit is due to some good ponies.

And remind everypony that these ponies haven't had to lose or fight their friends to the bitter end, and have remained strong through tests and trials.

So you might have to piece together a few things yourselves, sorry. Think of it as a tiny mystery maybe? Then again, given how freaky we can be with details, I guess maybe not.

But we did have to go back and rewrite a lot of stuff 'after the fact', get interviews from random ponies, and had to skip over some stuff, and had to stitch it all together. We know a lot of you ponies didn't care for when we just went over stuff you already knew for Rainbow Dash picking her pet.

But trust us little ponies, when we tell you, that you ain't seen nothin' yet!

So let's rewind a bit, and get reacquainted with our little ponies.

+++

"Fluttercruel, are you still sore that now that Photo Finish is back in town, she turned you down after that model try out?"

Fluttercruel's response was unprintable and caused nearby flowers to wither.

There weren't many swears Fluttercruel knew given, she got them all from pure and kind Fluttershy's memories. Fluttershy put a clamp down on their mouth, leaving Cruel to take Celestia's name in vain only in Fluttershy's mind. Fluttershy remembered Cruel's cute-ceañera and strongly imagined a bar of soap in her mouth with the desired results.

(INTERVIEWEE'S BUCKING NOTES (Draconequus/Pegasus Hybrid): Can we PLEASE skip past this?!)

++++

"And there we go, isn't it lovely?" Fluttershy said as Applebloom, Sweetie Belle, Silver Spoon, and Spike, knitted the last of the yarn together.

Outside of our big sisters, the three of us together aren't known for having repeat foalsitters. Now that our club had grown to include Silver Spoon and Spike well...

Given what happened last time Fluttershy foalsat for us, and that there were five of us (and one of us a dragon), I figured we'd add her to the list of one-time foal-sitters.

Huh? Cause we drove her crazy? Don't be stupid. I mean the cockatrice! Burr!

I can't say we all weren't upset that she teased us with what we wanted most...okay, more like we were all unhappy that it wasn't real. Mom, dad, me, Rainbow Dash, all together, it was wonderful.

Silver Spoon wasn't doing that much a better job than me, and she looked even more embarrassed.

Did her parents really trust Fluttershy with Silver Spoon after Fluttershy enchanting half the kingdom?

Well, unlike some rude ponies, they believe Princess Celestia when she said Fluttershy was possessed like Princess Luna was. Or did Princess Luna say that? I'm a little confused. At least everypony stopped arguing about it after she helped with the Hurricane...Which I couldn't help Rainbow Dash with, but wanted to. Maybe I don't hate Fluttershy anymore for being so fixated on the ground when she can fly, when I want to be in the sky and I'm stuck here, but that doesn't mean not being able to fly is suddenly fun.

Do I forgive her for what happened? Well, Rainbow Dash forgives her, so no matter which adults are right, the least I can do is forgive her too. Spike doesn't even seem to mind what happened. And Silver Spoon says she forgave her at the Gaia Festival...it was part of how Silver Spoon became friends with us after all.

Spike didn't want to knit at first, group activity or not (I agreed with him), until somepony had to go and tell him it might make him more helpful towards her big sister! I didn't want to play all by myself, and Rainbow Dash was busy working that day, so here I am.

Do our big sisters trust her with us? Do you even have to ask? Truth was, with this being during the day, we got a chance to try out some things we couldn't before.

When everypony in town got rude, and it all led back to Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash told us how she was very sorry, and that she needed help. So yeah, we helped Spike and Angel take care of Fluttershy's animals.

NO! We didn't misfeed any animals, and we didn't try to breed the chickens with the hawks to make chicken-hawks. And we were careful around the porcupines, bears, and skunks. Not everything we do fails. Recently,our stuff kinda really goes too well.

+++

No darling, I didn't tell little Sweetie Belle about New Fluttershy behavior towards us, and neither did Applejack nor Rainbow Dash. There was no reason to. We had already forgive her. There was no reason to infect them any new grudges (fillies shouldn't have grudges). I trusted her with my little sister.

+++

Rainbow Dash had said Fluttershy had 'creepy knowledge of sewing,' but she didn't say Fluttershy could create -anything- out of yarn! Yarn carrots, yarn flowers. "Heh, can you make a yarn skateboard?" I asked.

"Oh sure Scootaloo, you can't really ride it, but I'm sure it'll keep you warm at night!"

"I was joking!"

I'm no judge, but even I could see the obvious. Applebloom had done a good job. So had Spike. Sweetie Belle...well...she stitched our capes remember? So she wasn't that bad. How she got it done with that stupid sweater and dream-catcher Rarity was still making her wear, I dunno. It made me itch just looking at it...

Me? Well, I hate sewing and knitting, like a lot. But I was kinda stuck having to learn the basics when...when I didn't have anypony else.

Oh. Silver Spoon. She was. She...she might have been blushing and looking ashamed and embarrassed at the end. It was so surreal to see her . Her project looked like a rat's nest. It's kinda a joke how once I'd have paid bits to see her humiliated for all the times she helped Diamond Tiara make our lives miserable. Now all I felt was bad that she felt bad.

"That's, nice Silver Spoon," Fluttershy said before we could.

"It's a mess," Silver Spoon said, she looked on the verge of tears. And now I felt really bad. So did Sweetie and Applebloom from their expressions.

"Did you skip doing the knit gauge?" Fluttershy asked calmly.

"I...I thought I didn't need it. I...I wanted to do it all on my own."

SILVER SPOON!? Not following directions?! Cue Cutie Mark Crusaders Shell Shocked Friends...

"There there Silver Spoon," Fluttershy whispered.

"I guess all I'm good for is following directions."

"That's not true young filly!" Fluttershy took Silver Spoon face and looked her in the eyes.

Applebloom looked over. "Silver, followin' orders ain't the same thin' as bein' given instructions. Yer learnin' tah do somethin', yah need tah accept help. If Ah didn't learn how tah buck a tree right, Ah'd probably have broken my leg just tryin'."

"Trust me," said Spike, "I burned a lot of parchment learning how to send letters. In fact, the first place I learned to send letters to were the fire department."

"And," Sweetie Belle blushed, "Well, I, whenever I try to help my big sister sew and stuff-" she blushed deeper.

"Ah think we get it Sweetie."

Silver Spoon made a small giggle. And we didn't mind. "Thank you."

We all gave Silver Spoon a hug. She smiled.

Fluttershy nuzzled Silver Spoon, "Now Silver Spoon, let me tell you a little poem my grandmother taught me for sewing, 'In the front door, around the back, peek out the window out jumps Jack!'"

"Fluttershy, uh, you're really good at knitting."

"Thank you Scootaloo."

"But I thought your special talent was taking care of animals?"

"Oh it is Scootaloo. But just because it's my special talent, doesn't mean I don't have other hobbies. You have things you like, but aren't why you live your life, don't you?"

I remembered that I had gotten super good at copying other ponies' writing, but it wasn't what I wanted to do with myself forever.

Being...alone, not being too good or too bad is what worked best for me. Kept the adults from asking questions. But now that I have Rainbow Dash to keep it secret, I can stand out more without risking Miss Cheerilee asking to see my parents. So yeah, so many...not being as good as Applebloom and Spike, or things going bad like for Silver Spoon, maybe being in the middle...doesn't feel as nice as it used to.

"Fluttershy, can I please go outside, so for a little bit? I think I need a little...er, something." Way to go Scoots. "I mean check on the animals?"

The others all blinked at me. Fluttershy however smiled and nodded, "Alright Scootaloo, just please don't wander off! Angel will be keeping an eye on you."

I looked down to see the rabbit looking up at me with a pair of binoculars. I sighed. "Alright. Thank you."

I used to spend all my time outside the Crusaders alone after I came to Ponyville. I can't say I liked it, but I guess I got a little used to it. I just got comfortable with it.

Outside I got with Big Brother Bunny ruining the mood. I mean seriously, how is ANYPONY supposed to get some good time by themselves if they're not by themselves? I'd lock'em in a box somewhere but I don't want to have an angry Fluttershy. Angry Fluttershy was scary.

All these animals of Fluttershy's, they were taught their tricks sure, but I've never seen a seal learn how to swim or spider learn how to spin a web. So why can't I fly yet?

"Do you think they look nice?"

"GAAHHHH! Don't do that Sweetie Belle!"

+++

Some friends need a hug, other friends need some time alone. And that time isn't now because I'm going to talk to her anyway. Signed Sweetie Belle.

+++

"Heh, sorry, I thought you heard me." Little liar.

"What are doing outside Sweetie?"

"Well, Applebloom and Spike, and Fluttershy are all helping Silver Spoon, so I thought I'd help you."

I gave her a sideways glance, "Erm, thanks."

A little blue butterfly fluttered in front of Sweetie, then in front of me, and fluttered around us more than once, "Hey-hey! What's you're game?" I asked the weird acting butterfly.

"Hey Scootaloo, maybe your special talent is coming up with games to play?"

"What with...somepony painting away?" Okay. That was weird. Where did that come from?

"Uh, maybe?" She looked as confused as I did. Why was I thinking of that new Ponyville park that Pinkie Pie was helping open? Ugh! I've got a headache.

The butterfly landed on my nose, I tried to swat it away, and scored a direct hit on my own muzzle, the butterfly landed on my head. "H-hey! Get off!" The butterfly flew off me and landed on Sweetie Belle's back. Then again, I guess I should be happy I didn't hit it and make Fluttershy angry by hurting one of her animals.

It wouldn't have looked so weird if the wings were bigger, or maybe Sweetie Belle was small, like a little fairy in the breeze. BLECH! Where did THAT ONE come from?!

Sweetie Belle giggled as the Butterfly landed on her nose and unlike me she liked the view. Something that girlie looked better on her anyway.

"You know, Rarity talks a lot."

"No kidding."

"No I mean, she talks a lot with Fluttershy, and...me and Rarity have been talking a lot more."

With how Rarity had been making sure Sweetie was never ever alone even for a minute, I wasn't surprised. "And?"

"And she said, that Fluttershy said, how butterflies only live for a few days, oh sorry!" She apologized to the butterfly! "But they live their lives to the fullest."

"Okay."

The butterfly bowed at Sweetie then did a few loop de loops as it fluttered away as we kept our eyes on it. "Rarity says butterflies symbolize grace and skill in the air. Hey!" Sweetie looked at me and pointed with her hoof, "Just like you, but with your scooter."

I rolled my eyes, "Yeah right, like me and those things will have anything in common."

(Interviewee's Notes (Awesome Orange Pegasus): Hey-HEY! No need to show that part! There's gotta me more interesting stuff than that!)

++++
Hello! Grand opera Sunflowers! I mean, it's a wonderful morning! Mayor Mare even promised I wasn't going to have to sign everything Ditzy Doo AND Derpy Hooves from now on because that filing error made it look like I was married to myself.

Ivory scroll sparkles. I mean, Mayor Mare is a really nice pony. I don't understand why everypony says politicians are all bad ponies. I haven't met many of them.

The Doctor? He's doing great! Orange Top had to help him through his taxes! Yeah! Apparently he's never stayed in one spot for so long as with Ponyville that Mayor Mare says he's now officially taxable this year! He said figuring out how to transport a miniatured planet inside the TARDIS is easier than tax forms!

He says his normal quick talking doesn't seem to quite work as well on ERS ponies like other other borrower-rats, I mean bureaucrats! He actually begged Princess Celestia for help, but she said that if he wanted to live somewhere, instead of just staying somewhere, he had to play by the same rules as everypony else!

He was given the forms by this nice pony name Catch-Twenty-Two.

Sparkler's doing great! My bigger muffin says she wants to introduce us to a friend she made in Canterlot: Moon Dancer. Mom's doing great too! Normally when I visit she's always so nervous, but now she's acting a lot more peaceful! And Derpy finally did good! Derp finally make sun smile!

Did Rainbow Dash say I cheated on a test when we were foals?...Maybe. What is maybe? Er, maybe, 'maybe' is: yes? It was just before mama tried to teach me how to fly over that river I earned my cutie mark in. But there's no way she would have believed ... believed Rainbow said about me cheating. Rainbow was just upset. She really wanted to go to that Wonderbolts show I think and she really tried. She's not a bad pony at all! Everypony says she's lazy, but that's because she gets everything done super fast so she has time to rest! She's done nothing but be there for everypony!

Is my little muffin a bookworm? Don't be silly! She likes to learn new things and is really smart, but she doesn't spend her whole day with her nuzzle in a book. She spends most of her time playing with Ruby Pinch, Orange Top, and now Pipsqueak and Moonlight! One time my Dinky's imagination got so active she swears their pretend pirate ship became a real one!

Everything is new for her. Everything is wonderful for her. All foals have that spark of wanting to explore everything I think, well, my little muffin does at least. And I'll always be here to protect her, and make sure she grows into a wonderful mare. Just like Sparkler. Both my little muffins make me so proud.

++++++

There had been a posted note in Bon Bon The First's diary I found while transcribing the parts that related to Bon Bon's family for her to read. It was a note on Cheerilee the unicorn's final wish, her final thoughts as she was remade into the Cheerilee of this reality. Her final wish, was for Princess Rarity to be safe and happy.

She loved Princess Rarity like she would her own child. I knew that already from the journal. But it hammered it home. And it made me feel, a little sad almost. Sure Rarity and Cheerilee knew each other, but they didn't have the deep friendship that their previous selves had. Especially with me and Zecora having that deep friendship throughout all our existances.

It's funny, I agreed with the Princesses that fixating on the past would only bring trouble. But I still volunteered to help in any way I could in excavating the history and wonders of the civilization Starlight and her friends enjoyed.

I was organizing to dig up relics and artifacts with a Dr. Audience (how is that a name for an archaeologist pony?) for a whole weekend (it was all I needed to get it done, and some coffee).

I was creeped out when I saw she had hired Diamond Dogs, but she explained you couldn't find better diggers and most Diamond Dogs weren't like the ones we knew (yes, a friendship lesson was involved, but now's not the time). But what confused and agitated her work team, was how more 'modern' items were found UNDERNEATH the pre-classical era strata. A lot assumed it as a practical joke or a fraud until a carbon dating spell proved them wrong.

I convinced Pinkie Pie to focus on the new park she was funding with her life savings, no way I was letter her near fragile pieces of history. I was stunned when Zecora caught wind and requested to go.

"Zebra and pony hearts are identical, tis true,
But Twilight Sparkle, I am not the same as you.

While you create barriers between who you once were,
I believe we are one and the same underneath my fur."

It was astounding how calmly accepting Zecora was of the truth. While souls didn't work like she thought they did, she really did see no difference between herself, Kimono, or Miss Hackney. This also meant she saw no difference between me, Minty and Clover.

Zecora leaving Everfree, leaving Ponyville, I think she had become such a fixture of the town, just everypony knowing she wasn't in that hut of her in Everfree was a little jarring.

But the biggest thing? Was when I was organizing. She'd calmly correct me on the spelling, proper naming and brand of pieces we dug up. What was she? That she just let those memories be a part of her? UGH! I'm over thinking things! There's nothing strange or dark about Zecora, she's just spent her whole life focused on self discipline, and her beliefs don't contradict what she learned, so of course she'd be able to handle it.

"To memories I can't lose myself,
Because I am already these selves."

And it was as simple as that to her. I'm just happy the dig site Celestia and Luna had sublimely directed them to wasn't old Ponyville, I don't think I could have taken it.

I'm being a foal. Ponies change. Kingdoms change. The world changes. Friends change. We change from who were yesterday every day of our lives. Friends...friends can drift apart, but they remain friends.

Don't worry Starlight, we won't let it all be a waste. I'll never let tragedies repeat. We'll make a wonderful tomorrow as it becomes today. Waxing poetic, I really did spend all weekend with Zecora.

"Zecora, thank you, you're a wonderful friend."

"Twilight Sparkle, same to you.
May it remain as the sky is blue."

++++++

We've finally begun again? Oh, how's my mane? Miss Rarity Belle welcomes you once again my good ponies! Oh I know this isn't live, I just like to have some warm greetings for your readers.

No, I haven't heard from Filthy Rich today. It's not like we're close friends...I'm having flash backs the last time you asked that kind of question. You promise it's nothing negative? Alright. And no, Filthy hasn't really used that alias since he visited myself and Sweetie. It's strange going by Filthy now seems to have washed away the filth. He's acting the gentlestallion I remember before. I'm surprised more ponies don't ask how a stallion like him could have a filly like...like Diamond. I do hope the dear is all right.

Um...I'm going to check anyway! Be right back.

. . .

Miss Shinny Star says Mr. Rich is on a personal trip. You promise it'll work out?...

I know I'm not a part of their family. This isn't because of any 'investment' I made with Tiara I'm hoping for a return on, I want to help. I chose to help Tiara, and let it never be said I left any task I set myself to half done. Yes, yes, I suppose that's sometimes me and Applejack have that in common. I know I'm not her mother, but I thought it was finally opening the doors to that spiked dungeon she keeps her empathy in. I won't abandon somepony half-way through a journey.

I know she never thanked me once, that wasn't the point. The time and effort I gave her, I gave them to her because I felt it would help her.

You don't give something, because you expect something in return.

If Princess Gaia reminded me of one thing, is that you can't FORCE gifts on others, they'll never work.

I saw Diamond Tiara, and I saw a selfish filly who needed a lesson, and I was right. But being taught her cruelty would be paid back to her eventually wasn't the only one she needed. The number of bonds she'd formed were always tiny. If I could help her form one more bond. Then maybe that'll help her make more.

It wasn't about what I wanted, it was about what she needed.

If I can be better than the Greedy Rarity inside me. If Silver Spoon can evolve past being Diamond's minion and become Sweetie Belle's friend. Than I can teach Diamond Tiara she doesn't need to BE just her cruelty, and show her, it won't be what'll make her the most happy.

I know we'll find her.

Things can never care for you back like friends can.

I never thought I'd share something personal with Rainbow Dash. What Princess Celestia told her and myself?

That unlike other ponies in Equestria, myself and Rainbow Dash, we made in our hearts the choice to cut down another pony. Rainbow Dash actually is stronger than me. She wanted to end Nightmare Whisper's pain. I on the other hoof on top of that, I was trying to kill Cheerilee when she was Princess Gaia's thrall. That she was keeping us from Sweetie Belle is no excuse. Sweetie would have never wanted the death of her teacher to be because of her. I would have done a terrible thing, not just to Cheerilee and her family, but to Sweetie Belle as well. I doubt I'd have ever forgiven myself, let alone expect to be forgiven.

The scary part is how, after a lifetime, I suddenly twice in a day came to the same conclusion. It makes me feel ugly. Princess Celestia said how Rainbow Dash and I might be needed at one point, to do what needs to be done to save the lives of our friends and family.

But at the cost of our friends and family? I swear, to swear to Princess Celestia, to Princess Luna, on the Element of Generosity, on my beauty, when I come to that black fork in the road, I will find a better way. I think some creatures might call me a fool for this, I don't care. I will not become a killer in deed. I'll give life, I won't TAKE it.

When I give, I give to help, not to even out some 'cosmic balance' between have and have not.

My largesse large has never been, nor ever will be, because I feel it's 'in the rules.'

I don't give discounts on dresses because I feel obligated to, or because I feel guilty for being more fortunate than others. I wish to share my gifts with others. Yes I feel proud about my beauty, don't think me shallow and vain: I've worked hard for my beauty. My eyelashes, my mane, my coat, my grace, I've put effort into all of it. Just like my dresses. Just like my shop. Just like I am with my sister, and my friends.

+++++++

Oh hello! Do I have you to thank for taking us and Pinkie Pie home from the field after we fell asleep? I know Fluttercruel didn't take our body home, and you were with us, so thank you. You know, I think that's the first time I've ever seen you really interact with anypony besides talking...well, erm, that is, uh, and Fluttercruel, punching you in the face...and breaking your nose.

While I felt your question was rude, I did tell Fluttercruel that she didn't need to resort to violence. Yes, I know we've had to fight before...my friends had to fight me. That's why I let Fluttercruel learn to fight, I know someday...we might need it. Twilight has said 'better have something and not need it, than need it and not have it,' and I know she's right...

I just have to trust her to know when is time to fight and when is the time not to.

Yes I have been flying a lot more! Not just from the fear Discord gave me of losing my wings, but also, thanks to 'Hurricane Fluttershy' (as the papers called it), I feel so much more confident now. For the first time in my life, ponies were praising me for my flying! I was so happy. I'd even stopped having a flight camp flashbacks.

Do I ever physically punish Fluttercruel? No. And it's not just because we share the same body, no parents should inflict something on their child that they can't endure themselves if it's for their own good. No, hehehe, I just believe that I have much more effective ways of punishing Fluttercruel when she gets out of hoof.

And I don't want to see any harm come to her. Yes she's trouble sometimes, but she didn't ask to be born the way she was. If anything, I'm now ashamed I thought of simply asking Twilight to somehow exterminate her like she some sort of disease. Just because our lives are bound together doesn't make her some kind of growth. I don't even consider exterminating insects a good idea (destroying a predator or a prey species can be a disaster), it's just shocking to think about how I thought about doing it to another pony.

Oh don't worry dear, mommy isn't going to beat herself over it, mommy's just happy to have you with her.

Yes, I looked inside Gilda's heart, the same as everypony touched by my fog as Princess Gaia. I saw the choices she made that made her friends with Rainbow Dash, and the choices that turned her into a bully.

Gilda doesn't know Rainbow Dash was the one I had direct my puppets to corner her. I think in the shock of everything that happened, Rainbow Dash never figured out I was having her corner the real Gilda as a surprise gift. I planned to introduce her to a Gilda that wasn't being cruel and thuggish to all Dashie's OTHER friends.

Twilight Sparkle's letter to Princess Celestia called Gilda a 'false friend.' A part of Rainbow Dash's heart didn't want to believe that. Still wanted to be friends with her. I saw Gilda back in Cloudsdale when we were foals, I'd seen her as Rainbow's friend (though I didn't really know her at the time)...I had that advantage that only me and Rainbow had. I'd seen how long they'd been friends.

I haven't forgotten what Princess Luna told us as part of our punishment, no, not that we'll never know for sure how 'real' either of us are. I meant when she told us, that if I had just been open and honest with everypony, that ponies would have accepted Princess Gaia willingly, and their love for me would have made the red sphere I had stuffed all of Equestria's inner-monsters int slowly shrink down to almost-nothing, and everypony would have been happy. Including Gilda.

But that chance was gone forever now. Yes, Gilda scared me to tears when we bumped into each other in Ponyville, and I came face to face with her temper. No I haven't forgotten she stole an apple and scared poor Granny Smith. I know because I looked inside her memories remember? I'm just happy nopony has been upset over THAT. Inside my fog, I saw ALL that made each pony themselves, which was how I was able to take their most painful memories and most ugly traits and take them inside myself.

But that also means I saw what led Gilda to take the easiest way out (for her). No, I'm not going to tell you, that's personal, and only she has the right to share it.

If Gilda becomes a better person, that's got to be her choice, I can't force it on her, or she'll just resist it, and dive deeper into the darkness rather than be made to accept the light.

Like I said, I don't think Rainbow Dash realized the 'game' was real. I hope. I made a big enough mess of thing without adding another one.

But that letter from Rainbow Dash, it did the one thing that has never been done before in Gilda's life. It made her question if being bullying, rude, treating her anger like it was her best friend, seeing it okay to 'want, take, have', if all those things, maybe, if only maybe, hadn't really gotten her what she wanted after all. And had cost her somepony who had actually made her happy.

And maybe Rainbow's loyalty, and that questioning, could help Gilda look in a mirror, and recognize what she had, wasn't the freedom she thought it was.

++++

Mom said how me and Gilda would make great friends.

Mom. Even after Princess Luna told her that Sunny Town was the lost cause of lost causes she still insisted on help those freakin' murdering zombies! Even I can't tell if she was this pure before I was born, or after Nightmare Whisper. Of course the Old Man had to make me because he couldn't break her, so maybe she was.

The Old Man? What do I think of him? Pst. What SHOULD I think of him? His magic made me, and he only ever said one thing to me, and that was it, ever. He never looked my way again. The Old Man...maybe he didn't even know I was there. And maybe it's better he didn't. Oh whatever. For all I know, he just saw me as just another one of his toys. One thing is for sure, I have no intention of helping him break out of his prison, if he wants out so bad he can do it himself! Heck, if mom hadn't been there when we put those flowers on his statue, I'd probably have mooned him instead. And yeah, I would protect my mother from him if he came calling again. She saved my life after all, and she's helped me more than once. Our relationship isn't perfect, and us living together causes problems, but I don't want to be without her. And she doesn't want to be without me, and that means a lot to me.

Fluttershy's friends? Sure, they're great and everything, but I don't want to have the exact same relationships as her. I've spent a lot of time trying to escape being just 'Cruel Fluttershy' after all. No I am not changing my name for crying out loud! Just drop it!

Yes I want to make and have friends. Friends are one of the proofs we exist, I wonder why Silver Blue never caught up on that when getting ponies everywhere to try and feed her ego. At least I've got one friend who's more my friend than mom's.

Funny how my relationship with Angel began with him beaning me in the nose, but I think we have a deeper understanding than mom does with 'em. As crabby as he can get, he's still the pragmatic type I like! And I love Iron Will's badflank attitude, but you remember how that went.

I respect Purple out hoof wrestling us. Pink reminds me of the Old Man sometimes with how weird she can act, only, warmer. Rainbow knows how to have fun, and I took Pink's suggestion to get to know her a bit better. Silver Blue well, I can appreciate where she's coming from and she plays to win. Orange, well, I can't say I don't agree with her that ponies could bear to be a little more honest with themselves. Marshmallow, Rarity?

I can't believe how brutal she can be underneath the frufru stuff, actually makes me like her more. I think she actually goes out of her way to not treat me like I'm a replacement Fluttershy, or I'm an excuse to dress up Fluttershy's body. She talks about bringing out MY inner beauty, and I have to say that she succeeds. Stupid Photo Finish. Then again, mom might go crazy from having to live a double life like that.

Yeah. Us living together does keep bringing up problems.

I haven't truly known Fluttershy's friends as long as she has, so I can't say my link with them runs as deep as hers.

Then again...my OWN Element of Harmony wouldn't have WORKED with the others unless I felt a connection to them, and they hadn't felt a connection to me. Maybe we were united in our hope to save mom.

But truth is, is that I'm HAPPY that they consider me a part of the herd. That means I'm a part of them a little, and that means that I'll never completely vanish, no matter what. They're part of the proof that I'm alive.

It's kinda funny isn't it though? Mom faints at the idea of being close to a stallion. Me? I honestly wouldn't mind having an other half that wasn't my mother. I think I'd love it. But after Iron Will moving on before I had a chance to ask 'em, I wonder if I'll ever run into somepony who'd like us both, warts and all.

Well, I'm done being a quitter, so tomorrow is another day!

+++++++

What happened on the day when Discord trapped me? I am SO done with that! Pinkie Pie and the others got me through that mess, and I am finished with it. End of story.

The nightmares have stopped, including that creepy world where I was Discord's whimpering minion, no way could I ever be that Rainbow Dash! And more importantly the ones where Scootaloo helps Discord in revenge for me trying to put her in an orphanage are gone. That might have been the responsible adult thing to do, but it didn't feel like the loyal thing to do. You can call it the correct thing, but I can tell you, it wouldn't be the RIGHT thing to do to Scoots. She trusts me too much for me to ever do that to her.

I never thought I'd ever willing tie myself to a filly, but I never thought I'd 'weigh myself down' with a pet either, and it was one of the best choices I ever made. Maybe I did more or less adopt Scootaloo on impulse, but I've always gone by my gut instincts.

It meant giving up my privacy, my cloud castle not being mine alone anymore, okay there's Tank, but having a filly is a different story. For one they talked.

It meant making sure Scootaloo picked up after herself, having to feed her, watching over her, knowing where she was, Making sure she was happy. and of course, teaching her how to fly. Her little wings weren't making it easy for her, but she wouldn't give up.

I'd had responsibilities before, I didn't stay weather captain by not doing what I was trusted to do or being lazy (okay, sometimes I slack a little, but ONLY when I know I'll have time to finish). But now I had more responsibilities waiting for me back home. But it also meant I had Scootaloo always waiting for me.

Would I make a different choice now? Not on your bucking life.

I wasn't kidding when I told Princess Celestia that confessing to Cloudsdale now would be just airing dirty laundry. Equestria has enough messes and I don't need to add mine to the heap. And AJ, I don't think she'd ever pressure me to. She understands. If some villain ever tells them what happened? I'll own up to it.

I have more important things to do than beat myself over something that's over and done with! I have a family.

I didn't tell Fluttershy we had all pretty much figured out her board game as Princess Gaia wasn't really a board game, and me directing her pawns to catch and change Gilda wasn't just pretend.

I went to Cloudsdale, but Gilda was already gone. I had a choice of trying to find Gilda with no clue where she was, or helping the friend who I did know where she was.

The pegasi there said little Gilda was competitive and playful, and was waiting for 'big sister Rainbow Dash' to come and race with her. No regrets, we had Equestria to save. I'm past that fork in the road.

Spitfire told me when the fog lifted, Gilda had clenched her beak, cursed like she'd been robbed, and took off.

My letter to Gilda got delivered, Derpy was able to confirm that at least (as much as I don't get along with her, she's never lost one of my letters, I'll give her that). But where Gilda was now, was a mystery. And Fluttershy told me that unless Gilda was ready on her own, that I couldn't help her. I'd opened the door she said, Gilda had to do the rest.

I keep hearing a bunch of ponies saying Fluttershy got off easy. Buck that. She punished herself enough during her whole 'conquer Equestria' scheme, and it took her forever to let go of it. The pony who was hardest on Fluttershy for that whole mess was Fluttershy, so shut the buck up already!!!!

I know Applejack doesn't like it, but I'm happy the majority of ponies either buy that random tabloid myth that Fluttershy was possessed, or are grateful to Fluttershy for having a day without their problems eating them alive. Or at least will admit there's no point wanting payback on a depowered and defeated bad guy. Ponies didn't want to find a 'send his statue to the planet's core' spell to punish him, they wanted to make sure he'd stay gone.

It's funny how I'm loyalty, but me, Pinkie Pie, and Rarity all want to protect and look after Fluttershy in our own way, and what happened, only made that more clear!

Talking more about others than myself? Guess that is kinda surprising for the Dash isn't it? Heh. Who cares? This is my interview right? That means I get to decide what we talk about.

What? . . .

What did you say? . . .

Me and Rarity?

Look I forgave her for letting those pretty wings go to her head, and Twilight told me how it was RARITY'S IDEA for all of them to go and cheer me on in the first place! If anypony gets what it's like to let your ego get the better of you, it's me.

Not that? You mean, when we spoke with Princess Celestia after delivering Pinkie Pie's cake? Well, I was happy I was able to answer Scootaloo's question she wanted to ask Celestia. And Rarity said she was going to visit Cheerilee as a friend. And I had a talk with a pegasus from Clouddale who lost what can't be replaced.

So am I going to do what next time we run into trouble?!

Would I do it first because I'm faster and Rarity then wouldn't have to deal with the guilt?!

You did NOT just ask that! You think I'd use what The Princess told me as an free-ticket to make our adventures more 'epic' or something?!

No I'm NOT saying The Princess was wrong! Me and Rarity? Maybe we ARE different from everypony else now. But that doesn't mean we're now freaks or psychos!

= Deadman Wonderland OST 1 [DW28A] =

Listen here missy! I am not a bucking monster! I didn't try to do what I did because I wanted to, and not because I was ordered to. And not because I felt a need to! You think it didn't kill me inside a little knowing what I was about to do?! I made the best bucking choice I could with what I knew! I know it would have been bucking awful if I had hit her! But it didn't bucking happen!!! So clop-off! I'm not gonna destroy myself over 'what could haves', EVERY AGAIN! That was the only way I knew how to save Fluttershy, the SPLIT-SECOND we had another way, I was the FIRST to jump on the bandwagon! She's never falling on my watch ever again. And THAT is a promise! So don't go trying to pin me some kinda loser psycho! And this doesn't mean I'm gonna start killin' baddies because I don't want to bother with 'em or because 'that's the only way.' I chose to do it, BECAUSE it was Fluttershy! If you don't get that. THEN TOO BAD! The Dash isn't that good at explaining this kinda junk, and I don't feel like it!

...

Seriously what was with your friend? Asking a question like that? What the buck was her problem?

...Yeah I guess I have been going overboard on the swearing, I'm sorry. That's something else I need to watch with Scootaloo around. I guess that is one thing I agree with Rarity on, is that there are some things you just don't say around a foal. When did I get that considerate? I guess havin' a filly underhoof changes ya. Besides, just cause the Dash is cool doesn't mean I want foals repeating things they shouldn't. Huh? Letting Scoots see a scary movie? Hehe...maybe, depends on which one.

Me and Spitfire? Well, remember she's got a busy life, a busy schedule, and she's got teammates to hang out with too, just like I do. So when we get to hang out is few and far between. And I think I'm fine with that. She's got her thing, and I've got mine. I know now that she's got my back if I ever need her, and I've got hers. Plus, it means we just have that much more to talk about when we do get to talk.

I think she's just happy I haven't tried asking her every five minutes to pulling strings for me to become a Wonderbolt. If I want in, I have to EARN it, the same way as everypony else on the team. Plus, if I got it by having it given to me I couldn't be proud of it...Hehe, yeah, or brag about it.

That doesn't mean we never hang out. I should have realized she'd get pulled away every few seconds at a major event like the Gala. We got to hang out just fine after the Young Fliers Competition, which was the prize, so I guess I just assumed that's how things would go at the Gala too.

I'll admit, having Spitfire go around as naked as anypony outside of her flight suit was a little weird, but it actually made it a lot easier for her since most ponies didn't recognize her without her Wonderbolt get up. I never really thought about how the average pony doesn't really recognize the individual 'Bolts but them as a team. And this was the team me, the show off, wanted to be in, which is why I know them all by name.

And I still do. It's my mountain and I'm going to climb it...that phrase doesn't work so well with a pegasus does it? You still get what I'm sayin' right? Good.

I'll confess, having Scootaloo around does make it a little bit harder for me to hang out with Spitfire now that we're more or less real friends. But that's part of the gig I took on when I took Scootaloo on, and I'm not about to whine about it.

Maybe I can take Scootaloo with me sometime, how many fillies get to meet a Wonderbolt?

Me? Shallow? Oh not this again.

You say my best traits only shine when it's helpin' others out? You know, you're right.

And I think I'm fine with that. I'm loyalty after all. I've helped Spitfire. I helped Scootaloo. I've helped Tank. I've helped Trixie find a friend. I think...I think I'm okay my good traits are shown when I helped others, means they'll talk about me, that they know about me. They know I'll always be there for them.

"Hey, Rainbow Dash, where do foals come from?"

And now I'm wishin' I'd paid more attention in those Mount-Ed classes.

++++++

Pinkie Pie checking in! Or rather Pinkie Diane as I prefer to be called by the narrative thank you very much!

Now where were we? Oh yeah, me and Fluttershy had that wonderful evening together! Thanks for taking us home!

Just let me take a quick peak at this WAY TOO LONG season that happened while we were all away and...HEY! Who censored this entire season? 'Something' World? Come on! You can't leave me in the dark about something like this!

Huh? What's this written here 'There are some things you're better off knowing. Pinkie Pie'? Wait, is that directed at me or is this from an alternate version of me? But we've done alternate universes before! Why hide it? Ugh!

Sigh. Yes I said sigh. It just feels, a little uncomfortable, not knowing what'll come next. And what the heck happened that made everypony wait so long! I'm really, really, sorry about that everypony. I mean really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, sorry! Things weren't meant to drag on like this, I'm so sorry. Our Shadows-Who-Make have lives too and all!

Okay! Apology out of the way! Next thing! Life waits for no pony!

Am I angry? Being made to wait so long? What good would being angry about it do? I have plenty of things to do, I'm not gonna waste my time being a grumpy pants! Just because the Shadows-Who-Watch can't see us all the time doesn't mean we don't have lives off camera!

Oh don't be silly! I'm not trying to hide from being unhappy again! I am SO THROUGH with that episode! I fused with Pinkamena and everything! Believe it ponies! That doesn't mean I'm going to suddenly be angry and upset all the time! That would be just as silly!

And not the fun kind of silly easier!

Speaking of which, I hope we reach the end of this fanfic soon, I think the authors are kinda having nervous breakdowns with how it's taken. Poor Shadows, I wish I could go throw them a 'I hope you feel better' party! I mean, every arc takes a lot longer than it was supposed to. And I read this arc is only around because all the readers wanted it. Well, here's hoping it's fun at least!

Well, you can count on Pinkie Pie to add some laughs no matter how grim things get! But seriously, a grim and violent My Little Pony fic? Don't we have a zillion of those already?

There's no way this story could turn into something like THAT, right?

Tone it down? Oh, okay, you just had to ask.

So how am I doing? I'm doing positively pink! The day is minty fresh! And the sun is sparkling!

I'm still sending and getting letters from my parents on the rock farm! And I still care about Dashie, Fluttershy, and all my friends. Seeing them all smile makes me smile. My middle sister still hasn't gotten back to me though, even though she stopped by Ponyville a couple times. Ashamed of me? No way! Me and my sisters might not see each other a lot but we still love each other!

I really hope we get some good musical numbers, seriously, it's NOT My Little Pony without singing!

But I know you want to keep these things a little short and sweet so I'll save it for later!

Dashie is telling me that looking after Scootaloo she doesn't have the same time for pranks anymore....And I know what she means. Baby sitting Pound and Pumpkin doesn't exactly give me a ton of extra time either. And I don't want to give up this job to anypony else.

Mr. and Mrs. Cake totally trust me. They've even let me manage Sugar Cube Corner all on my own again! It's wonderful. It makes me smile and laugh all on it's own! I think this responsibility stuff isn't nearly so bad once you get used to it! I proved I could be trusted with Pound and Pumpkin, and I proved I could take care of the Marzipan Mascarpone Meringue Madness this time! I just hope the shadows who watch don't mind how much we've strayed from the heart world there.

I won't lie and say it didn't cripple the royalties I've got from my party canon to move Fluttershy's incomplete mini-Ponyville of Everfree and complete it! Not to mention all those BOOORRRRIIINNNG talks about permit, zoning rights, construction and foal safety laws...I'm happy Twilight helped me with that. With all the stuff she loves doing, it's a wonder she doesn't go crazy!!!

The Princesses agreeing with me on it helped a lot to.

I'll admit, I was angry and sad when I realized Fluttershy little remade town was just gonna rot away with nopony else seeing it ever. And I'm not ashamed I was angry and sad! And some GOOD came of it! See?

I corrected a lot of little details that confused the construction ponies, but they went along with it. It's not a full blown theme park...paying employees, making and selling souvenirs, I didn't want that kind of trouble. The ponies in giant pony costumes would have been fun, but I wanted to keep it simpler, and something that could last a little longer. Besides, I have giant costumes and I can just use myself. That doesn't mean I didn't have a big celebration for it's opening however!

YOU WON'T BELIEVE who I got to be among my first guests! Sapphire Shores! I couldn't believe I had found another pony who was from the original world, even if she doesn't remember it. Oh, and she's a famous singer too I guess.

I got her to sing a song with me opening the park! Even if it didn't entirely make sense on the surface to everypony, I think we both felt it was right...

"My Little Pony, My Little Pony
Take me with you to Ponyville.
My Little Pony, My Little Pony
We'll have fun, I know we will..."

I also got Lickety Split and Speedy Delivery/Post Haste be among the park's first guests too.

A lot of ponies are drawn to this place, they feel nostalgic and warm here even if they don't know why. Something about this place just makes them feel happy, letting them forget their troubles for just a little bit.

I think Zecora enjoys it a bit more since...well, as far as she's concerned, it IS her home too. She sometimes wants me to call her Kimono. I don't mind, it's kinda nice to have somepony who remembers at least some bits of the world that never was and embraces it like I do.

You have no idea how wonderful it is to hear their laughter.

And Pound and Pumpkin loved it too. Heheheh. What? Heh! Did you think this park was just for ponies I knew from before I was born? Don't be silly. There's plenty they can learn from my past. I'm nowhere near old enough to only think about how things used to be! I've got plenty of future left in me!

Yes, I did feel the giant flashing 'Not Ironic' sign was necessary for some reason. Here, have some some rainbow berry cake! It's our newest hot seller at Sugar Cube Corner! Pound and Pumpkin sure love it.

And hearing them laugh, is better than you can imagine.

++++

Howdy, been a while, beautiful day ain't it? Perfect day for a picnic for friends Ah'd say. So what questions ya got fer me today?

Of course this here accent is all natural!...Uh. Oops.

Of course Ah knew Ah had an accent, everypony has an accent. Lyin' ta mahself is about the last thing Ah'm doin'.

Though Ah'll admit it did hit me after Moonlight tried to use that cute face of hers to get me to give 'er free apples. Not that Ah ain't got nothin' against charity, but family comes first. Runnin' a farm costs bits. Yes, Moonlight and Pipsqueak are the darn' cuten'nest couple Ah've ever done see. And Ah don't need ta ask where she lives.

Can we move along ta somethin' else here? Ah don't think this was the topic ya were lookin' for.

Ah already know sayin' the wrong thing at the wrong time can do nothin' but hurt some pony even if it's the truth. It's what Ah told Nightmare Mirror ain't it?

It's part of why Ah didn't tell Fluttershy what pa's hat meant to be when it got...ruined when we were savin' 'er from herself. Yeah, Rarity did do a great job of makin' a replacement didn't she? It ain't pa's, but it's special tah me in a different way. Gifts from a friend are special too.

That don't mean Ah don't think ponies couldn't bear to be a little bit more straight forward with each other, why this here song and dance we gotta do? And Ah don't mean one of Pinkie Pie's numbers.

When...when Ah inherited the farm, and when Applebloom asked questions about...about our parents: Ah didn't mince words with 'er, Ah told'er that they were gone and weren't comin' back, and not the 'run away and join the circus' type of gone neither.

Ah love'er, but Ah'm honesty, not kindness. Ya just gotta face the truth sometimes.

No way was Ah feedin' her some happy lie about them joinin' the Wonderbolts or somethin'.

Ah'm no Nightmare Mirror, but Ah ain't abandonin' Mah Element just cause it showed its ugly side, never again. Sayin' cause she used the truth for bad means the truth is bad' is the same kinda logic that made her a N ightmare in the first place.

Look Ah gotta a lot ta do before Ah meet up with the rest of the herd, so can we please keep this whole thing short? A farm pony's work is never done.

No no no, Ah'm not tryin' ta get this all done by mahself. Big Mac, Applebloom, Granny Smith, they're a part of this family too. Ah'll amdit, for a bit it felt like Ah was learnin' the same old lesson over and over again. One thing that Rodeo in Canterlot taught me good, is that just cause Ah'm the best Earth Pony athlete 'rought these parts, doesn't mean Ah'm the best in all of Equestria. And yeah, Ah know now it was a mistake tah try and be the best at everythin' instead of tryin' tah be best in a couple of things.

No Ah ain't ashamed no more of getting so many second places...Ah actually found out Ah had gotten more medals than any of the other ponies there...Ah was simply bein' too much of a cry baby about not gettin' any first place gold ta pay attention. Still doesn't mean Mayor Mare was happy about us not having the extra funds to fix Town Hall. The Princess' generosity can only stretch so far after all. And Derpy ain't on Ponyville's insurance plan.

Ya gotta understand somethin'. Farmin'? It's a full time job! Up BEFORE the sun, and right into the evenin'! Doesn't leave much time fer hobbies. But don't go thinkin' that means Ah'm gotta ditch mah friends over it.

And...Okay, Ah also got something a little bit more personal ta do first.

"Sucking out the poison? Stupid. You'll just get the poison in your mouth and infect the bite."
-
"Slapping somepony on the back while they're choking will only make it worse."
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"DO NOT TILT YOUR HEAD BACK, OR ANYPONY'S HEAD BACK IF YOURS OR THEIRS NOSE IS BLEEDING! All you'll do is choke on your own blood. And don't tourniquet a limb unless applying pressure ISN'T working! You've seen way too much theater!"
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"Remember Applejack, if a pony gets stabbed or impaled with something, do not be in a rush to pull it out on the spot, it's likely holding the bleeding back. I saw a patient DIE because idiots removed the arrow-head instead of keeping it in! With their unwashed hooves."

"Ah know that, Ah've...seen mah fair share of farming accidents."

"I understand."
-
"And remember Applejack, I'm just teaching you the basics here. Unless told otherwise by an emergency worker, if professionals are already doing their job, stay out of the way. You're not a doctor Applejack, bucking somepony in the chest WON'T restart their heart, it's meant to reset an unhealthy rhythm and meant to be done exactly once, and only if you know what you're doing! The one exception is if their heart stopped beating by being hit by lightning -and again, only once!- and you should FOLLOW IT with CPR, not do the CPR first if that's the case, and you have only half a minute before striking them in the chest won't change the outcome."
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"Remember Applejack, CPR is not meant to save lives, it's meant to prolong them until you can get them better help. And if I find out you ever hesitated to give mouth to mouth on another pony because they're a mare, I'll SMACK you. We have equipment for doing it at hospitals' anyway. And for the ratio for compression to breath is thirty to two. Don't bend your arms! And DON'T stop if you break their ribs: they won't need them if they die. And don't stop after a minute Applejack, until a medical pony tells you they're dead, don't stop. And Applejack, statistically, they still have a one in four chance of dying. Don't blame yourself if they don't survive. And if you do save them, their chances for a full recovery you're better off not knowing."

"Then what's the point?"

"The point Applejack, is giving them that chance for living they WOULDN'T have without your help."

"Redheart? Thank you. Ah, Ah think Ah really need ta know this sort of thing. For mah friends, and for on the farm. It feels like Ah should have known this sort of thing already."

"I'm just happy I could teach you Applejack. When I say remember, I mean remember. None of this will do any good if you forget it in a panic."

"Ah understand. Trust me, Ah ain't a pony who freaks out easy!"

"I don't doubt it." She gave me a kind nuzzle. "So is Applebloom coming in for her flu shots on her own this year, or are you going to hog-tie her, or have me visit you again?"

"Ah think...Ah think she's done plenty of growin' up this year."

"Your family certainly has its adventures."

"True darlin', but Ah think ya do plenty of good, in yer own way more than us. We just keep Equestria from going to horseapples when we ain't livin' our lives. You save lives every day."

"Thank you Applejack, that means a lot."

+++++++

Yes! You guys are finally talking to again to Ponyville's top dragon! Kenbroath Gillspotten Heathspike VII at your service! What? You didn't think THAT part of me was gonna go changing was it? A dragon has his pride after all!

So yeah, now the CMC have a dragon who can't earn a cutie mark, and a filly who already has her cutie mark. Sounds like the group is turning a little inclusive, but hey, the more the merrier.

Given the ideas these fillies come up with and survive to earn their cutie marks, I wonder how they can't be part dragons! Well that would make Rarity part dragon so maybe that's not so, okay okay, staying on topic! No need to push. I promise, one day me and Rarity will be together.

Ya know. I already know what I'm going to do with my life. Silver Spoon at least has the excuse she needs to reconsider what her cutie mark means. I went on that crazy trip through time and space because Sweetie Belle invited me and because they thought I could contribute.

Oh don't look at this dragon, I like being useful. But seriously? They've invited me, and I've accepted at this point...just cause. I think that's part of friendship: there's nothing to question, once it is, it just is, or that's one way to look at it right? Their friendship belongs to me now, and I'm not about to give it up. Don't worry I'm not one of those psycho nutzoid covetous types... most of the time.

I really hate to say it, but I think I ENJOY the crazy dare devil stunts they come up with. It gives me adventures I'm a part of instead of a tag along to. Silver Spoon deserves a medal for not giving up on the spot after that first one considering it was probably the craziest one yet, not sure how we'll ever top time travel.

I know how Applebloom feels about being treated like a toddler by the adults no matter how much you give or how hard you try.

I can appreciate Scootaloo wanting to fly. Why the heck don't I have wings when every dragon I've ever seen has'em? Hopefully I'll get'em as I get bigger, I mean older.

If Silver Spoon doesn't like her name implying she has no talent other than being an heiress, then I'd be happy to take some of her stuff off her hoofs. Erm. Forget I said that.

Zecora told me just cause I don't have a risk of turning into Spikezilla again, doesn't mean my hoarding instincts have magically gone away.

"While you are not becoming a beast that can crush Ponyville like a grape.
Does not mean that the instincts of a dragon are something you can escape.

While your heart and mind provide sheathing,
You cannot stop wanting to hoard anymore than breathing.

A leopard can not change its spots like in the myth,
This is something you must learn to live with."

Yeah. Don't ask me how Zecora knew so much about dragons when the entire Ponyville library and Twilight were a dead end. Sometimes I wonder what the bigger mystery is behind that zebra!

She said my best bet was to redirect my energies elsewhere, so I guess that's what I've been doing with Sweetie Belle and the others.

Sweetie Belle? I've done my best just to make sure Twilight doesn't think I'm using her to get to Rarity or treat her like Rarity-lite.

OH! And before you ask!

Contrary to what you might have heard, me and Twilight did NOT end up in a tree after we challenged Big Mac together for Smarty Pants. That's how I ended up all the other times I tried before. We got Smarty Pants back!

It wasn't easy.

There were bruises and black-eyes all around when we were done, and Smarty Pants was going to need a little stitching from me.

"Ya know, ya couldda just asked if ya wanted her back so bad."

"WHAT?!" Twilight exclaimed.

"Why did you FIGHT ME every time?!" I exasperated.

"Ah thought it was part of some fancy smancy dragon code of conduct, Ah was just bein' polite... and I really really like Smarty Pants too."

When we got home. I got ready for Twilight to tell me how stupid I had been. She closed in on me and whispered,

"Spike, thank you for getting her back." And she hugged and kissed me! No not in that way!

It didn't seem to impress Rarity like I thought it would. But I made Twilight happy. And Big Mac doesn't seem to be holding a grudge. Or Applejack (though she did tell me I was acting dumb). Thankfully I think that was BEFORE I joined Applebloom's club, or that would have made things even more complicated.

Like it or not however, I have to watch the library when Twilight is out socializing with our friends. Owlowcious gets the night shift after all. Which means he's sleeping.

I promised Twilight that I'd keep the CMC from trashing the library. And not tell them where she hid the matches. Or the coffee and sugary stuff. Silver Spoon promised too, being Sweetie Belle's chaperon. Yeah, Twilight is trusting a promise made by a bully who picked on the CMC, while Rarity is trusting that same bully with Sweetie Belle's safety. The world sure has turned upside down without Discord's help hasn't it?

Applebloom and the rest were talking about checking out the new park Pinkie Pie was opening. Figuring they might be able to pick up some new jobs or hobbies they hadn't thought of yet. And Pinkie Pie had always been open on the CMC helping before (even when they ended up turning themselves into taffy with Sugar Cube Corner's new taffy machine that one time). That hadn't changed just cause she's sane now.

I had almost figured out all of their special talents, but Twilight kept insisting that it wouldn't work unless they realized it on their own (which is stupid if you ask me, but nodragon is).

I'd find out later Applebloom -insists- Pinkie Pie's new public park looks like the Ponyville of the Past we visited going through time that one time (LOOOONG story, and it wasn't the only spot we visited, we even had to escape this dark motionless universe ruled over by this 'D____' something or other).

But I'd have to find all that out later, cause out of my stomach, came a letter to Twilight.

Dear Twilight Sparkle,
Princess Celestia cordially invites you to the wedding of Princess Mi Amore Cadenza and Shining Armor Sparkle.

Shining Armor Sparkle? Whose that? A cousin of Twilight's I haven't heard about? And Princess Mi Amore Cadenza? Huh? What? Who?

Must be one of old Blueblood's relatives.

I checked out the when and where. There was also a mark of priority! In other words, 'Show this to Twilight Sparkle right now Spike, or I'll turn you into a hand bag!'

DANG! GOTTA CALL THIS SHORT! See ya around!

I babble out the quickest goodbye and apologize I could to the girls before putting up Twilight's 'in case an emergency comes up' note on the door (she's Twilight, of COURSE she has one).

AND OUT THE DOOR I GO!

I'm sure Owlowcious will be able to put any fires: not from the fillies, from me running so fast!

Episode 161: "And That's How We Got Three Flower Fillies"

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Pony POV Series
Not The Wedding You Remember Part 3

I've told that your readers already know the fundamentals, so I'll trying to keep things without too many details. Mom always said the major problem with my writing is that I keep trying to squeeze too many details into one sentence.

Applejack had her eye on Fluttercruel when she caught a small bug, she tensed for a moment, then 'Cruel simply let the insect go. That was a tiny relief. I think for a moment she was worried 'Cruel was going to pull the legs off.

Focus? All right.

So the picnic was going great! No misunderstandings, no villains, it was just so perfect!

Then my number one assistant came huffing and puffing. And he puffed out a scroll detailing the duties granted to six of us for the Royal Wedding in Canterlot. We were all delighted at being given such royal honors that didn't involve saving the world.

But I was stuck wondering what wedding Teacher Celestia was even talking about!

Then Spike gave me the letter he had meant to give me to begin with.

And it left me only more confused.

"Captain Shining Armor Sparkle? Who's that?" Inconveniently, none of my friends present had an answer. Had I forgotten one of my cousins? "Princess Mi Amore Cadenza? Huh?" And the shaking heads kept on coming.

Flash, bang, surprise: and Trixie was back in our lives again.

Trixie stood dramatically in the middle of our picnic.

I remember when Trixie couldn't teleport out of a paper bag and she just spell-copied me to learn how.

I wonder if this is how other unicorns felt when I just effortlessly copied their spells just by eye-balling them. I never attributed it to being the Element of Magic until Trixie began doing the same thing.

That said, Trixie's teleportation had a certain...flare to it that seemed different than mine. Like Trixie had made it her own in a way. Hehe, figures Trixie would try to make herself stand out.

Spike groaned, the rest of my friends were befuddled by Trixie's big entrance.

"Hail and well met my compatriots! Tis I. The One and Only Trixie, have returned!" Trixie really just has to steal the moment doesn't she?

Pinkie Pie blinked at Trixie's arrival and pulled out a book titled 'How to Tell if Your Friend is Becoming a Self-Insert' I don't remember that book.

Trixie being Trixie distracted me from the confusing letter.

"Hi Trixie," I spoke first, happily. I think Trixie was disappointed we didn't burst into applauds at her sudden return. I didn't bother to ask her how she found us, she likely spelled-copied the magic I use to keep track of her every move. That isn't stalking! I checked! "What brings you back to Ponyville?"

"Actually Twilight Sparkle, I was on my way to Canterlot for the biggest performance of Trixie's career! And she thought she'd grace you with her presence."

"So you did come to visit! How wonderful!" I clapped my hooves.

Pinkie Pie was scribbling check marks in the back of that book of hers.

The others were content to let me do the speaking, except of course,

"My my darling, in Canterlot you say! What a coincidence, we were just this instant been given invites there ourselves! Oh, we all know where this is going!" Rarity guessed smiling before we all did, "Would your show be for a royal wedding?"

"Trixie should have known you'd be asked to attend, given the groom."

"Oh!" I perked, "So do you know who 'Shining Armor Sparkle' is? I can guess he's part of my family but I don't think we've ever met."

Trixie looked at me slack-jawed. "Twilight Sparkle. I mean no harm but I suggest you get your head looked at! You told me last time you visited! He's your big brother!"

Pinkie Pie looked pale. I didn't need to guess why. Then she began putting down more check marks in that book of hers!

Brother? Since when do I have a brother? My fantasy in Gaia's fog of Trixie being my sister was based on how I didn't have any siblings! "Trixie, are you sure you teleported right? You might have transporter psychosis."

"UGH! Twilight, you did this last time! BBBFF. Does that ring any bells? 'Big Brother Best Friend Forever' you said!"

Images and a voice began to flick in my mind. A white unicorn stallion with a blue mane. Wait!

"GIRLS! It's always been six Elements of Harmony right?! We weren't seven Elements facing Nightmare Moon were we?!"

The girls shook their heads. Not that it would matter if it was that. But if Pinkie Pie didn't remember, then maybe it was all right.

"Wait, Shining Armor is my brother, that's, I, that is, I remember but-" I held my head. And a flood of memories burst through my mind.

I could say only one to recalling my BBBFF, "THAT BIG JERK!!"

THE NERVE OF HIM!! 'Hi Twilight! I'm getting married! Don't worry! You'll find out via invite! Not gonna bother telling you! That jerk!' And who is this Princess Mi Amore Cadenza he's marrying anyway?! Some random royal mare from freakin' Blueblood's family?! Ick! The idea of being related to that spoiled coward makes my skin crawl!

I'll give him more than just a piece of my mind! I ranted and raved using a sandwich like a puppet.

"Twilight, I can appreciate you being upset, but aren't you, uh, going a little bit, overboard, maybe?" Fluttershy asked.

I groaned. "I'm sorry." And I told them, from the heart, how Shining Armor had been the only pony I had ever formed a real bond with besides my parents before coming to Ponyville, he wasn't just my big brother, we were legs on a chair.

It humbled me when I realized how much it was like Dash and Gilda, thinking that one friend was the only friend I could ever actually need, and any more were just chaff.

The family psychologist even suggested my relationship with Shining was a little too healthy, but that was just silly, right?

"Uh, Twilight," Fluttershy said, "I don't want to sound awful," so Fluttercruel came out, "But, don't you think it's creepy Trixie says you suddenly remembered him when talking to her, and now that you talk to her again you remember this brother none of us have even met?!"

"Come on! It's not like I've met all of your families!" I looked at Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy.

At least none of them accused Trixie of trying to use mind control on me.

"Twilight, I know you aren't the kind to make this stuff up, but isn't it kinda suspicious that you've been with us for TWO YEARS, and your brother didn't come visit Ponyville, and we didn't so much MEET HIM all the times we visited Canterlot?!" Rainbow Dash asked.

"He's been on a two year trip around the world!"

"And Ah know ya ain't lyin', but Rarity and me slept over at yer place, and Ah know meh and Rarity were busy bickerin' but Ah'm sure ya didn't have so much as a picture of 'em! But did ya?"

"I didn't have a chance to pack much before being sent off to Ponyville!"

"Not to mention darling that you say you think so highly of him, and yet you didn't so much as once mention him all the times we've talked. And where exactly was he when you took your Magic School entrance examine? If you two were as close as you say, wouldn't he have been there? You didn't mention him at all!" Rarity poked where she wasn't welcomed.

"A lot has happened, and he was attending the Royal Guard Academy and couldn't find time!"

Pinkie Pie was grinning and said in a perfectly friendly tone. "Don't worry Twilight, I'm perfectly prepared to meet your big brother."

Pinkie Pie was now carrying a suitcase shaped perfectly like a bazooka with the words pasted on the side: 'In Case Of Marey-Sue.'

"Pinkie Pie! Not you too! Spike remembers him no problem! Right Spike?"

"Ah," Spike blushed, "I didn't really remember Shining until you brought him up."

Applejack sighed, "Girls, Ah swear, Trixie ain't lyin' when she said Twili' had a brother, but neither was Twili' when she said she ain't had one!"

"Look! If this was some of kind of wish fulfillment magic, I wouldn't have dreamed up a brother who just decided to get married without even telling me! Why would I dream up a big brother that would brush me off?! That makes no sense!"

Pinkie blinked and looked at her book, thankfully erasing a check mark.

"We're just worried Twilight," Fluttershy said, "It does seem a little... convenient."

Trixie looked at the others, she couldn't believe I hadn't mentioned Shining to them once. But all those stories about the end of Pinkie Pie's world in Bonbon The First's journal, they were about ponies being forgotten not being suddenly remembered. It had to be just a bunch of crazy happenstance, right?

"Girls, it's MY fault I never brought up Shining with you and forgot about him."

"But what if somepony mind controlled Trixie, who mind controlled you, but the mind control wore off on you, but now Trixie reactivated the mind control?" Pinkie Pie asked.

"But then what about Princess Celestia's invite Pinkie Pie? And Spike -wasn't- with me when I spoke to Trixie last."

"Then somepony might have mind controlled The Princess, and you or somepony else mind controlled Spike, but they didn't count on it wearing off, so Trixie just caused it to go active again!"

"Okay, wait a second," Rainbow interjected. "I know that Luna went all Nightmare Moon, but Celestia being mind controlled? She sent the letters to Twilight that snapped her out of Discord's spell, and since she locked him up the first time, why wouldn't he have tried to control her?"

Everyone gave it thought. "That's...a good point. And Discord's magic is a lot stronger than anyone else's we've seen," Rarity added. "It created Fluttercruel's soul after all."

Applejack looked thoughtful for a second and went over to Pinkie and talked with her about something private. Pinkie seemed to nod in agreement. I wonder what they were saying... Did AJ just Pinkie Promise?


"Pinkie, when we split from the Heart World, mah memory started changin' and even some events in the past changed, like Trixie bein' there for the Flim Flam Brothers thin'. Ain't it possible that somethin' like that happened with Twilight's big bro?" Ah asked. All this cosmic mumbo jumbo made mah head hurt.

Pinkie rubbed her chin and gave it thought. "Well it's possible. It'd pretty much mean either Shining Armor wasn't born in the past until after we broke away from the heart world, or some part of Twilight wanted him to be with so bad that she called him from the heart world, and the world is trying to figure out what to do with him. Trixie might have unconsciously done it just to make Twilight happy."

"Yer kiddin', their magic is THAT powerful?"

"Or just their wishes are. Twilight's ancestor's magic was based on wishes."

Ah didn't even TRY ta figure out how Pinkie Pie mighta known that. Pinkie is still Pinkie.

"So maybe Shinin' is real now? And Twili' head ain't messed with?" Ya know. Ah never dreamed Ah'd EVER be takin' 'bout this kinda stuff. So much for bein' a simple country farmer.

"Could be! . . . and if you tell Twilight any of this, I can honestly say she won't be happy," she rumbled at me.

Gulp! Ah nevah though Pinkie would have me shakin' in mah hooves. "Cross mah heart, hope ta fly, stick a cupcake in mah eye. Ah'd never tell Twili' anythin' that'd only hurt her."


"Alright, Ah can't explain it very well, but there are...other reasons why this might be happenin'. It's complicated, but kinda one of those things Pinkie seems tah get that we don't."

"Wait, Twilight said she didn't have friends before meeting us," Fluttercruel pointed out. "It sounds like she DID have one."

"I..." I did say that...but...BBBFF.

"Now wait a minute, show of hooves," said Trixie, giving a serious look. "Who here actually has an older sibling?"

Applejack raised a hoof along with Trixie, Pinkie Pie didn't look sure if she was supposed to raise her hoofs or not.

"Alright, is the friendship you feel with an elder sibling that similar to friendship with friends? Or are they more like 'cousins?' Trixie had PLENTY of siblings, but you all are still MY first friends, you know. Even now that we're close, I don't feel the same to my siblings as I do for you six."

"Ah gotta second Trixie on this one," Applejack supported. "Big Mac's always been there for meh, but our love's a different sort than Ah feel for yah all. There's family, then there's friends. They're VERY similar, and friends can become like family, but the two ain't the same thing."

"But Twilight, what about me?" asked Spike.

Everypony then looked at me.

"...Spike, you've been with me since you were hatched. I guess I never had to 'make' you a friend...you were just always there with me...I guess...we're kinda family too..." I said. I gave him a small hug.

"'Guess kinda?'" Spike asked.

"Okay, really kinda. Just cause you're not Captain of the Royal Guard doesn't make you any less my family."

"CAPTAIN OF THE ROYAL GUARD?!" Everypony echoed.

"Uh, hehe, I didn't mention that already?" I smiled nervously.

Pinkie Pie looked at her freaky suit case, "Gonna need two of these."

+++++++++

So yeah! We're all headed for Canterlot again! I'm not exactly one for weddings, but doing a Sonic Rainboom?! Can you say 'best wedding ever?! And Princess Celestia herself asked me to help!'

Well darling, I shall admit it's strange about Twilight never mention a brother she so clearly thinks of so dearly, but doing dresses for royalty? I can't go missing a chance like that darling! An artist never turns down exposure! And it'll be such an honor!

Though Twilight is still unhappy her brother had failed to inform her personally. To be honest, I can't blame her, given my...familial issues, I know how that kind of thing can feel.

Maybe dear Shining Armor has magically forgotten about Twilight the same way that Twilight forgot about him, and that's why he neglected to invite her. It makes much more sense than some of the theories we ended up bouncing around. But a 'forget-me-yes' curse? Those are just horror stories darling, I hope. Yes Lyra Heartstrings did have me do a rush order dress for her. She only said it was for something very important.
-
Rainbow Dash sighed. "Rarity, I swear it's like you've been giving me headaches since a past life."

"Oh darling we both know you like to look your best."

"That doesn't mean I like to look like a girlie!"

"No, it's Applejack who doesn't like to look girlie, you are worried other will judge you as weak if you were to let your feminine side show more. The truly confident don't follow trends, they make them."

"I know that already."

"And you know that the only pony who decides who Rainbow Dash is, Rainbow Dash, correct?"

"Like, duh."

"Then stop being so scared Rainbow."

"Rarity, I TOLD YOU what happened when 'Gabby Gum' released those photos of me! I had ponies in Cloudsdale laughing at me."

"We all had ponies laughing at us Rainbow. My diary got published in the paper! There are things a mare keeps private! But we've all healed and moved on."

"I just don't like it when ponies treat me like a joke after I've worked so hard to become as good as I am."

"You think I look this lovely every morning Rainbow? You saw me in the middle of Luna's night on the ride to Appleloosa. Before I began pour time and effort into it, I was the most plain mare you could image. But I trusted you to see that side of me. Like you trust us to see this side of you. Pegasi are still looking up to you after Gabby Gums aren't they? They still look up to all of us. So please Rainbow, believe me, I know better than anypony that the opinions of the right or wrong pony can mean everything to your dreams. But don't become fixated on everypony's opinion. Besides darling, if you weren't, unlike Applejack, concerned about being dashing for important celebrations, then why my dear, did you ask me to refit and check-up on your dress even before we get to Canterlot?" Rarity asked, standing besides Rainbow as RD stood still for Rarity as the white unicorn did minor adjustments to Rainbow Dash's gala dress.

"Oh." Rainbow blushed, "Heheh, yeah, good point. Well, there's that, and Rarity, I wanted to talk to you. We both met with The Princess, and she, told us both we were . . . would have done things we couldn't undo, and to be . . . ready so the others won't have to if we're ever in a spot where we gotta or our friends will be goners instead. But Rarity, I haven't really, that is, you aren't the grim and gritty type so-"

"Neither are you Rainbow."

"Not what I mean. I mean, well, that is-"

"You're tough, used to fighting, used to getting dirty, used to using violence, and I'm dainty, prefer not to fight, avoid getting dirty, and abhor violence?"

"Uh, yeah."

"Rainbow, just because I don't want to be rough and tumble, doesn't make me fragile, I've fought alongside the rest of you before-"

"That's not what I mean, that . . . that . . ."

"Rainbow. I promise. I'm not losing any sleep over it."

"Yeah right."

"Fine. I am scared of what would have happened if I had to do the deed. But Rainbow? I think it's a healthy fear. I think that fear is what is going to inspire me to find a better way like we always have before. The moment that fear goes away is the moment we become the monsters we're meant to stop. I promise I'm not going to freeze in the middle of a fight. A lady has a right to stop and think her thoughts, but I promise I won't let my worried make me unable to help you or anyone. . . . What about you Rainbow?"

"ME?! . . . I'm through with it. I'm through with going nuts over what-if's. I'm done worrying about what'll happen when I come to a fork in the road I can't guess at. If I can't guess at it, why go crazy about it?"

The lady unicorn nuzzled the rough and tumble pegasus. "It's wonderful to hear you say that Rainbow Dash. You've grown up, very very much."

"Hey, don't get softie on me."

Rarity whispered. "Sometimes it's good to get soft Rainbow, helps remind us we don't need to be hard all the time."

"Heh, yeah... I... I guess." Rainbow nuzzled her back.

+++

You want me to talk about when I had that horrible feeling? I never hurt so much! I was scared I was going to... to... that... I felt like I was... dying.

Oh! You want to talk about after? Well, I woke up all dizzy in my bedroom with Rarity, Miss Twilight, and Nurse Redheart around me. I was told later the other doctors had already left.

"I'm sorry girls, close family only," Nurse Redheart whispered closing the door to my room and trotting close to me. I kept fading in and out.

Miss Twilight said a bunch of things about magic I didn't understand... I never seem to get magic.

Song is a type of magic too? I never thought of it that way, maybe I- the adults?

Twilight kept magic scanning me, I think, (it made my head feel weird) and Nurse Redheart looked me over EVERYWHERE.

Rarity noticed I was awake before Redheart and Twilight could tell and she HUGGED me! Super-hugged me! And kept hugging me! A lot! I tried to move, but I realized I was tied to the bed!

"Oh Sweetie Belle! It's wonderful to see you, I worried that, oh that doesn't matter now! You're ... you're right here, and thank Heaven for that."

I think she was crying...

"Uh, Rarity," Twilight nudged her. I faded back out then. When I woke up again, it was later that night and Nurse Redheart had said she'd be back in the morning. Rarity sung me to sleep with our family song...When I woke up in the morning, Nurse Redheart and Twilight were back.

Nurse Redheart asked me a lotta questions, who I was, who Rarity was, how old I was, where I was, what species I was.

I asked, "Was I brain-dead and you brainwashed a filly to think she was me, then put her mind in me to patch up my mind?"

"NO!" The all said together. Then Rarity demanded what story I had gotten that from and who told it.

"Rainbow Dash," Rarity growled for a moment before going back to making sure I was okay. No, Rainbow didn't scare me THAT bad. When Rainbow tells scary stories its fun. I've only had nightmares . . . a few times. I felt like I was already going back to sleep. So tired.

Nurse Redheart said that was normal given how sick I was.

Miss Twilight said something about feedback, empathy, linking, I know the words, most of 'em (My nickname is 'Dictionary' for a reason), but I still didn't get what they were saying.

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): I know how that is.)

---

Dear sweet Celestia what happened to you?!

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): I ah, nothing Nurse Redheart.)

I'll be the judge of that! Lion and eagle claw marks? Did a griffin do this to you?

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): No.)

How did this happen?

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): . . . I can't say.)

Tell me young filly!

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): I can't! It's against the rules!)

What rules?

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): The rules!)

Come here, this looks like it was patched up by a first year medical student. Stay still, this'll hurt a little. On goes the disinfectant. That's a brave girl. There. Be sure to change your bandages once a day. Now please, tell me what happened.

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): . . . I was trying to help a filly see that what she was doing wasn't going to help who she thought it would, that bein' mean wouldn't make 'er the most happy. The adult with her didn't want me speaking to her.)

WHO?!

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): I'm not allowed to say. I'm just here to ask questions. Giving answers means I'm messing things up, and messing things up means everything we've done will go away. Not just me. Please, don't ask.)

--

(Noon's Notes Supplemental: Dawn! Why didn't you just tell her a simple white lie? Like when we told everypony we were journalists for crying out loud!)

(Dawn's Notes Supplemental: I . . . I didn't want to lie to her.)

(Noon Notes Supplemental: Ugh!)

--

I have to report this happening, this sort of things should not happen to foals!

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): The bad guy is long gone from around these parts, there's no point in calling the Equestrian guards.)

. . . All right. I can't force you. But please if you need help, please come talk to me.

. . .

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Geeze, you and Cheerilee have a lot in common.)

I'm not surprised. She helps ponies grow, I help ponies heal. We both need to give compassion on a daily basis. She gets to see them grow up, I have to wish them farewell.


---

"Farewell Sweetie Belle."

"Bye-bye Nurse Redheart!" I waved her bye-bye. She had come back the next morning as soon as the hospital could spare her she said.

"Are you sure there is nothing more that you can do?" Rarity whispered, but I heard anyway. I've been picking up tips from Silver Spoon. Don't tell Rarity or Silver's mom she taught me that...

"There appear to be no adverse side effects, and no signs of physical trauma that a little rest won't cure. Just keep an eye on her for a few days and bring her back if anything happens. As for any magical residue..."

"I can't find any foreign anchor in her body or spell that would have chained her to another pony, she seems to be perfectly fine now. I gave her a full and complete Fail-Safe Spell, twice, so if there was any spell on her, it's gone now."

"What about curses?" Big sister asked.

Twilight rolled her eyes. "Rarity." Twilight stopped and held her head like she had a headache, she signed. "...Look, you can have her visit Zecora if you want. But I can assure you there are no adverse spells on her now."

"SWEETIE BELLE!" The others were all waiting for me outside our house the next morning, Silver Spoon and Spike included. Groups hug!

"Great to see ya Sweetie!" Scootaloo cheered.

"Yer okay right?" Applebloom asked.

"Don't worry, if Twilight says you're okay, then you're okay," Spike said confidently.

Silver didn't say anything. She held the hug a little bit tighter than the others though. Then she spoke. "Thank goodness."

Yes, we went to Zecora's in Everfree, with Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy as escort on either side of me, and Rarity made me wear this big sweater, it itched. Zecora did a lot of stuff I didn't understand at all, and I'm pretty sure Rarity didn't either.

"It is safe to say your sister suffers no curse."

"Thank you Zecora, let me repay you,"

"While I have done something kind,
There is no need for you to lighten your purse.
It is enough to give you peace of mind.
After all, Rarity my dear
We are friends.
If wanting my help you do fear
Then let those fears end."

That wasn't enough for Rarity and she bought a buffaloo dream-catcher and made me wear that too! Then she asked Silver Spoon to keep an eye on me whenever Miss Cheerilee or Rarity couldn't. And she wanted me to LIST where we'd be crusading ahead of time each day (thank Celestia we have Spike!) and when I'd be back home! . . .

No, Rarity's wouldn't do all that if she didn't really really love me. But I was beginning to feel a little closed in.

"I know how you feel," Silver Spoon told me, I guess you really did need to know feelings good if you wanted to hurt them. "My mom did the same thing with me. It's part of why Diamond Tiara meant, means so much to me. It was great to be with another filly."

"And you've got all of us now."

"Yes, I've got you girls," she whispered warmly and she moved a little closer to me, then stopped for some reason and backed off. She looked... ashamed? Why? You know it's funny. I'd never imagine Silver Spoon not to complain or whine about being made to do something by an adult like Rarity asked her, right out of the blue! But . . . she never complained about looking after me once.

Applebloom meanwhile offered to make Twist a CMC! Yeah, that's pretty much the look we gave her! But Twist turned her down, telling her.

"Applebloom, I already have my cuthie mark and know whath ith's means. It . . . wouldn't feel right. Besides," she nuzzled her, "We don't need a reason to be hang out do we?"

++++

Riding Rainbow Dash up and down every day is more fun than you can guess! . . . Then Dash had to tell me that she couldn't do it every day, 'she needed her rest and had practice and weather duty to look after too after all.' She told me. I wasn't happy about it, but I kept my mouth shut. It was for Rainbow Dash.

Tank carried me up and down from the house for two days. But on the end of the second day she told me that Tank wouldn't be giving me anymore rides.

"Please don't look at me that way, Tank. I trust you bro'. Totally. I know you'd always come through for me no matter what. But this isn't about me trusting you Tank." Dash looked at me. "You're a package deal squirt. I don't get to pick and choose. Canceling our practice because Ponyville needs me more isn't the same as me having Tank carry you to and from home."

Home. I looked around at the cloud house I'd been staying with Dash. That's right. This is home.

"Thunderlane was asking me for time off again, I asked him on what clouds . . . he told me it was for Rumble. Little guy had caught the feather flu and Thunderlane wanted to make sure it didn't spiral out of control like it did him. I gave it to him, Rainbow Dash learns from her mistakes.

"There are things I have to cancel with Pinkie, and there are there are things she has to cancel with me. Ugh! Kiddo, what I'm saying is, making sure you get to and from school is as much my responsibility as being weather captain. I can trust Tank in a LOT of things, but I shouldn't have to let him look after you, when I'm supposed to be looking after him. I'll ask Fluttershy to carry you if I can't be there, but I can't just brush it off just to do . . . just to do what I want."

='Let It Out' Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood=

So yeah, I got my exclusive tickets back on the Rainbow Dash express! YES!!! And it let me know. She won't abandon me. She won't look at me and not see me. She won't talk about me like I'm not even there. She won't forget about me. She'll always be waiting for me.

Hehe, I don't know why I ever doubted it. She's Element of Loyalty for a reason.

Mom and dad? I love them, I want them back, but . . . the loneliness, it's not so bad, because I now know Rainbow Dash is right next to me. Princess Gaia's fog showing me what I wanted more than anything . . . it showed me mom and dad, and Dash as my sister, and me flying. It's was funny, it wasn't just me I was happy for that . . .that I could fly in that made up world, it was my parents and Dash being proud of me. I think Fluttershy's dream land showed me, that I still loved mom and dad. A tiny, really tinny, no seriously, a little small part of me? I was scared that I hated them . . . for . . . for leaving me . . . for abandoning me . . . for leaving me all alone . . . not even telling me they were doing it . . . just . . . leave me . . . like I wasn't worth keeping. I-I . . . I'm NOT happy about it! Not at all! But ... but I still want them back. BUT I DON'T WANT TO LOSE DASH EITHER! . . .

It really does scare me, just a little. The closer I get to Dash, the more I'm worried I'm getting further away from mom and dad somehow. But . . . Dash, wants to keep me. And I want to keep her too.

Maybe . . . maybe Fluttershy's dream world helped me . . . maybe . . . it let me know . . . that I really do, reeeeally like all of them. Maybe, maybe mom and dad will be willing to adopt Dash in return for looking after me?

Dash's parents? She's never really talked about 'em...would that be fair to them? To want her to be adopted by my family and leave hers? I . . . I guess not.

Okay, maybe I should think more about now than worry what's comin' later. Applebloom got all worried about the future and ended up getting the Cutie Pox. I'm gonna have fun with Dash now and not be afraid of what's next. I still want my parents back, I think...but if that's all I think about, that's being unfair to me AND Dash.

This is a Daring Do book? You bet! I figured, hey, if Dash loves it, then it can't be that bad. I never really read all that many books before besides comics . . . and Daring Do really IS exciting and fun . . . even if it could use a few alien robots or something.

That doesn't mean I haven't stopped reading comic books! I'm really enjoying the comics Twilight gave me! I even convinced Sweetie and 'Bloom we could try being Cutie Mark Crusader Comic Book Script Writers. That meant reading a lots and lots of comic of course!

I really love those super crossovers, I don't get why other foals don't like, they're so cool! . . . that doesn't mean there aren't things I don't like.

I couldn't believe what I just read. "Captian Equestria immune to the penance stare and arresting Ghost Flyer? That's stupid."

Spike tilted his head from the comic the was reading. "Captain Equestria immune to the penance stare? Sounds legit."

"No. Ghost Flyer would have no REASON to fight Captain Equestria! And he'd certainly have no reason to work with Loki as an Anti-Avenger! He'd FIGHT Loki! He's supposed to be a superhero!"

I don't mind so much when heroes fight each other, I mean, it's really cool and you know they always team up in the end! But a hero teaming up with BAD GUYS and fighting a other heroes? How does that make sense?

You guys sure are asking a lot of questions all over the place. Okay you guys haven't really asked me much of anything before, but whoa, it's like I'm not gonna be around to be asked soon.

----

While Scootaloo and Spike were debating the finer points of alternate character interpretation (I just learned that combination of words!) Applebloom was busy drawing up comic panels for us after we got the script for our first issue (we'd get two issues done, and foals loved 'em. Then we give up when we couldn't agree on which way to take the story and just what kind of setting we were going for. Pinkie said that was smart of us to not let our disagreement spiral out of control and hurt our friendship. She's Pinkie Pie).

Applebloom said later she wanted to try and expand the club house now that we had five of us.

Sliver Spoon and I were reading manegas of 'Sailor Luna' and 'Card Capturer Cherry Blossom.'

Hearing Spike talk about the places he'd been and seen Canterlot and Ponyville I had to ask Silver Spoon (in a whisper of course).

"Silver Spoon . . . I was wondering . . . I think you're pretty smart, and not cause you wear glasses, but how could you not know Spike? Everypony knows everypony in Ponyville, including Twilight and Spike!"

" . . . I told you before I know how you feel Sweetie. Mom . . . she never let me get out much except with Diamond Tiara. . . . She . . . she didn't want me to get hurt. When I was little, the properly lines of our home was my world, visiting Diamond Tiara's place was like visiting a new planet!"

"How . . . how could your mom be that mean?"

"She . . . She wasn't . . . she didn't want her treasure getting hurt. Dad had to convince her to let me go to school with Diamond Tiara, said it was important for me to be with a herd."

"So...it's kind of like how Rarity's acting with me now? She doesn't want to see you get hurt?"

Silver nodded slowly. "Yes...she was so worried after the Chaos Monster got beaten and...I got hurt. I don't think I've ever seen her that worried before. I hadn't really gotten hurt all that much before that let alone...that bad."

"I understand. Rarity got really scared when I got sick earlier."

I guess we can stop there ...

What? You want to know how we got to be flower fillies? . .. Nopony's ever asked that before. They were kinda busy with what else happened...

. . . Thank you.

Ahem. Okay, how we got to be Cutie Mark Crusaders Flower Fillies. Well . . .

+++

So there Ah was in Canterlot! Didn't know if Ah'd be there with Cherry Coke at the weddin' proper, Ah'd hate to miss Shinin' Armor's weddin' but there were reassignments all over the place and just cause Ah didn't like orders didn't mean Ah could ignore 'em. Ah heard one buddy whisper they were even pullin' rookies out of the Academy to increase the Guards' numbers. Land's sake it was like we were at war or somethin'! Especially given all the reassignments tah the border areas. An' we didn't even know what this 'threat made to Canterlot' was! A lot of the stallions were sayin' somepony was just blowin' smoke, but orders are orders.

So seein' that Ah couldn't count on bein' there seein' Shinin's weddin' mahself fer certain, Ah figured Ah'd help out how Ah could. It ain't no secret we Apples are big on family, and the ponies in mah squad are family too ya darn tootin'!

There was a loophole that ponies part of the weddin' ceremony would be technically on assignment since it was a ROYAL WEDDIN', but SA had already picked out the stallions for that job, Banjo, Caramel, Cherry Coke, and then there's- well the point is that Ah couldn't count on being there and SA couldn't exactly defend Canterlot while he was busy tying the knot, so that left us to do that job instead.

But if Ah couldn't be involved then and there, Ah'd help out how Ah could!

So Shinin' and Princess Cadence were goin' over the weddin' plans, who was assigned what, who was goin' to be doin' what. Shinin' was having to give more and more to his fiancee to look over with protectin' Canterlot takin' priority. She didn't mind hearing every single detail about his work though, a considerate mare she is.

Oh right right, no need to rush ladies!

So like Ah was sayin', the couples-ta-be were goin' over detail, The Princess was so frazzled over all this 'unknown vague undefined threat' business happenin' durin' their weddin' that she was even given her hoof maidens Minuette and Twinkle Shine the 'rough around the edges' treatment a little. Poor mare. And poor maidens. What? They're friends too! And Minuette's Audience's fillyfriend after all. Okay okay! Ah'll get on with it!

So they were decidin' on how to ta be the Royal Flower Filly, when the pie pan went splat!

The two look at each other with realizing and said together, "We don't know any foals."

Well, guess what? Ah did! And guess who JUST happened to be close by ta say so!?

Ah already knew cousin AJ was gonna be doin' the caterin', which made me a little more sad Ah might not be there in person, but that's what the Apple Family Reunion is for (Ah just hope I don't miss that!). SORRY! Ah am ramblin' a little. So if AJ was already gonna be there, Ah knew the cutest filly in the whole wide world that was gonna be just perfect fer the role!

+++

Hey, ain't that-- Derpy! Watch out fer that-!! Giant muffin sign. Express mail fer me? Don't know many ponies who would use this sort of thing. From cousin Ellis Bitter Apple? Haven't seen him in three years! Now what's this here about?

+++

Huh? We're back on the day that we saw Trixie teleport into Ponyville? But big sister Rarity says it's important to do everything in it's proper order. You should have done that earlier. Your notes got all messed up? Oh, sorry, alright!

So we visited the new public park, and it really did look like that Ponyville we visited in our time machine. Scootaloo felt like she had to play some hopscotch. While I had this really strong picture of a seven layer cake all different flavors, and somepony asking me why my cake didn't fall over while hers did. It reminded me when of when I ran into that big silhouette I mean silhouette wolf.

Silver Spoon and Applebloom said they didn't have any feelings or never-happened-memories, but did agree it was freaky how the pretend town looked like the one we saw. And we couldn't find it in any history books (we put the books back when we were done, we promise! Spike and Twilight like organizing them anyway! It'll be a nice surprise when they get back!).

We didn't get to stay in that Ponyville during our adventure for very long at all, so we didn't see everything there.

But while visiting one of the houses in Pinkie Pie's park? Me and Scootaloo? Each of us visited a house, and it, felt like, it felt like it was our house . . . It wasn't a bad feeling.

But it was about time for us to split up and check in with our families. I can't say it wasn't nice being in the park.

But before the day was even out Applebloom was running around declaring an 'emergency meeting.'


++++

Of course Ah told Applebloom, what kinda sister would Ah be if Ah kept somethin' like THIS from 'er? If Ellis thinks she's good fer this . . . Ah'd still use mah own best judgement. And Ah say Applebloom's a good Apple, she knows how to do her part of somethin' bigger than her. Ah remember what happened the last time Applebloom was in Canterlot, but that fountain ain't haunted no more, and Applebloom may have caused me some headaches, but this'll be part of Apple family business, and she knows ta take that seriously!

Plus that Sea Pony finally got tah rest in peace, so good came outta it.

Ah know those three cause trouble if together, but it'll be just Applebloom, not all three of 'em.

++++

YA BET YER FLANK AH SAID YEP! Ah'll be helpin' Applejack with somethin' that'll make the Zap Apple harvest look small (maybe)! Ah couldn't wait ta tell the others! If being Royal Flower Fillies doesn't get us our cutie marks than Ah don't know what will! We're gonna have our cutie marks before this is over or mah name ain't Applebloom!

That and AJ says three of our cousins we ain't seen in a good while will be there! And if there's one thin' an Apple ain't gonna miss it's meetin' up with family!

+++++

"ROYAL FLOWER FILLY?!" Me and everypony (and dragon) gasped when Applebloom broke the news. I bet big sister Rarity will make the best dresses for us! I wonder if she'd let me help.

"YEP!" Applebloom exploded jumping up and clapping her back hooves together. "An' just think! If we all go together, one of us is bound ta get 'er cutie mark! Cutie Mark Crusader Royal Flower Fillies, Yeah!"

Spike suddenly looked a little nervous, "Uh, Applebloom, I'm not sure that such a bright idea."

I tilted my head remembering all the stuff Rarity had said about weddings, "And isn't there supposed to be only one flower filly for a wedding?"

"Yeah, you don't have a magic mirror that can turn us into one pony . . . do you?" Scootaloo asked.

"Oh! And, no, Ah'm still lookin' fer one...that is reversible..."

"Actually," Silver Spoon said in a calm, detached, matter-of-fact voice, "More than one flower filly for Equestrian royal weddings in Equestria aren't unheard of, not everypony does it, but it isn't uncommon.

"Really?" I asked turning my head.

"Yes, really. When you're made to attend a lot of boring adult parties and are supposed to just be seen and not heard, all you can really do is listen. And I've had to attend some high society weddings of my parents friends."

"More than one flower filly, is that true?" Spike asked.

"You were hatched in Canterlot and you didn't know?" Silver Spoon asked back.

"No offense, but girlie stuff isn't my sort of thing."

"That's not what that pink apron with frills says." Silver Spoon grinned.

"That's different!"

"How?"

"Because pink and purple look good together!"

"...Point taken."

"WAIT!" I shouted waving my forelegs redirecting attention before this could turn into an argument. "Are you saying it's okay, that it's tradition for royal weddings to have more than one flower filly? And it's happening all the way in Canterlot?"

"Uh, yes?"

"GOTTA GO!" Spike isn't the only one who can move his little legs fast when he wants to.

"Wait! Sweetie!" Tried to follow but I forgot about her.

I was home really fast and told Rarity everything! Then she told me to slow down and say it all again.

"Sweetie Belle, no."

"But Rarity-"

"Don't 'but Rarity' me. We still don't know what happened to you, and until we do, we can't risk you traveling. What if you had another episode and we weren't near any help? Or do you think that your well being only matters to you?"

Not this time big sister! I bristled under the itchy sweeter and dream catcher. "I bet that's not what Nurse Redheart would say!"

"Well you're not Nurse Redheart."

"Then why don't we go see her and find out? You want to make sure I'm doing okay right?" The 'big sad eyes' is one thing, but I felt a bit guilty about that last part. Sorry big sister.

Rarity sighed, "If it'll settle this, then fine, but please, no complaining when she give her answer."

Yay! And ow! How does Applebloom do that all the time? It makes my eyes hurt!
-
"I believe Sweetie Belle should go."

"WHAT?!" Rarity said her pupils really small.

"I said, in my professional opinion, taking this trip will be good for her. The reality is that it'll be healthy to get her out of the house and do some traveling. Keeping her cooped up at this point will be counter productive. Leaving a bandage on too long can be just as unhealthy as taking it off too soon. There have been no sign of repeat episodes, and Sweetie has shown no adverse effects since then. While thinking of her health is a good thing, I think it's best she get out more, for her own sake. THAT is my professional opinion." Nurse Redheart said it so official and important that Rarity didn't even think of getting a second opinion from a doctor instead of a nurse, tee-hee! Adults can be so fun sometimes!

And truth is, while going to Canterlot and being a flower filly a royal wedding with the others was gonna be really great and a chance for our cutie marks, I really really wanted to show Rarity I wasn't made of glass now!

I was sick of always wearing the sweeter, I was sick of always having he necklace on! I didn't mind Silver Spoon always being there but she didn't need to be! She shouldn't have to be.

And . . . Rarity, she shouldn't have to worry about me all the time. Whenever I leave home, whenever I get home, she's worried about me. It was maybe worse than when she got upset with me when, when helping her just made things harder for her. It's like she has weights pulling her down. I want her not to have to worry about me. I want her to be happy.

I was scared what happened that horrible time too, but I didn't wanna spend the rest of my life like a goldfish! This'll show Rarity she doesn't have to worry about me whenever she can't see me! I can be free, and so can big sister.

Rarity sighed. "Sweetie Belle, do you really want this?"

"YES!" I nodded.

"Will it make you happy?"

"Uh-Huh!" I nodded twice. Even if it was an ordinary wedding, it would still be fun to do with Applebloom. Just because I'm not scared of dirt doesn't mean I don't like pretty things.

"Alright then...Sweetie...you know I just want you to be safe...I've almost lost you several times...Discord almost took you...F-the thing Fluttershy was turned into almost took you...promise me you'll be careful, okay?" she asked me. She looked so serious...

"Okay," I answered back. "I'll be okay!"

"So you really think going out is what's best for her?" Rarity asked Nurse Redheart.

"I don't give fake advice. I swear your little sister needs to live some . . . And get that sweater off her! I think it's causing a rash!"

"Oh. Right...Plus it's starting to go out of fashion, and it clashes her mane anyway! What was I thinking? Yes yes, not fit for a flower filly at all."

AND OFF WENT THE ITCHY THING! Only love for big sis' kept me from burning it. . . . I know, I know, it showed that she loves me, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that.

And I saw the gears turning in Rarity's head...as Redheart put a little lotion on the rash the sweater had gave me.

++

I shall admit, while reluctant at first, but if what Nurse Redheart said was true, and if Sweetie's health would be helped rather than hindered, then I simply can't let a chance like this slip by. An Alicorn wedding doesn't exactly happen every lifetime!

Sweetie taking a noteworthy role in it would get her a place of notice! Maybe not a big one, but she'd be seeded a little. Another member of my family allowed to take part in the wedding of a Princess? You don't pass up something like that!

. . . Now I wish mother and father were actually here to see it. Well, can't change that. Just sent another letter to tell them, and wait forever for their reply. Maybe send them a picture when all is said and done.

I doubt I could have her wear the dream catcher during the ceremony, it doesn't exactly match well with any current Canterlot style. Maybe she should only need to wear it while she sleeps.

Also, if Nurse Redheart is right, then maybe this exposure would be good for her in another way. I have a fair idea of what Sweetie Belle's talent is even if she's blind to it (poor dear). Spending time in front of a high class 'audience' of a sort would do her good given what her career was likely to be.

. . . Now I just need to help my little sister be added onto a position already fill for a goddess' wedding!

I practically flew to Twilight's and explained my situation.

"But you're best mare Twilight, certainly you can pull some strings."

"I'm not being exactly happy about not being told about this wedding till the last minute Rarity. I can suggest it to Shining, but unless he and that princess agree, there's not much I can do, it's their wedding after all."

"I suppose I can't ask more of you than that Twilight, thank you."

Meanwhile, I was going to put every social and high society maneuver I knew into play.

++

These three fillies, if Diamond Tiara was told she had to share a position with somepony, she'd be so upset. Unless it was me, I think. I didn't like all the things she said to me before she disappeared, but Princess Gaia's fog showed me, deep down, I still wanted my best friend back.

And that...nightmare I had. It showed me how determined I could be to have her back.

Sometimes I think I'm the only foal who ever saw the filly underneath the games we teased the CMC with, instead of like she was some movie prop! Diamond, please come home. I'll make Tartarus freeze over to get you back if I have to.
+++

Did I want to do the Flower Filly thing with Sweetie and Applebloom? That wasn't exactly the point. I'm a Cutie Mark Crusader, what one of us tries, we all try. I know what Miss Cheerilee tells us in school, 'If all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you?'

But I know Sweetie and Applebloom didn't like all of my ideas, but we all went for them anyway, to see if they were our calling. So it wouldn't be very loyal for me to not join in. Besides, Rainbow Dash wore dresses, so they couldn't be that bad.

+
There hadn't been any real question if squirt was coming along or not. Now that ponies knew she was staying with me, I couldn't exactly just leave her at the clubhouse. If I said she was staying at her parents again, that could lead to some lousy questions.
+
And Dash told me she was gonna do a Sonic Rainboom! How could I not wanna go?! I couldn't wait to see it! I got to see one during Fluttershy's festival, but it was gonna so COOL, it NEVER gets old! And who knows? Maybe a Sonic Rainboom at the right place could earn us our Cutie Marks! It worked for the six of them didn't it?!

And this time we'd get to see it from front row seats!

So yeah! When Sweetie Belle came crashing back into us and declared Rarity was gonna get her to be a flower filly too, Applebloom was happy, and so was I!

Was I worried about somepony 'spotting me'? Naw. Not even pegasi from Cloudsdale were gonna notice me, it's not like my . . . my parents were Wonderbolts or something. What's with the 'not ironic' sign?

So yeah! If I could be part of something Rainbow Dash was gonna be, then I was gonna show 'er I could do it right! I couldn't be part of the Hearth's Warming Eve Pageant Dash was in, but this was gonna be even bigger! I'd make Dash proud!

. . . Now we just need the tinny tiny detail of me actually being a part of it.

++

They blindsided us. My little sister and her friends, in a two pronged attack from different angles. We'd given them an opening and the clever little rascals took it. I think their biggest weapon is how we keep underestimating them.

Scootaloo buttered up Rainbow Dash as only she could, telling her just how much it would mean to her if she could take part with my sister and Applebloom. And how awesome it would be for Scootaloo to take part in something with her hero.

Applebloom meanwhile, without Applejack I believe knowing yet Sweetie Belle had already asked to participate, asked for Scootaloo to join the ceremony. And by the time Applejack or Rainbow Dash realized we would be dealing with all three of the core CMC at once, the trap had been sprung and Pinkie Promises had already been made.

I was really going to be testing my social black-belt. Even so, it was still only an innocent hearted request from my little sister and Rainbow Dash's shadow.

Two were younger sisters of Elements Bearers and the apprentice of one was bound to be acceptable as long as I made it sound official enough. Trixie wasn't the only pony who could use words like they were swords (and if needed, we had her on hoof for back up).

I made it crystal clear to the fillies that we could plead their case, but it was up the bride and groom to accept their request or not. The fillies merely stood closer to Applebloom and my sister said.

"I STILL wanna go."

"And I'm going with Dash no matter what," Scootaloo added.

These fillies, sometimes I think they'd march through Tartarus for each other.

Since I'm told your readers know the outcome already, let's fast forward a little, just for a short while.

"Oh, PLEASE, couldn't we have them ALL be flower girls at once?" I asked in my most pleading, tragic voice, "They're the best of friends, and they're JUST children! If you have only ONE of them, it'd break the other two's heart!"

The girls took their cue and made their most adorable sad faces that made me wonder why they hadn't earned an acting cutie mark yet.

"Well, I don't see why we can't bend tradition, just this once! Besides, they ARE cutie little girls!" Shining Armor grinned.

"The more fillies, the more love," Princess Cadence said kindly.

"YEAH!" The fillies brightened up at once and high hooved each other. "Cutie Mark Crusader Flower Fillies!"

And I had a few extra dresses to make. But I didn't care, I was ready for the challenge. Now let's rewind back to back to where we were. There. Ugh, I sound like Pinkie Pie.

+++

I felt weird. For the first time in my life, I wanted to be at an high-class adults social ceremony, and I wasn't on the guest list!

Spike, Applebloom, Sweetie Belle, Scootaloo, I never imagined I'd ever want to go somewhere only because they were...okay, never imagined I'd ever want to go somewhere only because they were there and not as part of a plot to make them miserable.

I wasn't a filly used to not getting what she wanted. Even changing for the better didn't change that. I'm still a spoiled rich foal. I'm just not a spoiled rotten rich foal anymore.

I'm sure there's a lesson in here somewhere about accepting things you can't change, about that one of the most mature things in the world is not rocking the boat, and not trying to force things your way.

Forget it.

If Diamond Tiara had one thing right, it was not to bend over backwards when life doesn't give you what you want. Time to make lemonade, sell it, then use the bits to buy the oranges you wanted!

(Interviewer's Notes(Earth Pony): I'm pretty sure that isn't how that saying is supposed to go.)

I've gotten some great friends and learned life isn't about the pecking order, and that my family really does love me. But that doesn't mean I've had to give up being me! After all, isn't the point of having a cutie mark being yourself?

So I used everything that Sweetie Belle, Spike, my mother, and yes, Diamond Tiara had taught me, and got my father and mother to see it as my heart's desire to go to Canterlot and see the wedding of 'Princess Mi Amore Cadenza.'

I pulled every string I could, to get father to pull the strings he had for the friends he still had in the royal guard and in Canterlot.

Maybe I was making things more complicated than they needed to be for everypony, but I wanted to be there with my friends.

It turned out to be a lot harder than dad thought it would be. He said Canterlot was becoming a bottled city as the wedding got close. He was able to get himself invited, and barely one guest: meaning me, with mom having to stay in Ponyville. I can't say I wasn't sorry.

It also meant for business for Miss Rarity, with dad ordering me a new dress for the occasion.

Of course I told my friends the good news.

"THAT'S GREAT SILVER SPOON!" Sweetie Belle hugged her, maybe she broke the hug a little sooner than I wanted.

Scootaloo nodded. "Yeah! Now we're gonna have FOUR Flower Fillies!"

Wait. WHAT?! "HUH?!"

Applebloom raised a hoof dramatically.

"Yeah, don't you want to join us? Cutie Mark Crusaders! All for one! And one for all!"

I blushed.

"What, you aren't, uh, shy are you?" Spike asked.

"NO!" I snapped, of course that would convince them I somehow was! I sighed. "Look, I think we're bending tradition as it is."

"But you're the one who said it was a tradition to have more than one flower filly," Sweetie Belle said.

I was beginning to feel cornered.

"Don't you want to be part of things too?" Applebloom asked, sounding a little sad.

That look no longer gave me pleasure. "It's-it's not about you guys!" I said so desperate not to hurt feelings. Yes yes! I know the irony! "I just don't want to."

"Why not?" Scootaloo asked.

"Wouldn't it be fun for all of us to do it together?" Sweetie Belle smiled.

"All together," Applebloom smiled too.

I had a weird flash back to a play titled Invasion of the Pony Snatcher (after how it made me act, I was banned from the theater for a month).

The looks they were all giving me was making feel a little weak in the knees.

Spike looked like he didn't know what to say. I found myself wondering what Twist would say if she was here. It was strange how once Twist got her cutie mark, Diamond and I just ignored her, but why did I always get the gut feeling that Diamond would find something NEW to tease Applebloom about if she DID get her cutie mark? In my nightmare she flat out hated them and said she would...would... Being friends with her now in a way felt even stranger than being friends with the blanks.

I shut my eyes and burst out, "I'm happy you're all getting a chance to when you want to! But I don't want to!"

"I thought . . . I thought you liked attention Silver, I thought you liked belonging, being part of a herd," Sweetie Belle asked me. I could hear the worry in her voice.

"Mom always made me be a 'proper lady', I don't want to put myself in the role."

Applebloom pointed out. "If yer not doin' somethin' cause yer mom made ya do it, isn't the same as yer mom makin' ya not do it?"

I felt Applebloom slip through my maze without even trying and getting closer to me. They were all around me.

"Don't be scared Silver Spoon."

"Join in, you'll like it."

"Yeah, join us. You're never gonna get a chance like this again!"

I couldn't take it anymore. "I don't want to risk losing ME!"

Silence. I opened my eyes. They looked at me in shock.

"It's . . . it's just too much . . . too fast . . . I love you guys, I really do. I don't want give up everything we have for anything. I'd do anything to stay friends with you guys. But . . . it's too much. I'm just so use to it being just me and Diamond, just the two of us, having so many friends. It's a little scary."

"When you're scared of something you should dive right in!" Scootaloo boasted. Spike and Sweetie both pushed her away.

"I just wanted to come, so we could hang out, and see you girls do your role from the pew. That's all! I don't want it. Please?"

"Girls," Applebloom said, "Enough. If we make 'er do this. We're no different from Diam-, from bullies."

Just like in my dream. Being bullies just isn't in them.

"C'est la vie," Spike said, everypony looked at him. "I mean, different ponies want different things."

"Yes." I nodded. Spike may have been a baby dragon but I was happy to have him here to be the voice of reason sometimes.

"Uh, sorry." Scootaloo said.

"Really sorry." Sweetie nodded.

"That wasn't right, and sorry we scared ya." Applebloom gave me a small hug.

"T- . . . than-ks, for understanding," I said.

"What about you Spike? You wanna join in us?" Sweetie Belle asked innocently.

"No way," Spike waved his claws, "I'm already the ring dragon and working on the bachelor party!"

"You?" I blinked. "The bachelor party?"

"Sure. How hard can it be?"

"Spike . . . " I dared to ask. "Do you know what a bachelor party IS?"

" . . . Uh, no."

I led Spike outside, I took in a deep breath, and explained the fact of life to the baby dragon.

++++

Later when Spike spoke to Twilight about 'bachelor parties.'

Twilight Sparkle bellowed, "WHOOOO TOLD?!"

If this was a movie, this would be where the camera would be from Twilight Sparkle's point of view, moving up and down with each stomp of her forehooves, the world shaking as each hoof made contact with the ground.

The view would close in on Silver Spoon who was still outside, her expression that of a deer caught in the headlights. Too scared to move a muscle. The CMC fillies would rush on screen, and handle the petrified Silver Spoon like a equinnequin, put her in their red wagon pulled by Scootaloo's scooter, and zoomed off screen before Twilight could remember in her rage filled mind that she could have used telekinesis to grip all the fillies as she carried out her plan to polymorph Silver Spoon into a new book-shelf for the library.

With the camera again third person she'd then in her obviously superior mental stage of tranquil fury teleported right on top of the moving scooter, making the fillies yell out in surprise.

"HA! My rage gives me super intelligen-" She did not get to finish that sentence was she was then hit from behind with a low tree branch, and dragged back to the library for recover by Spike, the baby dragon sighing to himself.

"Oh Spike, I had this horrible dream where you lost your innocence."

"One," Spike said flatly, "it wasn't a dream. Two, seriously, what I got told wasn't that bad. Three, forget hard cider, you need to switch to de-cafe!"

Episode 162: "No Loose Screws"

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Pony POV Series
Wedding Arc Part 4
A Filthy Rich Screwball With Tender Loving Care

(Interviewer's Notes: (Pegasus): I'm done with this horse apples.)

(Interviewer's Notes: (Unicorn): What did you say?)

(Interviewer's Notes: (Pegasus): You heard me! And I say I'm done! We could be doing so much more to help! And yet all we do is ask questions! That makes us as responsible for what happens as those we let case harm!)

(Interviewer's Notes: (Unicorn): You keep forgetting, we're a foreign presence in this reality, we're an alien existence above that of mere mortals. Our very presence is always on the verge of triggering reality's immune response. If we spell out everything or hold their hooves for them, all we've done will be erased anyway! We should have left a long time ago, but complications and delays keep coming up! Spike should already have Peewee by now! And we should have already left back for our own home!)

(Interviewer's Notes: (Earth Pony): What about Shining?)

(Interviewer's Notes: (Unicorn): He's a part of THIS universe now. That was the ENTIRE POINT of everything he endured! It was the point of him being born! We were a SIDE EFFECT! But unlike Shining, we're still a part of our mother's place of origin. The longer we stay here, the more we run the risk of corrupting this place in ways ponies' choices/Rota Fortuna never intended. We risk going from a helper to a virus.)

(Interviewer's Notes: (Earth Pony): Can't we just stay here? Maybe do what Shining did?)

(Interviewer's Notes: (Unicorn): Impossible! . . . This universe doesn't, in fact it's the OPPOSITE of 'need' an Arcana it already has a pony for. AND OUR MOTHER'S HOME needs us!)

(Interviewer's Notes: (Pegasus): Mom gave up everything for this world!)

(Interviewer's Notes: (Unicorn): She never gave up on the loved ones and friends she left behind! She trusted us to look after them! To help them. Mom knew things could spiral out of control after Shining came to be. It's why we've remained here. But we were NEVER MEANT to stay here forever, we CAN'T stay here forever. It's not fair to these ponies, and it's not fair to those mom left behind where we came from! It's the same reason we can't take Peewee with us, there was ALREADY a Peewee where we came from, we can't go stealing people of other places to patch up 'holes' for those gone in our world! That's cheating! And it shows no respect for this world! And more importantly the ponies who live here.)

(Interviewer's Notes: (Earth Pony): I'm sorry.)

(Interviewer's Notes: (Pegasus): Don't be! She just thinks the rules are more important than people!)

(Interviewer's Notes: (Unicorn): That is a lie! If we go breaking rules, then we won't be able to ANYPONY, and what help we HAVE done will be undone. We could even make things worse! WHY DO I HAVE to KEEP EXPLAINING THIS?)

(Interviewer's Notes: (Pegasus): You don't even try to find a better way.)

(Interviewer's Notes: (Unicorn) Do you have any idea how many loop holes I had to find with for us to be able to give them help to save Fluttershy?! How much we've twisted the rules already? We twist them anymore, they'll break!)

(Interviewer's Notes: (Earth Pony): Ple-ea-ease! No fighting! We never fought before! We never argued before! We never disagreed before. It's not fair. Oh I'm sorry Peewee, I didn't mean to shout so loud, I'm sorry.)

(Interviewer's Notes: (Unicorn): Look, please, if we could do more, I'd be the first to do more. But many could say we've overstepped our bounds already.)

(Interviewer's Notes: (Pegasus): Whatever, I'm out of here. I'll be back when I feel like it. I need some cool down time!)

(Interviewer's Notes: (Earth Pony): Don't go!)

(Interviewer's Notes: (Unicorn): We are supposed to be as one. I suppose we are not anymore. I wish hugs fixed everything dear.)

(Interviewer's Notes: (Earth Pony): Me too . . . )

(Interviewer's Notes: (Unicorn): . . . You can go play with the foals if you want.)

(Interviewer's Notes: (Earth Pony): Are, are you sure I-)

(Interviewer's Notes: (Unicorn): Please. I know you've wanted to.)

(Interviewer's Notes: (Earth Pony): Thank you!)

-

(Interviewer's Notes: (Earth Pony): AARRRRR! I BE A PRIATE!)

Ah! Ya be welcome to join me crew! The Moon Pearl be happy to have you!

"Moonlight! Orange Top! Ruby Punch! Dinky! We be gettin' a new crew member!"

(Interviewer's Notes: (Earth Pony): HI! Wanna play?)

"Oh my. We did not expect to see you here." Said Moonlight in surprise.

"Hello!" Smiled Dinky.

"Nice to meet you," Said Orange Top.

"Is this part of one of those 'interviews' aunt Cheerilee talked about?" Ruby asked.

(Interviewer's Notes: (Earth Pony): Naw! Not this time! I'm just here to have fun! So let's find some buried treasure!)

-

(Interviewer's Notes: (Pegasus): So there I was! The crazy pegasus was zapping red lightning at me every which way! But I couldn't give up! Not for my friends sake, which happened to include her.)

Lady, I think you've had enough.

(Interviewer's Notes: (Pegasus): NAWWWWWWWW!!! I'm not drunk! I can't get drunk! I have super powers! Now give me another!)

Uh, about your tab-

(Interviewer's Notes: (Pegasus): You don't need to worry about that!)

Actually I'm pretty sure I do.

(Interviewer's Notes: (Pegasus): HEY! No fair, that always works when that little filly does it. I'm gonna tell her mother on herself! Hey! What are you looking at? What's your name?)


"Not any of your business but it's Lightning Dust."

(Interviewer's Notes: (Pegasus): Huh? Oh yeah. The jerk who let her total disregard for others get her kicked out of Wonderbolt Academy.)

"What?!"

(Interviewer's Notes: (Pegasus): Oh right, hasn't happened yet, forget everything I just said, you will forget everything, you will forget everything.)

"Stop waving your arms around like you're at a camp fire!"

(Interviewer's Notes: (Pegasus): Hey you can't do that to me! I'm the narrator!)

"You're drunk off your tail."

(Interviewer's Notes: (Pegasus): I'm not drunk! I can still outfly a one-shot jerk like you!)

"Bring it!"

-Next Morning-

(Interviewer's Notes: (Pegasus): There is a very good reason why I don't want to be recognized in Cloudsdale for a while and why that bar I was at now has a really big dent in the cloud ceiling. His insurance will cover it. And I'm sure that Lightning Dust was too drunk to remember a thing I told her.)

-

(Interviewer's Notes: (Unicorn): Since there was already a defeat in the heart world against Queen Chrysalis. And the Elements of Harmony have vastly increased in ability and power due to their additional battles and ordeals, these events should be a triviality. And do not require our in-depth observation. We should focus instead on the far more real and direct threat of Discord and Diamond Tiara.)

(Interviewer's Notes: (Pegasus): Are you sure about that? I'd say we can still do lots!)

(Interviewer's Notes: (Unicorn): You already did lots! YOU tried to run without paying your bar bill! Do you have ANY IDEA how damaging that could have been if they called the Guards on you?! She clearly wants to enjoy her time more than talking to adults about things that are only going to make her upset. And you are being a BIGGER impulsive child than her! She is free to enjoy herself, and YOU have done enough damage.)

(Interviewer's Notes: (Pegasus): Ugh...alright, point taken. I might have gone a bit overboard...)

(Interviewer's Notes: (Earth Pony): All right. Guess that means I can play with Pip and Moonlight more!)

(Interviewer's Notes: (Unicorn): Yes, neither of you need to worry about a thing. Queen Chrysalis' invasion will go as it is meant to.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Hey, we're still broken from the Heart World, so Chryssy's gonna get her flank kicked a LOT HARDER here than she was there! It's gonna be a riot!!!)
-
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus)Supplemental: I was so bucking right and so bucking WRONG!)

+++

My name is Filthy Rich. My father said my first name was so I wouldn't forget our family's humble origins. I am well aware of the phrase, thank you. I heard it plenty of times when I was small. When your family is successful, you either get friends who want something from you, or those who detest you for daring to have more than you. Yes, I was real friends with Applejack's parents, they were stolen from this world well before their time. Silver Axe was very much, is very much a true true friend. There are not words to describe how grateful I was that he didn't forsake me when I was lost in my racism. And now Rarity is now a true friend.

Yes, for more than a year I went by the name Onyx Tiara, following my wife's mental breakdown and . . . when she proved she was a danger to herself and our family.

And I turned a blind eye to what my daughter was turning into. When my Tarnished Rich became Diamond Tiara.

I also dived into old paranoid fantasies when the Alicorns couldn't bring my wife back to me. And I passed those same paranoid fantasies onto my foal. Our foal.

Diamond Tiara was also such a good listener, she treated all Golden told her as holy text, she absorbed everything her new 'tutor' told her.

I had another paranoid pony to poison my own daughter. I poisoned her heart. After all the time I spent trying so hard to teach her about the value of hard work and respecting others . . . Diamond Tiara, I'm so so sorry. I'll save you too, we'll find you too, I promise.

I informed her 'tutor' that he wouldn't needed upon my daughter's return and gave him his severance package. No, I didn't chew him out. I know enough about conspiracy theorists to know how they react to having their views challlenged when it's not time.

I've washed out the dye for my coat . . . I've kept the silver collar with the onyx stone, I'm told my princess might like it. But 'Onyx Tiara' him? He was gone for good. And good riddance. My name is Filthy Rich.

I still wasn't happy with what my maid Shiny Star had kept from me. But I've forgiven her, and I fully understand why she did what she did.

. . . Oh yes. That part.

I am not proud of that at all. Looking for a mare who was an image of my wife, so I could express my love to her through another mare. I never said it was an intelligent idea. Shiny Star did what she did, because she felt it would at least keep away other mares.

Shiny Star was also the one who had galloped panting into my office early the next morning after Miss Rarity's poor sister had her epileptic fit.

One of my Princesses had been found. There are no words. There are just no words.

Golden had broken into a hotel or something and left her lawyer's contact information and her credit card number to pay for the damages and her using one of their showers.

My wife loses her ability to read and write, but she can still remember her credit card number? Golden . ..

And . . . she had apparently shown up in Canterlot after assaulting and stealing the dress off a Canterlot noble-mare and causing scene in the ballroom. At Princess Celestia's own command she was being held under guard in one of the castle's guest rooms rather than one of the dungeon cells (the dungeon had gone unused for so long they needed to oil the joints on the cell doors just to open them anyway).

I had had ponies looking EVERYWHERE for both of them, I was desperate to find them. I had hired the entire weather team, when I was still racist. I had private detectives scouring Equestria.

On top of the fact Golden is an escaped mental patient, meaning the asylum was likely the first place contacted when she was discovered, I couldn't bear the idea of not speaking to her before she was taken back to the asylum. I wanted to apologize, even if she couldn't understand...

As it turned out, Dr. Freudian Excuse (bless him) had sent word to me she had been found himself. I was however already on the first train to Canterlot by the time it arrived.

Plus, without Diamond, who else could logically be expected to able to talk Golden down without being folded into a pony party balloon? She never went back without seeing one of us.

But ever loyal Shiny Star arrived just as I was boarding with one last letter addressed to me she knew. I had to read before going.

. . . I was stunned silent the entire ride. I think I may have forgotten to thank Shiny Star.

I had gotten a letter from the elite of the elite, 'Fancy Pants' of Canterlot himself. My other princess . . . my baby girl . . . she'd been spotted in Canterlot.

I went through the police reports when I arrived, no, my daughter hadn't been among the clockwork-foals transformed by that mad filly.

But first I and everypony else on board had to go through a ridiculous security procedure that felt more at home in some old Stablist country.

Apparently they were beginning to close the trains down except for VIPs until the 'unknown threat' had passed. I swear, given how ridiculously vague it was, it felt like somepony had read a tabloid and mistaken it for a news report.

On the plus side, it meant more time for to find Diamond (she had to still be in Canterlot), and for me to make amends with Golden (as now she couldn't leave until the threat was over).

I met with Fancy Pants, and his wife Fleur-de-Lis. Their maid Straight Lace reminded me of Shiny Star. They are both very, very good ponies. Fancy Pants explained he had told the Royal Guard too of course, but felt I'd want to be told as soon as possible myself.

"I went through the missing foal reports, outside of Canterlot, starting with Ponyville since it's the closest settlement, I found the report on her," he explained.

A lot of Fancy Pants' questions he asked, they were so casual, but I felt almost like he was measuring me, testing me, like he was seeing how I responded to even off-hoof comments. He wasn't one of the most important ponies in Canterlot by not having an intellect. Finally after hours of this, he finally told me how 'Diamonds' had described her life.

. . . . . .

"I knew she was lying about herself and you, but I didn't know how much however, I apologize," he said.

"No, it's alright." I honestly didn't know what to say.

She, really believed that Golden's mental illness was hereditary? She had heard the doctors that time? . . . Silver Axe said he often had the same problem with Silver Spoon hearing things foals shouldn't. I should have been more careful. I should have noticed something was wrong...

"If you see her, no, when you see her by the way, you can tell her please that she can consider the dress a gift."

"I-I will."

Diamond Tiara, I'll find you. Our family will be back together again.

++++

My name is Screwball. I have no other name. It's the name I deserve. It's the only name I've earned for myself. I threw every other name I had away.

I look at my beanie in my hooves, the only clothing I had. The dress I stole was given back to the mare I clobbered for it. Without any resistance from me. Sitting on the bed, I put the beanie on my head where it belonged.

Once upon a time as a filly I didn't mind looking the fool, now everypony should look at me and see me for the absurd creature I am.

The door unlocked from the outside and slowly swung inward, pegasus guards on either side with wings magically honed to be as sharp as swords with a thought and a unicorn guard standing between them with his horn pointed towards the door. Three guards for one pony, they knew how dangerous I am...

My eyes widened when I saw who was looking at me, their eyes widened in shock as well.

"You!" We shouted together.

TLC let a high pitched war cry and began jabbing at me with all her hooves at high speed, "Yata-yata-yata-yata-yata-yata-yata-yata-yata-yata-yata-yata-yata-yata-yata-yata!"

"Your Hidden Ursa Major Hoof Style won't work on me this time!" I snapped as I spun like a ferris wheel delivering endless blows with each of my hooves!

Our hooves collided in mid-air, causing the entire castle to shake.

(Wait.)

A lightning storm formed from our clash! Untethered objects rose by the force of our chi!

(Wait!)

I dew my flaming sword! She unsheathed her ninja claws!

(WAIT!)

"To the end then?!" I asked.

"YES! Let this be our final BATTLE!"

Our weapons clashed a mighty burst of light!

(Interviewer's Notes: Can we now have the fight that didn't happen in your imagination?)

Sorry! TLC's favorite play is from Neighpon is titled 'Hoof Of the Northstar.'

(You really fought each other?)

You have to understand, I think seeing me outside a straightjacket triggered a conditioned response in her, and... I hadn't been a good pony to her during all my escapes. It was just us saying hello!

(Interviewer's Notes: The Guards didn't stop you?)

I think they were too in awe at two attractive black belt mares going all out to think straight. Either that or TLC being my caretaker had something to do with that.

"We'll just, uh, close the door now bye!" One said quickly.

We did a few backflip kicks and hoof jabs, before tiring ourselves out on the tornado bucks.

"Hello Golden Tiara," she panted.

"My name is Screwball," I panted back.

She looked at me worried and afraid for me, "What?"

"It's the name I've EARNED. Golden Tiara would have never hurt own filly! Let alone try to KILL her!"

"Golden... you -remember- now?"

"Screwball! I am Screwball!"

She instinctively went back into a defensive stance.

"... Sorry." I croaked out.

"When did it happen?"

"At the party I snuck into... the pain was horrible, and EVERYTHING came back. The world finally made sense...for real this time."

"Golden-Screwball, your eyes, your cutie mark, they're all back to normal?"

"... Doesn't change what I did... nothing ever will."

I slipped on my social mask and smiled, it had been far too long since I played the game. "Sooo what brings you here to Canterlot?"

She blinked bewildered at my sudden change. "... YOU. The doctors couldn't come to you themselves. And I'm the one you're least likely to be able to turn inside out."

I dropped the mask. "Yes... the asylum... it's where I BELONG, the only place a monster CAN belong?"

"Golden-"

I growled."

"Stop it," she said, "If you really remember, if you UNDERSTAND what happened, you can finally start healing to be back WITH your family."

"I can't be trusted near them!"

"I . . . I'm sorry . . ." She sighed, "Look, I'm just here to make sure you get back safely . . . but, you should at least try to open up."

However...

"WHAT DO YOU MEAN WE CAN'T LEAVE?"

"We're sorry, the capital is on lock-down until the end of the wedding except by royal invite and VIPs, we JUST got the order ourselves."

Looks like I wasn't going anywhere for a while. We sat on a bench. Nurse TLC was still holding my leash.

"TLC?"

"Yes?"

"I'm sorry for . . . being a poor caregiver when you were given the mind of a baby on the day The World Made Sense Again, I mean, the day of chaos."

Nurse TLC looked at me awkwardly. "The whole reason you were at the hospital is because you weren't responsible for your actions." She said in that forced tone I recognized as a pony doing the right thing even if they didn't actually want to. "It would be stupid for me to blame you."

"How is . . . Dr. Hoofwave?"

"Him? He's on recovery still, but he's supposed to start working again next month. I think it'll be great to have him."

"Okay . . . and how is ... Dr. Head-Scratcher?"

Her mask cracked.

"You have any idea how long it took the chiropractors to help Dr. Head-Scratcher after you turned him into a pretzel?"

"I'm sorry."

"And the orderly you shoved into the electric fence to use as a step ladder, and Roid Rage-"

"I'm sorry! I'm a bad pony!" I cried.

Nurse TLC stopped as if waking up from a dream. Her body froze. She looked down at herself like she was her own stranger, and settled back down. "I'm sorry, I'm very sorry. I had no right to say any of that. I apologize. I'm the one being a bad pony. I need to be the one to know better in my job. Please forgive me?"

". . . I don't think you're the one who has to apologize. Does Barking Mad miss me?"

"Her name isn't . . . yes, we think she does. Oh! Good news! Miss Fluttershy has actually been able to SPEAK with her! We think with Miss Fluttershy as interpreter, we can have her on the road to recover before the year is out!" She said genuinely happy. "Nurse Redheart is overjoyed at the news!"

"That's . . . that's good . . . can we go back to my room now?"

"Yes. Yes you can."

+++

... I don't think there was a right decision for which to go to first, and I don't know if I avoided making the wrong decision.

I went to Golden first, because I thought my wife wouldn't want to wait for news about our foal. The guards acted a little more rigid than when I had last visited Canterlot requesting in person for the Alicorns to cure my wife.

They had always been still as statues, but there more tension in the way they moved, and if possible, they seemed to smile less. Where before ponies had been allowed to come and go as they pleased, now I had to prove that I was there on business. Apparently my wife was down as a 'secured guest.'

Golden's lawyer was already explaining to the mare who she had robbed that Golden didn't understand her own actions, and couldn't be held legally accountable. Finding Golden wouldn't be thrown in the dungeon any time soon, she was still determined for compensation for her medical bills, the damage to her dress, and her emotional trauma at being ambushed and stripped naked by a mad pony in the middle of the night, since it had technically happened on royal grounds, she demanded it be paid out of the royal coffers. Golden, at least you were safe.

But it hadn't done much for the city's confidence that a mad mare had snuck into the city, single-hoofedly avoided capture, attacked a noble pony, stolen her clothes, and gotten into the castle. This had made security more rigid, and ponies more scared. I didn't like this combination at all. Especially on top of this unknown threat.

I was told her room didn't have any windows, but her door was guarded constantly by three royal guards. I wondered if that was enough for a black belt mad mare whose pain tolerance would make masochists cringe.

I considered wearing a dress suit, getting flowers, a gift, something, but nothing I could think of, could remotely come close to telling her that I still loved her, and I was so so so sorry!

And the stores I went to were out of roller-skates her size.

I had never visited her at the hospital. So I can't say I recognized the mare I met outside her room. She introduced herself as Nurse Tender Loving Care and from the asylum.

And she told me.

+++

I was curled up in the bed. I knew better than to not eat, they'd just make you eat if you didn't. I'd have had no choice but to get out of bed if they told me to. They'd just make me if I didn't. But was there was nothing to do now, but wait for the trains to run again, and for me to go back to where I belonged?

I didn't belong among sane ponies. I was an animal that needed to be locked in its cage. Did I cry? No. Everything inside me has collapsed into a black hole, there were no tears inside to shed.

In books and plays, the story trick of having the hero or nice pony turn out to be a villain with amnesia would make my blood boil. It was a cheap trick by authors to make the reader feel sorry for somepony who had done awful thing and was somehow innocent of them simply because they didn't remember them.

It didn't seem so trite now that it was happening to me.

There was a knock on the door. Knocking? Why would anypony bother to knock for me?

The door slowly opened, I didn't turn around to see who it was. I'd just eat the food and go back into bed. Utensils? It wasn't like they were going to trust me with forks and knives. And TLC knew I knew how to be dangerous with a spoon.

"Princess?"

My eyes widened, then I shut them tight and curled into the smallest ball I could wrapping he blankets around me. No, no no no no! Not him! Don't let him see me like this!

"Don't look at me!"

" . . . Golden, please, I just wanted to see you."

"Don't come any closer!"
-

Of course. I had let her go mad. I had abandoned her in that mad house. What right did I have left to be with her? What right did I have to look upon her beauty?

I had avoided her to the point my daughter had to sneak out to visit her...maybe if I hadn't, none of this would be happening.

-
" . . . Golden . . I'm sorry."

HE was sorry? For what? I had done it all, to myself, to his foal, to our family, to him. What did he have to be sorry for?

I dared peak out of the blankets. It was my prince. He looked so sad. So small. Ashamed. Why? I destroyed our world!

"Filthy . . . why are you . . . don't be . . . please don't be sad!"

"I'm sorry!!!" He gasped out, misty eyed. "I LET ALL OF THIS HAPPEN!"

What? This isn't making any sense! "Filthy what are you talking about?!"

"I ignored the warning signs, I didn't get you help when I should have, it was my responsibility, and I failed you, Golden Tiara!"

"NO!" I gasped out, getting out of bed. "I FAILED YOU! I DID THIS ALL TO MYSELF!"

"And I let you!"

"It was my life and I ruined it and yours and our daughter's!"

"It was OUR LIFE! And I turned a blind eye to you needing help."

"And I never thought to ASK for help! I WAS THE ONE WHO---WHO... WHO... " I shook. "I was the one who tried to . . . to . . . murder Diamond. You SAVED HER."

He embraced me and nuzzled me. It had been . . . It had been far too long. My entire body went slack in his hooves.

"Please, I beg you, don't do this to yourself, Golden Tiara."

"I betrayed that name. I'm Screwball. It was my own choices made me go insane in the first place."
-
A golden crown instead of a screw and a base ball, beautiful amethyst eyes instead of purple whirlpools. She was wearing that beanie she had as a filly. I almost felt ashamed at being happy to see these beautiful traits of hers again, like her appearance was all that mattered. But they were the tell tale signs my princess had finally returned.
-

"Honey, uh, do you like my collar? I thought you might like it," he asked so awkwardly, so nervously, awaiting my approval. MY approval? What right did, how could he ask something that mundane about--

And I realized this mundane was what I wanted. "It's . . . nice, dear."

"Thank you honey." He nuzzled me, my entire body shivered, it wasn't from cold or disgust. I dared to steal a nuzzle from him back.

He didn't resist or recoil, he was happy. My prince, like in a fairy tale, my prince, my prince wanted me back!

I cried. Maybe I wasn't empty after all.

A scary but wonderful while later, Filthy and I separated. And he showed me a small box I hadn't noticed earlier.

"Honey, I have something for you . . . Nurse TLC said she brought it just in case she couldn't . . . restrain you. She thought it might calm you down enough to come along."

He opened it.

"My dress," I whispered.

I took it out of the box, hugged it and embraced it. Still with the diamonds sewn in. I felt alive. I felt like a pony. I felt like a person. My birthday present . . . from Diamond.

Diamond.

Had it all been in my mind? I had to ask the one pony I knew I could always trust.

"Dear. Tiara, she's missing isn't it?"

He couldn't lie to me. "Yes she is...And I think that's my fault...I ignored the warning signs with her, like I did with you," Then he realized. "That's . . That's why you escaped isn't it?"

"I thought if I saved her from whatever had happened, I'd prove I was a good mother, and the doctors would have to let me stay with her again."
-
Maybe it was stupid and reckless, but I couldn't keep anything from her, not now.
-
"Honey, I have something to tell you. Diamond Tiara was stopped somewhere here in Canterlot. I promise. We'll find her."

There was only one thing I could ask of him. "Please find her dear, and protect her, from me."

+++

I had no idea what to expect when I decided to take time out of my admittedly busy schedule to meet with her.

How did I even find out she was in Canterlot? It was quite shocking let me tell you!

To find out Diamond Tiara had been seen here in Canterlot was completely overwhelming. I'd let Silver Spoon's father decide if the little filly should know or not. I had meddled enough with one family's filly, and Silver... Whenever Diamond is mentioned, she gets a look that reminds me of Rainbow Dash. That look of undying loyalty that cannot be faked. If Silver knew Diamond was here, I didn't doubt that she'd do anything to find her.

Between designing, measuring, and sewing several dresses within a couple of days, it's a tribute to my talents that I had the time to spare.

I didn't tell the others out of a sense of secrecy or conspiracy, we had enough drama, and I didn't want to add to it.

In spite of previous advice, I wasn't about to -ignore- Filthy Rich after our deep discussion. I already knew -he- was in Canterlot.

I didn't exactly scour the city for him, but I did ask Fancy Pants if the most important pony in Canterlot knew the whereabouts of Ponyville's biggest business pony . . . A gamble, but it paid off, and I found out the truth. Fancy is good at reading ponies and I think saw my concern was genuine.

When I explained, he told me about Diamond Tiara being his guest.

I had actually used my jewel finding spell to try and find Tiara's crown in Canterlot, but I kept finding only dead ends.

Diamond Tiara. You came here? Why? How had you managed to get here? There WAS however a powerful relief in knowing that at the time, she was alive and well. After months of simply not knowing, there was proof she was still alive and somewhere nearby... But the Royal Guard apparently were too busy to spare much stallion power on one lost filly with the royal wedding on the horizon.

I shared Filthy Rich's agitation.

But why in blue blazes would she have come to Canterlot?

Filthy Rich as it turned out had been given a room next to his wife at The Princess' offer.

Filthy Rich I think was surprised to find me Canterlot as well. And that was where I found out the rest of the truth.

His wife had been found, in Canterlot as well, it was almost too impossible to be truth, I was very happy for him.

Then he shared his wife's mental state... It was a miracle. There was no other way to describe it. If they could now just find Diamond they could have their lives back and maybe Diamond could learn to let go of her pride and cruelty.

No I had never given up on her. A wise mare once said, 'under the skin, evil was often just pain.' I think it might have been Fluttershy. Sometimes I think she's more selfless than me, which is why I shall ALWAYS look out for what's best for her.

I made my request, and after some heartfelt explanation, Filthy Rich consented.

She was a lovely mare, but in need of a good combing and deluxe trip to the spa. She didn't seem crazy as had been built up for so long. But the heavy weight of depression was easy to see, and that felt -wrong- for Equestria and for any pony in need.

I didn't know how to begin my encounter with her, so I greeted her as a proper lady, curtsying and introducing myself.

Confused she asked my business with her. I'll admit I was taken a bit off guard, what was my business? But I had know I had to see her.

"I was the sewing tutor to your daughter and the mare she spent the most time with before running away. I'm here to be just another mare to talk to if you'll let me."

And she did. We talked about the stresses of high society, I told her about my generosity in accepting requests for appearances left Twilight's birthday dress all but undone. About how the stereotype that well off ponies in Canterlot all had to be elitist snobs.

I left out the whole 'helped save the world' thing, this was her time to communicate with another pony like another pony for who knew how long, to get used to being sane again, not me listing off my accomplishments.

I was amazed when I learned of the extreme sports she had done. She told me about her quality time with Diamond Tiara. And from the abuse Sweetie Belle told about the bully, it was like two completely different ponies were being described to me. But again, I had begun to see this Diamond Tiara bit by bit, until she stabbed me and ran away. I still remember the shame and terror in her eyes, the scissors shaking in her mouth. She hadn't wanted to do it. And for a spoiled filly like Diamond Tiara to do something she didn't want to, it told of something very wrong indeed.

There was no way in Tartarus I could tell Miss Golden Tiara about her filly's act of violence. Maybe I was just repeating mistakes, but I knew she would just blame herself somehow.

Sadly, she refused to accept her name of Golden Tiara, and insisted on being referred to as 'Screwball.' Poor mare. But at least I was able to speak with her for over an hour about family, high culture, and I was sure to share with her current events she had missed out on because of her sickness. If there was ever a pony I met who needed a friend right now, it was her. And the greatest act of generosity one can commit, is to give their time to help another.

She was no actress, she couldn't hide her smile. But duty called, I merely told her, that what her daughter wanted more than anything, was to have her mother back.

Episode 163: "A Bug-Pony's Life"

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My name is Moth, I'm a changeling, I have never been a pony, nor were my parents...does it shock you that much? That we have parents? We aren't just all mutated ponies or grown like a fungus with no heart of my own?...Maybe I don't.

If we changeling are so big on being hidden, why do we not just feed on each other's love? We tried, it was like a snake eating its own tail. We can't simply feed on our Queen's love and her on ours. We NEED other creatures who can love to live. It's the law of nature, no animals can survive on their own...even herbivores need grass and even flowers need the sun.

We HATE it. That we NEED 'inferior creatures' to live...so what makes me a freak? So why do I see my food as people?...Funny story that. Wait, not very funny at all.

It wasn't just one grand moment that changed my life. When someling's truth is challenged, they become even MORE defiant in protecting it. You fight back with everything you have.

If someling told you friendship was worthless, you wouldn't suddenly give up that just because of one time would you?

So what makes you think I gave up on what I had been taught my whole life because of one day? Just because something is wrong, doesn't make it any less difficult to break the belief.

Before I was born, all changelings were granted the honor names on top of our serial numbers. My parents named me Moth.

I'm not a brainwashed pony hero, or a changeling princess in disguise, I was a changeling among a swarm of changelings.

I was taught to manipulate and control the reactions of zebra, ponies, griffins, all creatures that felt emotions. I was a gatherer after all, I wasn't a worker or a soldier. It was my duty to go beyond the hive and gather love to return to the rest of the hive. So my storage capacity had to be bigger than an average changeling.

I enjoyed the circus maximus on the rare occasion I returned to the hive instead of simply relaying the mass amount of love I had gathered to another changeling to return to the hive.

I replaced many ponies, adults, children, stallions, mares, each presented their own unique challenges, but I never bothered to remembered their meaningless names once my mission was done, do you remember the individual names of apples in a cider? For the record, my base form IS female. Sometimes I invented new identities and worked with that in societies and communities where paper work or background checks weren't mandatory.

The ponies I replaced?...Sometimes they were converted if useful to the swarm's collective knowledge and skill, just taken to be more home-stead cattle (though we don't need to do that as much now), or left in an empty dazed state and we quietly let them slip back into their lives, or...we disposed of them.

Choosing between individuals of another species or providing for my own community, my own species, my own race, my friends and family, my own people, you think I ever felt a shred of hesitation or guilt? It wouldn't have been a life changing realization if I'd already felt what I was doing was wrong, would it?

Do you feel hesitation or guilt for the flowers you eat?

My nymphhood wasn't special, I was taught to obey my superior without question, and the queen was superior to all. That was the efficiency of the great machine.

That's a difference between ponies and Changelings. Ponies come to the conclusion that Celestia is an almighty force of nature. Changelings are taught that the Queen is one. The fact that the only way a queen had died in our memory was at the hooves of another Queen only reinforced it.

That changelings need love to live, and what we did was no different from a spider eating a fly.

Those who vomited love back at prey were insane. And I didn't question any of it, you don't question superior.

Prey was food that talked, their games of 'right' and 'wrong' didn't apply to us.

Once, workers were considered the least, next came the cattle, next came the gatherers, then came the soldiers, then came the Masters, and above them the Queen herself. Now all the castes are equal.

I didn't think prey fools, do you think apples are fools?

A gatherer I was born, and a gatherer I will die as, that's what the swarm needs me for, and for that, I won't abandon my responsibility to my hive-mates for my own personal whims of wanting a new profession. A screw can not become a cog.

Those were all my truths, and my reality!

Then came the day, when I became even more zealot of them.

It was just another day. Before I became a full fledged gatherer and left the hive. The Queen feels us being able to interact grants us stronger loyalty to the hive. I speak with a nymph disguised as a zebra filly. She talked about her love for the hive, her honor in serving it, of being a part of her, the honor of her responsibility in providing for it. She was wonderful to be with. We shared a undying loyalty to Queen and Swarm.

Then a herder came, and I found out the reality, I had been talking to a cattle this whole time! Then the next reality I found out. She didn't have the tell tale green tinted eyes our magic can't hide, because she had been born here. The hive was the only home and life she had ever known. She considered herself part of the swarm, and counted herself among our numbers, seeing her providing love as just another duty for the swarm.

HOW DARE SHE?! HOW DARE A CATTLE THINK OF ITSELF AS EQUAL TO US?! HOW DARE SHE THINK OF HERSELF AS PART OF THE SWARM! She degraded the honor of the swarm with such thoughts that we could be lowered to her level! I HATED HER!

You think I had a moment of doubt to that? Of questioning? I only grew more hostile to cattle. There WERE NO ifs, ands, buts, thoughs, or howevers!

My responsibility was to the swarm and nothing else, not these walking love batteries!

I was proud when I was let loose upon the world, when I slipped into the horse-shoes of ponies and zebra, I slipped into the cracks of other ponies' lives and told them what they wanted to hear, then sucked them dry and discarded them like the rind of an orange!

I was good at what I did, I wasn't the best, that was master Jewel Wasp, and her apprentices, but I proved I didn't need to be taught by the best to become talented! I was recognized for my skills and I was taught the languages and cultures of was different prey that I'd be sent out against.

On one of my first visits to the Land Of Love, as we changeling nicknamed it as love was so available, I had never felt so alive. I became too drunk on how easy it was to draw love out of these creatures. I was disguised as a pegasus at the time. While my classes had covered the alien and bizarre land of the Everfree Forest where weather, plants, and animals were wild, unpredictable and savage, it had failed to mention that just cause Ponyville was the only settlement right next to it, didn't mean rogue weather didn't wander out from it elsewhere. I ran right into a wild storm. I crashed and was knocked out of my disguise and forced into my true shape.

I had recently passed on my collected love to a courier, healing my damage would take reserves I didn't have, but I did have enough to make sure I was never found.

Our bodies naturally crumble into dust anyway unless we're sucked dry by a Queen, but if we feared we'd be discovered, we had other options. We must be as ghosts. The hive's secrecy must be protected until the Land Of Love is our new home.. I prepared to trigger my, well, for lack of a better term let's call it 'apoptosis.'

"Hello, are you alright? Well, from the crash I can guess you're NOT alright."

I would die with dishonor, I had been seen. I looked at the pony who had spotted me on the ground. A unicorn.

What had to be the most perfect luck in the history of the swarm, the stupid creature was blind!

I'll admit, as a changeling, I suffered from a slight handicap, sometimes I forget myself and do a completely different voice if I didn't pay attention. The fact I had been chosen for the Land of Love IN SPITE Of my handicap is something I take pride in. I focused and gave the most sincere sounding and pitiable voice I could imagine giving.

"Please, help, I'm hurt."

The blind creature a short time later lifted me on his back and took me to his home in the middle of nowhere.

He lived alone and had no neighbors. I don't know what god was showering me with such luck but I hoped their whims didn't change too quickly!

I worried he might realized something was up with me: Then again, this creature was blind and lived by himself, he HAD TO BE stupid!

Then things got weird.

I couldn't just drain him dry and go, being hit by lightning and crashing into the ground hadn't left me in perfect shape. And what he was feeding for me was compassion, not the same thing as love. The default amount of love he had wasn't the gigantic amount I needed to heal myself enough that I could move without splitting my exoskeleton in two.

So I was stuck there for weeks, forced to heal the old fashioned way. He gave me water, bandaged me, and of course, fed me, or what ponies ate to live. It barely took anything to fill my tiny stomach, and my body wasn't built to process what was in there anything, we were built to feed off of love, if we could live off of grass and flowers we wouldn't have to risk living the way we do. No, our stomachs weren't completely nonfunctional, they could digest food, we just got nothing from it except the taste.

His cutie mark was a butterfly, I'm surprised his brain knew what one looked like. He was also a poet I guess. He introduced himself as 'After Image.'

The weird thing was, I felt myself getting stronger, but I wasn't feeding, but I felt love storing up inside me! I didn't understand it at all.

I stuck to my cover story. He politely accepted everything I said. He said things like, "Oh is that right?" or "I understand." He barely questioned anything! I couldn't believe my luck.

There's only one punishment for breaching the masquerade. The ultimate failure deserves the ultimate punishment. His discovery of what I was would only mean me reporting my failure followed by an execution for having failed the swarm. Yes I'd turn myself in. Why shouldn't I?

-
I never knew what she was. I knew she wasn't a pony. All I knew was that was somecreature who was horribly hurt and in need. If she had a reason for keeping her identity and species secret, I was going to respect that. I hope she found what she was looking for. I surprised myself, I did love her company.
-

When I was strong enough to leave, I thanked him without thinking about. Then again, that was what ponies did with each other.

But the mystery remained, how had I fed? I hadn't drawn anything out of him at all. So why? Why? It made no sense. Creatures don't get fed just by being NEXT TO food.

And when I left, he was still every bit as strong as when I'd met him! He hadn't lost an ounce of energy! Even if I HAD been feeding off him, how could he have so much love in him that it didn't leave a dent? A female mosquito doesn't feed off its pray without drawing blood!

In some ways, it felt like I was BETTER fed than I was normally. Almost like I'd gotten a continuous stream instead of one big rush. Like it'd be flowing nonstop instead of in bursts like it normally did during quick feedings.

I hadn't even TRIED feeding (as said, I needed him), he hadn't seemed to weaken one little bit, but I'd still got fed well. What the Tartarus was going on here?!

And I couldn't just ask back at the hive. Asking about it would mean exposing myself to the others. Saying that I'd let myself get hurt and raised back to health by FOOD! It was one thing to report a failure, it was another to report what amounted to humiliation! We Changelings had our pride!

It just kept eating away at me. It made no sense!

And it would come back to those second-generation-plus cattle who had never had mind control magic used on them in their lives who would prattle on they were happy to have such a vital and indispensable function as part of the swarm! Little rats! Would we keep them around if we didn't need to?

....

Okay. Maybe I was a little defensive. My entire live and function in the hive was to be a gatherer, if the population of the livestock got big enough some day to provide for the entire swarm, I wouldn't just be out of a job, I'd be out of why I was born! Imagine trying to realize your Cutie Mark was something the world didn't have any used! So of course I cheered for changelings who petitioned the queen that the livestock were a clear and present danger would ultimately turn on us once their numbers were big enough.

I was actually angry the live stock never showed any interest in rebelling against anything, they considered themselves part of the swarm if they were changelings or not.

The herders never even TRIED to discourage them from thinking of themselves as part of the hive rather than the live stock they were!

Can we...can we stop please?...Just for a little bit? Looking back at myself, how I was, how I used to think, it's...it's hard...I don't like doing it. It reminds me how I would have looked at Lyra and Bon Bon, and not even have seen people. It scares me to think about how I used to think.

Like I said, me realizing non-changelings were people, and 'nature taking its course' wasn't an excuse as I had been taught all my life, wasn't a laughing matter.

I fought it, kicking and screaming, leaving hoof marks in the dirt. Please, please I don't want to talk about it in detail. Please.

I dared to ask the natural rival of a gatherer, a herder, about the nature of harvesting love from such complacent and willing cattle. I didn't give any details of course of why I was asking, and the chances I could ask where slim as I spent most of my life away from the hive.

They told me, there were times working with the cattle, they would forget to feed themselves, but they wouldn't grow weaker, in fact, they would actually feel stronger. Those who relayed this strange happenstance to the higher ups were ignored.

It couldn't be.

I asked questions of the higher ups myself and was ignored, again, not revealing the nature of my questions, until I was told to stop asking questions.

...

I obeyed of course. Obey your superiors. They is the changeling way. So why was I so scared?

And it struck me. Why. Why had the changelings who had fled with a single stolen first generation cattle brought to the hive only needed that one cattle to live?...As a gatherer, it had been part of my duty to spot rogues and runaways (I don't know what if anything was done after that). So why...why had they only needed that one host to live? Our hive was literally in the middle of nowhere, there wouldn't be any food for miles.

Nothing made sense anymore.

Was our way of feeding...wrong?

I brought this up with my superiors, and I was told never to speak of it again. I obeyed.

I remember once, a cave in, a herder had dug to save a cattle who had been caught, he had risked his life, it wasn't part of his duty, he wasn't a worker, but he did it anyway. I thought nothing of it at the time, it wasn't part of my duty to the swarm.

Now I tracked him down, and I did ask him.

"It's not a matter of being superior, it's matter of us living, we need them, and they need us."

Ants and aphids, of course, ants and aphids. You know I actually felt relief. Ants and aphids. Ants and aphids. It was nature at work again. Ants and aphids. We were the ants, and they were the aphids. They provided for us, and we took care of them, no wars, no crime, no rape or murder, we kept them happy and they provided for us. Ants and aphids. Simple as that.

And I was more afraid of my duty as a gatherer were truly destine to turn to dust. But the same time I felt guilt and confusion, for the cattle, but for why the swarm was ignoring a better way to feed ourselves, even at the cost of the gatherer caste, did they think we weren't loyal enough to the hive that we wouldn't sacrifice our purpose and function for the good of the entire swarm?

The worst part was, was when it happened again. It was like fate took delight in torturing me. When I crashed, no, it was the ceiling that crashed into me. Flying in my true form was something I could only do inside the hive's cavern. Even us, who could change into any species of animal, we wanted to be our true selves....Like ponies and their cutie marks.

But it came with risks, and there was an accident, at least it wasn't life threatening this time.

I thought it was a doctor of my own kind who healed me in the hive, who was currently in the form of a zebra for some reason, that's what I told myself. Turns out his 'superior' was out at the time, but having been at his superior's side all this time, providing love for her, he was able to repair the damage done to me with acquired expertise. Taught by changelings of course, so not that strange.

But...how was that any different from when the blind unicorn healed me?

Now I was terrified.

I WAS HAPPY when I was sent to the griffin kingdom instead of the land of love again.

And that was when everything for me changed forever.

However, it turned out what I THOUGHT would be an escape was more...complicated.

It was just a routine gathering mission. It was a little village in the middle of nowhere. Which Griffin Nation? I forget, I didn't know it by its 'pony name' at the time. But point was, the village didn't have anyone anypony important would miss...which was exactly why the next part was so shocking.

First I noticed ponies that were visiting the village. Observing them, I overheard enough to figure out they were simply tourists traveling through the country. No one expecting them, middle of nowhere. They were perfect...But then something happened.

One of them just happened to trip and hit their head on a rock. A Griffin rushed to help them.

They were an Earth Pony, so they were okay, but they were bleeding...and that's where the shock came from.

The Griffin finished up tending to them and wiped the blood off, giving a somewhat hungry look at his talons. Even I could smell the blood.

It was no secret that Griffins were ponies' natural predators. But the wars ended long ago. However, instincts were still instincts. I'd always assumed that Griffins just didn't want to have the world angry at them...however, a couple ponies from nowhere going nowhere in a village in the middle of nowhere? I thought somegriffin's instincts would get the better of them eventually (why I'd become a Griffin). That if there was no logical way it could come back to bite them, they'd follow their instincts.

But here was a Griffin, with pony blood on his claws. Predatory instinct HAD to be kicking in. But he didn't lose it, he didn't hurt them. he didn't even go get a snack or anything, he just went about his day.

I normally would've overlooked it...but with my brain already in doubt, I observed. I was HOPING one of the ponies would get taken by the Griffins so I could take their place with the other. It never happened. They came and went on.

The Griffins had let their food walk into a perfect location to pounce, smelt its blood...and just let it leave in peace...

The SHOCKING part was that none of the griffins took note or disdain at this griffin that had let their natural food go when it made less sense NOT to claim their prize! The ponies might as well have been hanging signs saying 'Free Food!' around their necks. And the griffins just let them go. And the griffins all treated it as normal.

If they had been afraid of revenge by Princess Celestia if it could be traced back to them, that still wouldn't make sense. Griffins were not cowards, anyling who tells you different has never met one. I don't care if they lost their war with the ponies. Even the wrath of the sun goddess wouldn't be enough to cow them.

So why, why had that griffin HELPED that injured pony? My thoughts continued like that for a while. Going in circles. Seeing but not understanding.

So I dared infiltrate deeper into these griffins. I didn't have orders to ingrain this deep, but if I didn't find an answer, I'd go insane, and then I'd be no use to the swarm, an unforgivable failure.

What confused me further, was that the griffins called their own ancestors "dweebs" for keeping ponies as slaves and livestock. And I broke the most basic rule of a gatherer, I didn't just smile and nod. I played Tirac's advocate. I was the only changeling here, noling would ever know.

I cited how the griffins was only doing what came natural, that the ponies under them had had peace and protection, that there was no shame in treating prey like prey, and it was just the natural structure of nature.

I completely destroyed the usefulness of my persona as a love harvesting tool. And I was lucky to get out of there without being knocked into my true form. Griffins do not shy away from a fight nor expressing themselves physically. And as far as they knew, I was another Griffin who knew and should have expected that.

My persona was called a bigot and much less kinder things. What I was able to shift through the insults, and death threats, was talk about respecting other sapient creatures and that there was no such thing as the 'master species', and treating others like you wanted to be treated, and that it was disrespectful towards yourself to lower yourself to the level of an animal that couldn't control or chose when to obey or ignore their instincts.

If I had been in confusion before, then now I was drowning in an ocean of it. How could griffins, creatures who should have been in the same boat as us, ones who many changeling masters had cited an alliance was only logical (we'd take the emotions, they'd take the flesh), be so against having ponies fulfill their natural place in nature?

I had always told myself, it was because the rest of the world would become their enemies if they tried to do what was their natural calling due to the world ruled by prey, an upside down absurdity of how the world was supposed to be. But these griffins, retaliation by prey hadn't even been a major part of their verbal beat down! And as far as they knew, I WAS a Griffin, they had no reason to lie!

I actually cried myself to sleep that night. Why. Why didn't the world make sense anymore?

We were still better than griffins. We weren't killers. We merely feed on emotions from our prey, we didn't kill them. What did it matter?! THEY WERE JUST CATTLE!!!!

But if that were true, then why was I the one questioning why the Griffins hadn't made a meal of those ponies? Why did THEY accept killing was wrong and condemn the idea of it while I was the one looking for a reason why they SHOULD kill them?

Because it was the natural thing for griffins to do! It was their NATURE TO EAT THE FLESH OF PONIES!...Yet why were none of them sick or miserable? We were always taught that creatures who resisted or fought against their instincts were always struggling against it constantly, living in perpetual agony and misery struggling against their own flesh and blood! It's why everyling thinks those vampire pony novels are STUPID after all! It's why everyling hates it! A vampire pony falling in love with a pony who is his natural food source? It would like an addict dating witch weed! It's MORE stupid for changelings, vomiting love BACK at prey? It's insane!

Oh? We changelings kill each other? Of course we do. It's how our Queen became Queen in the first place, she has taught us not to fear weak leaders and those who can't carry their own weight need to be cut loose. We're creatures with free will after all, I just meant we don't kill our prey to survive like griffins would.

Then why do we treat ponies like animals when they can think and speak? BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT THEY ARE TO US! It's what's natural! It's what nature intended! It's the natural world! It's what Mother Nature meant for us to be, what we were intended to be! It's what evolution HAS MADE US! Why should we do something as ARROGANT and SELF-DESTRUCTIVE as try to go against what we NATURALLY DEVELOPED TO BE?! Lions can't eat grass to survive, and deer can't live off sunlight like grass can. We can't eat meat or plants to survive either, love is what we NATURALLY live off of! WHY SHOULD WE TRY TO CHANGE WHAT WE ARE JUST BECAUSE the world wouldn't approve?!

But then, you know what I found out? The symbol of peace between the ponies and Griffins is a HIPPOGRIFF. As in a HYBRID of the two species.

At first, I naturally thought it was a mythical creature. A hybrid of predator and prey couldn't ACTUALLY exist, right? There was no way!

But with my thoughts in such disarray, I couldn't help myself...I assumed a new Griffin form (my old one now an outcast) and asked around. It turned out that one of the countries ambassadors was one! Yes, I know that makes perfect sense! I knew there were some pony/zebra crossbreeds who did much the same elsewhere, and even some Deer hybrids, but there was one BIG difference: two prey species mating? THAT makes sense. A prey species and its natural predator? HOW?! How is that PHYSICALLY possible?! See my anti-vampire-novel argument for why that seemed utterly insane!

And yet apparently, it happened frequently enough that Griffins didn't doubt they could exist! I tried to write it off as a political move, but there was one small detail that made no sense: the Griffins didn't consider the existence of one a big deal! If this was some one of a kind thing, why WOULDN'T it wouldn't be 'yeah, they're real, by the way, our ambassador is one,' it'd be 'I know they're real BECAUSE our ambassador is one!'

Had nature itself gone crazy?

I was able to make my quota, but that was it, as a gatherer, I was supposed to deliver what I could to the hive and take what was left over second, but I had been so distracted that I barely absorbed enough extra for me to keep going!

'For the good of the swarm', that was our vow of any changeling alive.

Maybe us gatherers weren't what was best for the swarm, if our livestock could function without us feeding on them directly without them being all used up, then why did we need to risk exposing ourselves? Maybe we should be just phased out after all.

...And everything I had seen and heard just continued to make me more confused and insure. I was barely able to function. But I had to keep going, it was for the good of the swarm after all.

Griffins. Why? Why have you become this? Why did your entire species drive to this? They've stopped harvesting meat from cows that were sapient in favor of the ones that COULDN'T think or reason. But ponies what were their NATURAL prey. How could they do this to their bodies?

And more importantly, why did they seem so...happy about it? WHY? I'd been taught all my life that defying nature would HURT you and they didn't FEEL hurt. They didn't look hurt. Being around ponies didn't even seem TEMPTING to them, even when the ponies were bleeding. WHY?!

My thoughts wandered back to that Hippogriff and I wondered if their parents loved each other or if they were just some sort of accident. I checked into it and found they were LEGALLY MARRIED. An entire family that stood for the OPPOSITE of what I believed in.

One crack made new ones and made old ones larger. It was like my world was falling apart.

...they abandoned the hive...they abandoned the swarm...they betrayed us...there...is no...excuse...for that. They were being selfish.

What's selfish, about wanting freedom and a better life for someling you love?

AGH! Where did that thought come from!?

I'd been infected somehow!

Then another aspect of the pony/griffin relationship hit home. Ponies were their PREY...that meant by their NATURE ponies shouldn't have even BEEN in a Griffin Nation. They should've been instinctively TERRIFIED of willingly coming within five feet of a Griffin, let alone come to an entire nation FULL of Griffins...or for that matter, mate with one!

We'd 'domesticated' our cattle, they were no longer afraid of us because we'd RAISED them that way...Griffins hadn't kept ponies as cattle. A pony who'd never encountered a griffin should've had an INSTINCTIVE fear of one...so why didn't they?

The cracks just kept spreading. I kept seeing OTHER things that threw wrenches in my works.

Dragons should want everything they see, so why did they NOT wreck pony mines and take them over? That was their NATURE...and yet it was right there in the treaty between dragons and the rest of the world. EVERYTHING else should just run for the hills when they so much as HEAR one...and yet they're allowed to visit other nations, their migration path passing near CITIES.

Not only that, but my research revealed there had been cases of dragon/pony hybrids in the past, one of which was part of Nightmare Moon's army during her war with Celestia and well documented by history!

Zebra? Same as ponies, they DIDN'T follow the natural prey response to Griffins and Dragons...but DID to lions and other predators that WEREN'T sapient!

I asked my next questions carefully, I didn't want to have to create a third persona for one gathering (which was I was at the tail end of, with griffins at the edge of beginning to ask questions of their own).

I introduced myself as a 'griffin naturalist' and made a point to be as respectable and polite as possible. I asked about how griffins should return their natural instincts since that was 'what nature intended' and it was a more healthy and honest way of living than denying your real self.

I was surprised when I got polite and respectable answers back.

"If we just did whatever our instincts told us to do, we'd be fighting each other to the death and eating the loser's chicks, fighting each other over who's the toughest rather than who has the best idea, and eating creatures that can help us a lot more than just be a one time snack."

"So what?" Animals of the same species killing each other is part of nature. Our Queen did to become Queen that way after all, and Cocoon's death helped the hive. So why was I using equines not harming each other as justification for us using them as cattle?

"So WHAT? Every life is precious, every life is special, every life is unique, and if we spent so much time killing each other just to be on top, or that it was our DNA that got passed on, how many useful ideas would be lost? How many works have we built that would never have existed because we were too busy fighting ourselves? Or others? Working with others gets a lot more done than working against each other. And we learned a long time, strength isn't everything. Sometimes a WEAKER griff has better ideas than a stronger one. And ponies? Griffins might be STRONGER, but we still lost the war, didn't we?"

"Hey...if that's the case, maybe there should be a way to make those who'd be helpful griffins themselves, instead of being something that nature says we're supposed to be eating?"

We had converted prey into changelings on occasion, those who showed traits that were helpful to the swarm, those who'd rather be one of us than one of them.

"If they're so cool, that they'd make a great griffin, then doesn't that kinda defeat the point of them being something uncool to begin with?"

It was like a knife in the gut. Oh, Queen Chrysalis. No. No. No. No. No!

"B-But if they were a griffin, couldn't they do more to help the group? There wouldn't be prejudice."

"True, but think about it this way: Griffins are tougher and stronger than a most ponies (we ARE their predator after all), but the pegasus has got us beat at agility and speed most of the time. We can't do magic like unicorns or make plants grow like Earth Ponies. That's NOT saying it sucks being a Griffin, FAR from it, but it's kinda like in one of those Power Pony shows from Neighpon. Ever notice a team's never all ONE species? Normally they've AT LEAST got one of each pony tribe, sometimes a Griffin and a Zebra, but NEVER all one type of creature. And it's not just because they're strong-armed to include 'token minorities!' It's because they balance each other out. A unicorn can use magic, but isn't physically strong, a team of unicorns would be powerless if something showed up their magic COULDN'T work on, wouldn't they? But if they were all Earth Ponies, then what if they fought something that could ONLY be effected by magic? Then they'd be droppings out of luck, wouldn't they?"

We changelings, we could become anything we wanted, with a good enough memory, enough love stored, and if we had what we needed to copy in the first place...but we needed creatures who could make love to live. We've always hated that. Love being is what we had to live on to live. We couldn't live like they could. I thought of someling changing all changelings permanently into whatever species they were disguised as at the time. I was horrified at the idea.

Contrary to the horror stories you might have heard, those we've 'uplifted' into our own kind aren't stripped of their free will. DAMMIT! WHAT DOES ANY OF THIS HAVE TO DO WITH ANYTHING?

AGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!

So...if their personalities aren't remade...then how can we say how different cattle are from us...if they were able to assimilate so well into their new species?

Queen Chrysalis, I'm sick!

I fled! I escaped. There were no other word for it. I retreated in terror from a griffin using nothing but WORDS!

Equines, zebra, griffins, they didn't need their emotions to live, we did need their emotions to live. They didn't die without their love, we did. Zebra would die if a griffin ate their flesh. What right did that griffin have to give us lectures?

I had never been so happy for a gathering to end for me to go home. But I didn't go home soon enough. Not that it mattered as I'd find out.

Fate was not done tormenting me.

News paper. Griffin buck. Head injury. Not himself afterwards. Can't feel or can't express feelings anymore. Loved ones, his sister says it's like he died. Like the TinPony who lost his heart.

I'm lying. I overheard it from the sister, the griffin I had approached earlier, talking about her brother, his name is Leopold. I had been watching her, hoping for some sign of hypocrisy to everything she said, griffins couldn't, ignoring or rejecting your instincts should have made you weaker!

The love I sensed for her brother, it was filled with the same molasses of sadness I'd tasted in the air when somecattle's loved one died, there was no difference.

"He recognized me but, he didn't act like he cared."

I.... I... PLEASE! I DON'T WANT TO QUOTE WHAT THEY SAID! NO! Please! It's...it's too much. No more, please.

...His emotions were as good as gone...like they were eaten out of him...and now his own sister says it's like he's turned into a stranger, like the old him doesn't exist anymore...

Why did I ever have to this horrific land?! I was a part of the hive's sacred machine: except my gears had been stripped.

As a rule, we gatherers don't make friends or enemies, we only have targets we lure in, stimulate, harvest, discard, then melt into the shadows like ghosts. This was so we wouldn't be missed if we vanished, this went double when picking individual creatures we were replacing.

I broke the rules, I betrayed the hive, I said goodbye the griffin I had chatted with, and told her I was sorry about Leopold.

I felt nothing but guilt for my crime.

I had never been so happy to be back in the hive. You have no idea. It was my sanctuary, my rescuer, my home, the big machine where I could fit in like a good cog, and feel safe and alive.

The circus maximus. The entertainment of changelings great and small. Even after Her Majesty has changed the system to weed out Queen Cocoon's mistakes, she knew better than to deny changelings their favorite entertainment.

Her Majesty took satisfaction in the performances she produced for the hive were superior to anything the previous queen had provided. Her Majesty said it was a matter of professional pride. At to times she'd even sing herself still.

Deviants where now free to serve the hive as part of their family's caste rather than being used as fodder for the circus maximus. But there were still plenty of used-up cattle to entertain everyling.

She wasn't the star attraction. She wasn't given any sort of meaningful role. She was just another one of the cattle that had nothing left to take shuffled in the arena perform for the hive.

Her eyes permanently tainted green and wide, the telltale sign how completely she had been emotionally gutted to feed the swarm.

She expressed none of the pride or joy she felt for being part of the hive's beautiful machine, she didn't express anything at all, because there was nothing inside to express.

I had seen countless used-up cattle, like eaten corn on the cobs, this was no different at all. No different at all. No difference what -so-ever.

The zebra filly, she danced with the rest of the puppets, perfectly, obediently, she didn't care if she danced or not. She acted a foal, then bent her body in ways only a zebra can. The hollowed out puppet recognized me, it was emotions we drained, not minds, but she didn't care. She didn't so much as twitch at the sight of me.

And that was when I realized, I never bothered to learn her name, more than that, I felt ashamed I had never learned her name. I was ashamed that I was ashamed. I was ashamed that I was ashamed that I was ashamed...Gahhh. I. I. I. My breathing nearly became impossible.

I ran out of the circus maximus and I screamed, and I didn't stop screaming until it became coughing.

My fellow gatherers asked me what was wrong. I told them one lie or another. I can't even remember. It was something about remembering a nightmare maybe, after all, how would YOUR friends and family respond if you said you had reacted that way towards apple cores?

We don't question orders, that doesn't mean we can't beg for favor or indulgences. I got lucky. I was assigned back to the land of love.

I was a gatherer, it took time to set up and seduce prey, to set yourself up or study a pony to replace, I had feed on the maximum amount of love I could without bursting my insides before I left the hive, even if it now made me sick, and it wasn't from any stomach ache.

I abandoned my post in Appleloosa (I didn't pick where I was sent), and I just fled. Like a creature possessed. I had no idea where I was even going. Just away. Far away. Away from the madness, the confusion, the contradictions, the insanity, the wrongness, the rights-that-were-wrong.

My instincts, my accursed instincts, they led me where it was natural for a changeling to go. By pure instinct, I unconsciously trekked towards the strongest source of love in the land. The love Equestria had was divine, even countless miles away, I was drawn...like a moth to a flame.

I had traveled at night in my true form, making my reserves last longer.

I burned through my reserves, I hadn't fed once since coming back to the land of love. Next my body would began to feed on itself to starve off the end. Part of me wanted it to happen. I can assure you, realizing you're the bad guy? I don't think many things can hurt worse ...but like everything in the world, I feared death.

That was when Lyra and Bon Bon found me. Out on the out skirts of Ponyville, Canterlot where my accursed instincts told me to go, in view, but too far away.

Changeling mind magic is like our shape shifting. All of us can do it, we need to love to do it in the first place, some of us are better or worse at it than others (soldiers suck at it), and the gap in power between us and Her Majesty is like between a mortal pony and Princess Celestia.

I was a gatherer, I had lots and lots of practice influencing minds.

When Lyra and Bon Bon found me, I panicked, and shape shifted to the first pony I thought of, who was closing in. Thankfully I think I was too far away from them to see them transform, I think. I was so disoriented from hunger at that point I have little clue what I was doing.

I think I changed into Bon Bon then, but I was so starved and dirty I could be Princess Celstia and they wouldn't be able to tell.

I doubt they'd have accepted me as a pony in need if they saw me changed from a bug-monster a flash of green flames right in front of them.

I meant to say 'Candy' when they asked me my name, from what I saw on Bon Bon's flanks, but I was so addled that I said my real name instead. I am a total idiot.

I implanted the mental suggestion not to take me to a hospital where I might be exposed, but to care for me themselves, like a parasite.

While they gave me a bath, I sublimely worked on Bon Bon, getting her to let me in (given the situation, it wasn't hard). Implanting the fake reality that I was her twin sister. It was just a little talent of mine among my fellow changelings. A little something special, call it my special talent.

Contrary to what you'd think, removing memories for me is harder than implanting them. I know for most it's the opposite, I'm a weirdo. But it had its uses in an emergency.

So like a tumor I implanted myself in her memories.

"Oh there you are Moth! Lyra, this is my twin sister Moth."

"Why haven't you mentioned her before?"

I worked my magic. "That's not important."

"That's not important," Lyra repeated.

Bon Bon and I, 'caught up,' her mind and imagination filled in the gaps, unconsciously assigning me roles that I memorized. Her memories of me becoming more realistic as we talked, it was like a game of story-go-round. Except one tiny contradiction by me or her could shatter everything.

"How could I forget my own twin?"

So we created my 'back story' together. The lie we believe the most are the ones we tell ourselves.

"I'm sorry, Bon Bon, I was traveling and I got lost."

"I can't believe our parents never kept us together. Like having two of us was a problem," Bon Bon commented looking through her photo album, creating a plausible lie out of thin air for herself.

Before you ask, I've been in Ponyville for years before the Summer Sun Celebration. Tootsie Flute, Lyra and Bon Bon's adopted filly, was trivial to work on, and she 'remembered' 'Auntie Moth' in no time, and now has for most of her adopted life.

Lyra and Bon Bon provided me with the love I needed to slowly go stronger, their 'tender loving care' being exactly what I needed.

Why didn't I just ask for help? I am a monster. Who would give a monster help?

Why didn't I ever leave? I had nowhere to go, and nowhere to return to.

I should have left. I had been an idiot to choose Equestria to be where I'd run away to. Queen Chrysalis' promised taking of Equestria. I always figured we'd just silently and slowly take over and replace the entire army's and government's deciding members, and keep Equestria the way it was, draining the population sublimely and providing us all the love we could need. That's the lie I told myself.

My other lie was that Her Majesty would never actually pull it off in my lifetime, I mean, we had been preparing, planning, and readying Equestria for invasion for years. I thought it would last for decades, up until the ponies would welcome their changeling overlords with open arms or barely even notice Her Majesty declaring herself the new master of the land of love. Queen Chrysalis was a Queen, she had all the time in the world to make her vision a reality.

And even thought I created my place in it out of a lie, Ponyville was so accepting that it was addictive for me. It reminded me so much of the hive. Everypony was a part of Ponyville, there were no 'lesser parts.' The community was like a living creature that I was a part of.

Bon Bon offered me a place to stay without so much as one nudge from my mind magic. Lyra and Tootsie had likewise not needed so much as a spark of suggestion from me to accept me living with them. That shocked me more than anything. No I don't think they're fools for it!...Not anymore. I love them for it.

I was terrified when I first met the spa twins, their identical cutie marks making me think they HAD TO be changelings. They weren't. I mentally suggested Bon Bon forget about the incident and she did. It was a rude reminder of reality. But I just hid deeper in the lie. I knew I was doomed, that I'd be found out eventually by the swarm no matter what I did, none escaped the swarm, so I'd enjoy this fake life as long as I could.

Myself, Bon Bon, and the twins now actually enjoy each other's company. Go figure.

I still looked up at the sky in fear, having the image of pegasi who didn't belong appear, smashing into the house, leaving Lyra, Bon Bon and Tootsie empty, and me dragged to my fate for betraying the hive. They had to be hunting for me by now. A rogue changeling was a security liability that couldn't be allowed to exist.

There was the incident, when I acted like the rest of Ponyville and went supermodel Fluttershy crazy, me and Berry Punch. We both went into the Carousel Boutique looking for the fad-idol.

I had no idea who Rarity was, while Bon Bon did. I wasn't lying about being in Ponyville for years, but I made a point of being much like Fluttershy herself, reclusive outside of her my 'family.' Berry Punch also had no idea, but before last year, she had always been relying on salt. And before you ask, yes yes she's gotten therapy is now doing something with her life besides using her special talent to provide herself with more booze to down. Moving on! Seriously, it's like that's the only trait ponies want to give her!

Bon Bon had to explain to Rarity that yes, Bon Bon DID know who she was.

My worst incident was when Lyra and Bon Bon had introduced me to Dr. Whoof (Lyra's biggest source of human lore).

"Hello I'm the-"

It was like a race memory. Every cell in my body screamed to get as far away from this creature as fast as I could, that I was before death itself, that I was before a creature that only brought death and destruction to what I was. That I was in the presence of doom itself.

I had screamed my lungs out at the sight of him, ran away yelling, "I don't wanna die!" hit my head on a pole, and fell unconscious. I'm a gatherer, I'm better at holding my form than a soldier or worker.

I swore when I woke up that I was fine. I had to be. But I made a point to stay as far away from Dr. Whoof as much as possible. I know I had acted hysterical and irrational. But my instincts still screamed at me to avoid me or all I had now would be destroyed.

I was still a monster. I was still a slave to my instincts. I was still nothing more than an animal. I was still just a sub-sentient thing.

You can guess my side of things for the rest. When I vomited back love to Lyra and Bon Bon, I was horribly ill, and single hoofedly proved that I was indeed insane. The leopard can't change its spots. I'll always be a monster.

Does Bon Bon know how to change her voice or is that just me bungling my one mutant (deviant) tell as a changeling? You know? I don't think I'm going to tell you.

I don't just live as Bon Bon's sister, when circumstances force me to, I shape shift into other ponies, absorb love meant for someling else, and assume my cover identity again, I've even appeared as Lyra's twin when Bon Bon was in Appleloosa with some very hectic memory juggling I hope I never have to do again. I am very good at what I do. I think it worked so well, only because Lyra had much more important 'silly dreams' to think about, and trusts me so much. And I betrayed that trust. I am a monster. I may not drain ponies dry anymore, but I still take love that I don't desire.

The Iron Will incident left me starving until Ponyville came to its senses.

I almost DIED because of the Want It Need It spell, if it had lasted longer...I'd have crumbled into dust. That night, I was down to almost nothing, I was actually risking my life not dropping to my default form like my body keep trying to.

"Maybe we can go see Zecora. She might be able to help." Bon Bon suggested.

"NO!" I neighed in full panic mode, "NO! I mean, not Everfree Forest, not the creepy witch-doctor." She might be able to tell what I am. It was a paranoid thought, Changelings had to bluff and be clever with doctor examines before, but...A zebra. It had been so long since I'd seen one . . not since...the circus maximus.

"She's not some wicked witch." Bon Bon assured her 'sister.'

"Who started that witch rumor?" Lyra quipped.

"I didn't!" Bon Bon swore.

"What do you think she keeps in there?"

"Oh I bet stuff like dragons blood, eye of newt, zombie-powder, toad-stools, timber wolf fangs, leeches-" Lyra quipped.

"Ick. Leeches? Dirty blood suckers."

"They didn't choose to be that way." I dared say.

"Doesn't mean I'm gonna let them suck the life of me! Besides, they're leeches, they don't have feelings. They exist just to feed off others."

"Right. They don't. It's stupid to think they could." I resigned myself to my fate.

Bon Bon and Lyra stayed by my side all night. By dawn, I knew I wasn't going to die. They saved my life.

I dared take part in the Running Of the Leaves. One than one pony asked Bon Bon or me, "How'd you switch numbers?"

I'll admit. I had fun. I felt alive. I felt happy. I could forget it was all just a lie and that Bon Bon and I really were a family.

And Discord...when Discord appeared, he forced me into my true form with a snap his fingers. He had laughed at me for trying to pretend to be a normal pony, for wanting to try and forget what I was, for daring to think I could ever be part of their family. Then he turned me into a pony/leech mix horror and took away my power to transform. He said I could suck blood from now on. Whether I wanted to or not. I hid in the bathroom. I didn't want to hurt Lyra or Bon Bon or Tootsie. Instead all I did was make sure I wasn't there to protect Bon Bon when Discord turned Lyra's voice into an out of tune harp and driven to eat Bon Bon who was now a walking talking pony sized candy. I don't know what was done to Tootsie.

All I could do was apologize to Lyra and Bon Bon, over and over, and over, and over, and over. Even if I couldn't tell them WHAT I was sorry for. I told them I wasn't just a leech using them. Even if most of me didn't believe it. What right did a monster have to be part of a family who loves her?

I'm repeating a lot? Alright. Yes, I was curious about the Flutterponies, but Queen Rosedust doesn't sound exactly like how Queen Cocoon was. Or maybe it was another Queen. Even we don't know our origins though.

But I have a new Queen now.

Princess Gaia's fog came. And for a little short time, I was innocent and free, I WANTED those parts of me gone! I WANTED those events of my life before Ponyville gone! You want to call it a day of ignorance? IGNORANCE IS BLISS!!! I would have been PERFECTLY HAPPY if the world had STAYED that way forever! I was free! Free!

But then the day did end, and all those parts of me I was free came back into me. How dare they call Princess Gaia evil for what She gave? Yes She saw my memories, I don't know if She held onto them. But She treated me no differently if she did. She shouldn't be forced to say what She did for us, for me, for everyling was wrong.

She gave me a chance to be free of my pains and regrets. I will always be in Her debt. And...Lyra, Bon Bon, Tootsie, we were all four sisters four a day. We really were part of a family. And that feeling of family didn't change once Princess Gaia's gift ended. Princess Gaia really had freed me.

What confused me most. It was after Princess Gaia freed me, it wasn't now just the love from Bon Bon or even Lyra I was tasting. It was the love of EVERYPONY IN THE TOWN! I was accepted as one of them, and they shared each other's love freely. And they didn't weaken even in the slightest. It was the same as that blind unicorn. Him? Like I said he didn't live in Ponyville. And I had no desire to ever lay eyes on him again. A monster hadn't deserve his compassion.

That took a long time didn't it? I'm sorry for taking up so much of your time. I'm very very very sorry.

I feel so tied now. Going over everything like that. I'm so sorry.

The wedding? I suppose I can tell you a little part now.

For the record, I help Bon Bon with her out-of-home candy making business. As you can imagine she has a bit of competition with the Cakes, so she also provides cough-drops, apparently she got some good recipes from a Pony Lyra met in Canterlot, I think her name is Lemon Hearts. I don't just sit around the house all day doing nothing. I don't like being a parasite.

With Ponyville most preferred foalsitters in Canterlot, we ended up leaving Tootsie Flute with...I'd rather not say. No it wasn't anyone weird. Well, not weird by Ponyville standards.

Lyra while reading her mail told us the exciting news.

"TWINKLE SHINE AND MINUETTE!!! THEY WANT ME TO BE A BRIDE'S MAID FOR PRINCESS CADENCE'S WEDDING!!! THIS TOTALLY ROCKS!!!"

I think the neighbors heard her too.

Lyra was also allowed to bring two friends with her. Guess who?

We were on the train to Canterlot before you knew it.

+

When I became friends with Twinkle Shine and Lemon Heart, and went to that birthday party of a mare I didn't know in Canterlot (but apparently Derpy's little girl did! Not that Dinky! Amethyst Star!), and ended up meeting Minuette. They had no idea they were gonna be taking a two year world tour the next day, but they were able to send me a forwarding address before they went.

WE'RE PONIES! Making friends easy is WHAT WE DO! Well, we ponies in Ponyville do! And I don't care what they say about ponies in Canterlot being egotistical snobs, cause I seem to strangely always MISS that mysterious tribe of unicorns who think they're better than everypony else when I visit Canterlot. And I like to think Canterlot ponies, deep down, love making friends too!

They said they wanted to thank me for keeping them company via the letters. Personally I think that was just an excuse for them being nice! I mean they had each other, and everypony else onboard a giant airship, it's not like they were being LONELY! And they had Moon Dancer and Lemon Heart back in Canterlot.

I think they remembered how much I said I liked Canterlot and all the culture AND THE MUSIC! And how much I told them being the hoofmaidens to the goddess of MUSIC rocked!!

And being the bridesmaid to the GODDESS OF MUSIC'S WEDDING?! It was a dream come true!!!! I was gonna remember this as long as I lived! My only regret is that two tickets meant Tootsie had to stay home with a foalsitter. Oh well, I'll be sure to tell her all about it! And take lots of pictures. I hope the Princess is willing to listen to some of my songs!

This is great!

Uh, er, heh heh, sorry if I started sounding like Vinyl Scratch there. That mare has no appreciation for the finer types of music, I don't know how Octavia stands her. Or how those two could have become such friends when their personalities are so opposite.

I know I'm one to talk with me and Bon Bon, but, those two are light night and day...Then again, I guess Minuette and Twinkle Shine are a bit night and day in some ways too.

But still, Canterlot, here we come. All I know, is that I'm going to love it.

+

The One and only Rainbow Dash here! So ya've all read about our train ride to Canterlot, but you didn't know we had four fillies in the train car behind us nicknamed 'the winds of destruction' by some of Ponyville...Okay not really, but the CMC Plus One really were in the car behind us.

"Help me!" One of those train-worker-pony-guys crawled into our car just as a lasso was slung around his waist.

"Cutie Mark Crusaders Chiropractors, Yeah!"

"Nooo!" He cried as he was dragged back in.

"...Where did they get the lasso?" Trixie asked in surprise. AJ blushed a bit.

"Site tight girls Ah've got it this time," AJ said as Pinkie Pie provided her an Columbia army helmet and AJ dove head first into the other car, and then rolled right back out like a ball now hog tied.

"Stir crazy foals make dragons themselves tremble," Rarity said flatly.

"Do not!" Said Spike, trembling.

"In you go!" Twilight said magically lifting up Spike and throwing him into the train car. "Prisoner exchange girls!"

The train-worker-pony-guy then crawled out battered and beaten saying, "Exchange...accepted." Then promptly fainted. Nah, I don't think they meant to hurt the guy, just energetic foals can go a little...overboard.

Spike must have proven to be a better playmate since the train car didn't blow up or anything. I love the squirt, but when she gets together with the others it's a perfect storm.

+

"It sounds like the perfect storm in there, must be one fun party," Lyra said about the car in front of them.

"Lyra, please," Bon Bon asked. "And Moth, don't just sit there looking out the window. This is a chance in a life time, Canterlot, it's not like we visit there every day. Please promise your sister you'll enjoy yourself."

"I...I'll try."

+

We're ponies, we needed tah eat, and there was a dinin' car. A really fancy dinin' car. And Ah...wasn't sure how tah eat proper again! Why do yah even need extra forks?!

Lyra, Bon Bon, and her sister were sittin' behind meh. And chattin'. Dang it, why do even they seem tah know better than me what they're doin'?

"Sparkler really acted like that?" Bon Bon asked.

"Yeah, even called herself Amethyst Star, which was the name I met her by. I didn't even know she was Ditzy's daughter at first."

"That's rather...extreme..." said Bon Bon.

"Yeah, but where you're from is a big thing in Canterlot, and so is image," Lyra explained. "There's lots of things most Canterlot ponies keep secret because it's the only way to get ahead. I think some need brought down a peg, but ponies like Octavia? If ponies knew the real them first, they might not have ever given her a chance to show what they could do."

Alright, Ah know she didn't mean that for meh she'd whispered it...but Ah heard it. And Ah thought back tah Fancypants and Rarity.

Fancypants weren't lyin' tah Rarity. But the point is, those noble ponies were right mean tah her for bein' from Ponyville... They'd not have listened tah her otherwise. Ah'm all for bein' true tah yerself (and from what Ah know of Octavia, she IS)...And it made me wonder...how many of these ponies around meh had good reason for wearin' their masks. And if Ah had any right tah see what was under 'em with these eyes of mine...Sure, Ah've been careful round Ponyville, but Ah still have let mahself pick up little white lies Ah know are none of mah business...

+

Foals aren't the only ponies who go stir crazy, so does the Dash. I promise I didn't smash anything, I just did some zipping through the cars. Yes I could fly there, but why pass traveling in style?

And there was this one mousy tan pegasus with red glasses a black mane. She was wearing a purple poncho, but I spotted her cutie mark, a open book with a magnifying glass. She was sitting all by herself. Normally I just let sitting ponies lay, but she had a stack of Daring Do book with her! Awesome!

Zipped down next to her, she squealed like Fluttershy.

"Hey! Name's Rainbow Dash, you like Daring Do?" I smiled.

"Y-yes I do, very much," Ok, she seemed...not annoyed, but kinda like she put up a shell all of a sudden.

"Ditto!" I grinned. I know sometimes you need to leave somepony alone, but Fluttershy's taught me when that's a bad thing...and so has Twilight...and well, quite a few of my friends. "So do you have a favorite?"

She blushed, "I, uh, I actually really like all of them. I...I...well, sometimes imagine..."

"That yer her?"

She jumped. "Y-Yeah."

"...Hehe, so do I. No shame in that."

"I...I just don't want others to laugh at me. I'm...not that physical."

"Neither is a friend of mine but she comes through when it counts. So whatcha gonna do in Canterlot?"

"Oh .. . there are just some, rare first edition books in the royal archive I want to see. There's just something magical about holding a book you know was around when the author was. They're not Daring Do books, but they're wonderful all the same!"

"I'll take yer word for it. Now you sound like another friend of mine, she's used her smarts to save the day lots!"

"Really? That's amazing."

"Hey there's more than one road to awesome. Anypony can be it."

She sighed, like she was thinking of her favorite dream. "I wish I could be that. Wouldn't be amazing if Daring Do was real?"

"Yeah, but then all the baddies would be real."

"But there'd be a hero to face them. To explore, to discover, to find, to brave danger in the name of knowing! I...I wish my life was like that."

"Hey, trust me, danger isn't-"

"Something you should wish for I know. But I practice witty retorts in my head. And...I wouldn't mind the danger. Because of what you'd find after it..."

Girl's got guts. Uh-oh. "Look, great chatting with ya, what's yer name?"

"A.K. Yearling."

"Nice to meet ya Yearling, but I have a filly I need to check up on, see ya around."
-
She zipped off. Intense mare. Wait. Rainbow Dash?! Didn't she save Equestria?! I...I...I think I'm gonna faint.

"Do you mean all that, wanting to be a hero?" Huh? Now there was a mare with a puzzle cutie mark next to me.

"Y-yes, I do." I heard myself say honestly.

"Well, hold onto your courage, if you come through this still wanting adventure, maybe you can help some ponies." Now there was a mare next to me with a birthday present cutie mark on my other side with a photo album. "And maybe you can become who you wish to be."

Now they're both gone? Maybe I... maybe I need a nap...

+

Hello I'm Doctor, just the, oh you know that already? Sorry. Yes yes we spoken before, force of habit. Where were I and Derpy during this whole mess?

First it turns out dear Captain Shining Armor's force field is a lot stronger than anyone truly gives it credit for.

Second, Sparkler dear was VERY UPSET with me, since she wanted to help Moon Dancer in Canterlot and choose to spend several days with her afterwards as a way of making amends.

Third, we did show up...just...we didn't actually get to help with the living wave of bug ponies. Can't say that's happened to me before. Swarmed by giant bugs, several times, but not bug ponies.

Forth, while I working on the 'back taxes' that 'Princess Cadence' spontaneously gained an interest in just long enough to inform the Equestrian tax-office of my lack of paper work, I found a small note slipped among the mountain of poor mutilated tree.

Dr Doctor, there are NO Cyberponies, vampires, and certainly no Weeping Alicorns hidden underneath neighpon in the underseas cavern of Dracozilla, and you should most certainly NOT bring those closest to you there.
-Sighed, Most definitely not a Cyberpony, vampire, or Weeping Alicorn.
DELETE! Blah! and '...'

P.S. I do not like pears.

Fifth, the wedding was SUPPOSED TO BE a fixed point in time that I shouldn't have been able to meddle with to begin with.

And sixth: Dracozilla is a very temperamental dragon who doesn't like his sleep being interrupted.

Episode 164: "Something Not Right Here"

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Pony POV Series
Not The Wedding You Remember Part 6

Well, you know about our arrival at my brother's wedding. The giant force field around Canterlot. Passing through said force field.

"Did we pass through reality again?" I faintly heard Sweetie Belle ask.

Marching right through the security, demanding to know what the deal was of my BBBFF leaving this much out of his life. Finding out he was creating a shield-spell around the entire city and dealing with new levels of security for 'vague and poorly defined threat' to Canterlot hadn't done wonders to speak with anyone.

"Twiley, so you know it's me?" He asked.

"Of course I know it's you!" I said, not wanting to tell him about mine and Spike's shameful lapse in memory.

And he hugged me like no tomorrow! He nuzzled me. "Oh Twiley! Twiley you have no idea! It's so wonderful to see you again!"

It had been two years. What right did I have to complain? If anything, I was the one being not being affectionate enough to my big brother best friend forever.

But I still had one big personal insult, how could he go and get married with a mare that I had never even heard about?! Was she some princess of one of the countries he visited while away?!

I asked him what the deal was.

And he revealed the 'real identity' of his fiancee. My attitude took a 180 on the spot! Of course I was happy! The best foal sitter in the world was now gonna be my sister! How much better could it get?

But Shining had a question for me.

"Twiley, don't you know Cadence's full title?"

"I . . . I should have but . . . I didn't recognize her as the Cadence I know until you just pointed it out."

"So when that thing stabbed Cadence . . ." Shining Armor whispered.

"What?"

"Nothing! Shouldn't matter anymore."

I was about to ask more when,

"I hope I'm not interrupting you two."

"Cadance!"

"Sunshine, sunshine, ladybugs awake! Clap your hooves and do a little shake!" We said together and did our favorite dance.

What? Why wouldn't she know it? You guys are acting weird now.

It was wonderful to see her, she had grown up from a great foal-sitter into a great princess.

"Twilight, what are you doing in Canterlot?"

"Don't worry, Princess Celestia invited me!"

"Oh! She did?" Cadence replied surprised. "I knew your friends were coming but-, well, I'm sure everything will be just fine."

Shining interrupted us. "I've gotta get back to my station, but Cadance will be checking in with all of you to see how things are going. I think I speak for both of us when I say we couldn't be more excited to have you here. Right, dear?"

"I'll make sure everything goes how it should, trust me dear."

So I had to part ways with my brother after waiting to see him for two years. But I got to spend time with my favorite foal sitter I hadn't seen in years instead.

I didn't want to be rude if my memory was just playing tricks on me again, but a little while later I asked, "Cadence, why is your magic green now?"

+++

I shall admit, coming up with a lie that would fool Twilight Sparkle and Princess Celestia wasn't easy (in fact, deceiving Celesita pushed my acting skills to their limit. And I still managed to make it work). A medical gobby-gook explanation would be love in the water. But given my magical signature was identical to Cadence's, I went with the simpler answer that it happened after I had had a spiritual 'awakening' during the two year world tour after being wounded by a big bad wolf. It worked like a charm.

+++

The time before the wedding was super stressful for me, and the chronic headaches weren't helping, having to keep up a force field around a city was leaving me a lot more disoriented even more than I thought it would. It was lonely with a lot of Misfit reassigned out of the blue either from Canterlot or not being present at the wedding proper. I hardly had time to even talk with them.

Wait. Did I give those orders or Cadence or . . . oh well, doesn't matter.

I had to deal with a lot of recruits who had been pushed into uniform to make up for the sudden lack of guards in Canterlot and the majority now protecting the borders at key locations.

Who had approved this? These ponies weren't ready for combat, it was . . . oh well, doesn't matter.

(Interviewee's Notes Addendum: For the record she probably made sure Celestia and the brass one thought thing and the troops another, making sure the right hoof didn't know what the left was doing...she was sadly good at things like that.)

I still can't believe what Cadence did with Twinkle Shine and Minuette why did she . . . oh well, doesn't matter.

That was when Twiley's friend Pinkie Pie showed up at the barracks. She was holding a clipboard with a pencil in hoof, don't ask him how she was doing that, it made no sense.

She made some super-fast introductions that made my headache worse. She was also carrying a brief-case shaped like a bazooka for some reason. The wedding was really getting to me, I wouldn't blame Cadence if it got to her too.

+++

So he DOES exist! Okay, can check that one off! But better check for the telltale signs. Got my clipboard, okay, let's see if Twilight's 'brother' is everything Twilight says he is. He wouldn't be the first Marey Sue or Self-Insert I've had to deal with. Seriously, those things twist the story and TWIST it, I am never letting this world suffer the same.

+++

Her questions were, well, as weird as her reputation says they'd be. What was my 'back story?' 'Where did I come from?' How did I become Captain of the Royal Guard? How well was I at tennis, video games, role playing games, polo, hoofball, shooting, singing, checkers, magic, hoof-to-hoof combat, strategy, strength, speed? I felt like I was being given a background check!

++++

When I found out he stank at singing and couldn't hit the broadside of a stable (unless it was several miles from the one he was aiming at), I was actually relieved. But I wasn't totally relaxed yet. Marey Sues AREN'T about who is more beautiful than Princess Celestia, can defeat Mecha-Dracozilla in hoof-to-hoof combat or beat Dr. Whooves at checkers! It's about them turning the world into always being about them!

And marrying a princess in his first appearance, and being Twilight's big brother, and being the one to protect the city from some threat that didn't seem to be even written all that well, things weren't looking so hot for him.

The thing of course was that we really hadn't heard much about Princess Cadence either. But I think an unheard of Princess in the whole wide world feels a lot less confusing than a unheard of big brother who was your bestest best friend in the whole wide world.

I asked his buddies, and they were hard to find, good or bad sign? They said he could get paranoid about protecting those close, that he had a complex about being the keystone to somepony in Twilight's family dying (who I found out actually existed from obituaries. What? You think I'd actually ask Twilight about her family dying), and his mouth sometimes moved faster than his brain. And had ironically been a Oubliettes and Ogres geek before becoming a Royal Guard.

There was one thing, ponies said he EXAGGERATED some of his adventure involving Cadence. That isn't a Marey Sue. A Marey Sue didn't exaggerated their stories, they exaggerated REALITY! They never lie because what they say becomes reality! Shining Armor wouldn't be a Marey Sue if ponies KNEW he was making things cooler than they were.

A lot ponies were hostile or evasive about me asking questions. A pony under the influence Marey Sue would just give bad answers and/or then launch into a big speech about how the character couldn't possibly be a Marey Sue because they fit all the details but one. That the ponies didn't go in a rant about why Shining Armor wasn't a Marey Sue is a good sign.

That and keeping up this big forcefield was actually making him a little out of it and giving him a head ache.

I'm just happy that was a false alarm! Or, if Shining Armor was thrown in by the Shadow-Who-Makes and is an OC, he doesn't seem a destructive one right now.

You guys sure have been silent, hey, where'd ya go? Oh well, I gotta go anyway, I don't wanna be late to that 'Get to Know The bride' outing Cadence offered all of us.

+++

Those were sure a lot of weird questions she asked. Reminds me of a lot of questions Cadence asked when we got home, details on Canterlot's defenses that I could only tell a Princess to, how much power my shield could project at once and how long it took me to recast it if I released it . . . oh well, doesn't matter.

+++

I'll admit, it was impressive how much power it required to force Shining Armor to ignore things he knew weren't right and suppress his protective instinct. It was as if protecting ponies was written into his very being...oh right, it is. Thank Rosedust he gave me more than enough love back to make up for it.

+++

As best mare, I was so pressed that I didn't even have time to see my parents before the wedding proper.

So I was surprised when Cadence decided the first thing she'd do is get to catch up with me and get to know my friends better.

"But the wedding is just around the corner!"

"Don't worry Twilight Sparkle, they'll be time for that. There's always time for love between friends."

So here we were, sitting outside of one of Canterlot's beautiful cafes, we chatted about this and that, Cadence asking my friends what they loved, what made them happy, we even traded embarrassing stories, like at the grand galloping Gala.

Speak of the draconequus.

I'll admit, the idea that Shining marrying Cadence meant that Blueblood would legally be my cousin-in-law didn't really occur to me, it was about the FARTHEST thing from my mind.

I mean, connecting cowardly and rude Blueblood with Cadence was mathematically impossible for me.

When Rarity said 'date Princess Celestia's nephew' it never occurred to me she meant Blueblood until AFTER the Gala. Celestia is a thousand years old, she has more than one nephew.

I forget not everypony knows Blueblood's shallow and selfish side. I know some ponies might consider Rarity the same way: a slave to creature comforts, but Rarity never treated a date like a servant or disliked food because it was too low-class.

++++

I must say Princess Cadence is simply darling, she knows how to speak to a lady and knows how to act like one.

I hope Sweetie and the others don't prove too much trouble for Spike. I'll admit, I'll miss his help. But somedragon needs to look after my little sister if I can't. This is Canterlot after all, it's a big city, and Sweetie and her friends could get in over their heads.

I respect Silver Spoon's father, but I think he either needs times for himself and his daughter, or he can't, Spike simply has more experience handling those fillies now.

This day has been nothing short of wonderful. Though I do realize that we'll have to cut this social excursion short if I'm to have the time to complete the dresses. I am not making that mistake again!

We didn't cut it short soon enough, because a dark blue storm cloud had floated over us to rain on our parade.

Prince Blueblood. Blech. I had really hoped I'd never have to lay eyes on that gelding again.

The last time I had to tolerate him was at the launching of an airship when I was socializing in Canterlot. Yes he was civilized, but to be frank, I didn't expect him to act any differently. I doubt he got his reputation by showing his real self in public.

He sat down at the table besides us, looked around, and only then seemed to even notice us! Typical Blueblood!

"Oh! Hello Miss Rarity, it's, been a very long time hasn't it?"

Not nearly long enough.

"Hello Prince Blueblood," I said as civilized as manner dictated. My friends turned their eyes, AJ recognizing the prince who insulted her family's cooking, Twilight knowing who Blueblood was with a look of mostly disgust, and my other friends now knew the face of the stallion who had ruined my night at the Gala.

Princess Cadence simply smiled at him.

"My my my Blueblood, you're looking as handsome as ever, have another date with a new mare?"

"Actually cousin, yes." BLECH! Another poor mare subjected to this cad's ego and abuse? "Though it's not fair to say 'new mare', this isn't our first date."

I can barely stand the cad's voice and, wait, did he say a mare went with him more than once? Either this mare was desperate beyond desperate for wealth or station (no pony is that desperate), or Blueblood had either used mind control or had her over the barrel Though that didn't make sense given mares were to be used and dismissed by this gelding.

"Is that so?" The princess said calmly, "Please, tell me about this lovely highborn mare."

"Well, erm, she's not actually nobility."

"Oh you can tell me Blueblood."

"She's, she's actually a maid at the castle."

I shuddered, I didn't know if he was now that desperate that was charming those 'below his station' or if he was now ORDERING ponies to go on dates with him.

"That IS surprising. I wouldn't expect that from you Blueblood, when did you meet?"

"It was . . . well, I suppose we met on the Day of Chaos, but we met formally later, while she was dealing with herself being hurt."

He took advantage of a mare who had been hurt by Discord's sick games? Had he no shame?!

Applejack was looking intensely at Blueblood, of course she would, after all, Blueblood's insult was what inspired Applejack to make the cake that Pinkie Pie unwittingly triggered the first wave of the grand hall's destruction with. I was tempted to ask her to let him have the truth vision and watch his lies crumble.

Princess Cadence glanced at me, we had been talking about the Gala, so of course she knew. It made better conversation than what we all endured on Discord's day.

"So what does she look like, I'm certain she must have a face worth having."

"Oh, she's a unicorn, snow white coat, pure blue eyes, lovely amethyst mane, she is indeed very beautiful Caddy."

It was clear on Cadence's face she was insulted by the nickname. Then it all clicked. That description. THAT CAD! Of course! I was the one that got away! The one he couldn't make miserable for revenge of telling him what for! So he had to find a mare who matched my appearance to pretend that he wasn't as awful a stallion as everypony knew he was!

I didn't want to blow my temper in front of Princess Cadence, but I wanted to think how I could get this stallion to leave the poor mare alone!

"Rather like this fine mare here you'd say?" Cadence gestured.

"Uh, uh," Blueblood sweated. Wonderful. Why was I having flashbacks to Diamond Tiara now of all times? "Yes, I'd say so yes."

"The same mare you mistreated, used, abused, ignored the feelings of, insulted the friends of, and used as a equine shield from a giant cake?"

Blueblood lowered his head and said lowly, "Yes."

"Pst! Pathetic. You lost so you had to pretend you won somehow. You treat mares like toys. You're stuck-up, cowardly, rude and only think about yourself. You haven't matured since you were five years old. You're deadweight to Princess Celestia, to Canterlot, and to Equestria. You'd die in a day if you had to fend for yourself. You have all the real charm of a grub. You're handsome like a store dummy, empty headed and shallow, but at least the store dummy serves some purpose by being good-looking, you? You serve no purpose except for ruining mares evenings and perhaps ruin their trust in other stallions. If you weren't Celestia's nephew you'd have been exiled from Equestria by now. If you weren't nobility, you'd have starved to death. You've earned nothing of what you have. You've done nothing for your life. From your mother giving you life FOR you, you've been nothing but a parasite on Princess Celestia and everything around you. In a more just world you'd be stripped of everything you own, every title you have, beaten to a pulp, and tossed out of Canterlot into the mud where you belong!"

Blueblood was silent for a moment staring at Cadence. It was wonderful.

"I-I-," He stuttered out, his giant ego given the lancing it deserved. He ran inside the cafe looking his head down. Hopefully his date would think he stood her up and ditch the gelding.

I clapped. So did Rainbow Dash, you expect her not to clap for Cadence standing up for me? Applejack...she didn't quite seem happy, she seemed more disappointed in Blueblood than anything. Fluttercruel clapped having switched out for Fluttershy while Cadence wasn't looking. Pinkie Pie held up a '9.5' card. Trixie threw Cadence a few daisies that she didn't eat. And why not? I had just told/reminded all of them what a waste of space Blueblood was.

Why did I keep thinking of Diamond Tiara? Diamond Tiara was a foal who didn't know better. Blueblood was an adult who made his own choices.

+++

Yes I cried when I found a table in the corner of the inside cafe. I wanted so badly to just go to my room and hide under my covers curl into a ball and cry like a foal there. But I didn't want Arcane Spell to be disappointed by me not being here for her.

+++

"Sorry you had to see that display." Cadence apologized.

"It's alright darling, the oaf clearly hasn't learned his lesson." Rarity said smiling while AJ nodded sadly to herself. "I wish I could face that gelding in a tournament just so I could have an excuse to strike in that precious face of his then between his rear legs, and stab him all the right pressure points with my needles so he'd wet and soil himself paralyzing him before claiming my win."

"Rarity! That would be cruel!" Fluttershy said at once back in control from Fluttercruel.

"Just a little fantasy Fluttershy, sometimes it's good to vent these things a little. I'd never let myself stoop down so low, and I know none of you would let me." She hugged Fluttershy who hugged back.

"Maybe, maybe he needed a good talking to?" AJ whispered, to herself. "Ah tried before, maybe he needed a bit of cruel truth and not just the nice truth?"

"Well, he did need to learn that what he was doing wasn't fun for everypony else," Pinkie Pie whispered too.

"Cruel to be kind girls, cruel to be kind." Fluttercruel whispered and everypony all nodded.

Rainbow Dash and Trixie said nothing.

"Cadence," I whispered. I'll admit, maybe Blueblood deserved that. Well, most of it if he really was making somepony a 'replacement Rarity.' But, since when did Cadence become so vicious? The look on her face, it was like she was enjoying it! And maybe it was my experience with Trixie, but something about Cadence saying all that to Blueblood, something about it just felt wrong. All I knew was, that Cadence telling Blueblood off like that didn't feel as great as it did for all my friends. And this didn't feel like the Cadence I remember. The Cadence I knew would be disappointed. Yes, she might tell Blueblood off...but she wouldn't be vicious, she'd try to help him see why he was wrong.

++++

Twilight really said that? That she knew Chrysalis might not be me because of what she said to Blueblood? . . . Yes I did say those things when I was a thoughtless filly. I saw the world in black and white, like any child. It was the same that foalish foolishness led me to putting love poison in a royal party punchbowl! I thought love (white) was always better than no love(black).

I'll admit, I did say some of those words to Blueblood when I had been babysitting Twilight . . . but please, I never loved saying a word of it! And the Cadence Twilight remembers, could never say anything so sadistic and cruel.

Please. Let me out of here. Twilight! Shining Armor! I have to warn them! There's no telling what that monster is going to do to all of them!!!

++++

As much as I truly wanted to tell the mare Blueblood was dating that he was just using her. But we had used up our social window and had to depart, and designed to find and speak with her after the wedding. I had neglected my responsibilities for something vitally important for a friend once before, and I doubted Princess Cadence and her bride maids and Sweetie and her friends shared Twilight Sparkle's taste for hyper-simplistic dresses.

I doubted Blueblood was going to drown her in the mean time. And Blueblood didn't have the brains for manipulation so him twisting her wasn't a worry. And above everything I wasn't going to waste time on that cad. This was the bigger responsibility right now. Like wanting to look for Diamond Tiara, I literally didn't have time to spare. This was doing the dresses of a lifetime. For an immortal goddess. And I knew a hundred things could go wrong (and often would). I knew better than to give myself absolutely no window.

I didn't like it, but I would have to trust Filthy Rich with finding his child for now. And this was supposed to be a happy occasion. I wasn't going to let a royal pain ruin it.

As we were about to split up however, our herd passed by a stage being used by a small band of musicians. It wasn't the band for the Gala. They were busy rehearsing in the Canterlot Gardens. Pinkie waved at one of them for some reason.

Princess Cadence took one look at the stage and said, "I'll just be a moment Twilight," and gave her a short nuzzle. "It's been far too long since I sang."

Cadence calmly and royally requested to be allowed to borrow the stage for a moment. The music ponies weren't about to argue with their patron goddess.

She spread her wings gracefully with the practice and skill of a professional actress. And she sang. Everypony looked at her, every pony listened to her. We all heard her voice.

"Through the storms of chaos I have fought,
But please tell what wonders I've wrought.

My life hidden by a lie,
I promise I will not die.

Reduced to a shadow who could only see,
In myself I will still believe.

As the cycle returns,
There is much I've learned.

Some may say it is far too late,
But I won't be a slave to fate.

And one day, I swear that I will be complete,
Even if the world shatters from the feat.

My hardest I will try,
And I will reach the sky.

Forever you and me,
Together we shall be."

+++

This song. It felt like Cadence, but not like Cadence. I had heard Cadence sing before. They were always beautiful. So was this. It was enchanting.

It was entrancing. I know it's not very scientific, and not being able to put my hoof on it made me want to dismiss it, but a part of me just couldn't!

She carries herself higher. She spoke more distantly. Her tone was harder, colder. Darker, pulling me in. I shook my head.

Had the Cadence I'd known really changed that much? Was everything that was still my favorite foalsitter just on the surface?

I'm being paranoid. So why won't this feeling of wrongness leave me alone? Cadence's music carried her magic scent on it, and this was hers.

Her songs before had been beautiful like the couple I had seen her help kiss and make up, now it was beautiful like a spider's web.

++++

Well, Ah'm told ya know all about Princess Cadence and how like any bride she wanted everything just perfect.

But Ah did sneak a visit with Princess Luna. Ah knew Ah was bein' kinda selfish to ask about all this here now but dangit, it was drivin' me crazy, and Ah had ta know.

Ah told 'em to tell 'er it was about 'the truth', and she'd understand. She let me see her right away. We're friends and everything, but even Ah know a Princess' work is never done.

"Princess Luna, Ah was wonderin'. Can ya see inta the future?"

She looked at me funny. "What EVER gave ye that idea?"

Ah startled a bit. "Well, yer letter-, where ya said what would happen if Ah had kept lookin' in the Truth."

Luna sighed, "Ye presume too much. We don't not have precognition. It was not any sort of vision we described to you due to any power we alone possessed."

"Oh! Ah'm sorry. Ah gotta ask. Should mah truth vision of let me see that?"

"Everything we wrote was truth. Please forgive us, but seeing truth does no good if ye misinterpret it: ye are right now still a flesh and blood pony. And even if it was not so, a piece of paper can not lie or tell the truth. Thou eyes do not yet have the sharpness to pierce written falsehoods."

"Ah thought mah truth sight stopped growin'."

"Hardly Abigail Jacqueline. It grows, and continues to grow as long as you exist. You have simply chosen to not have it 'open' at every moment of your life, and you control how 'open' that sense is. The good news is by accepting an opposite truth of your life in your second trip through truth, thou heart and mind is now strong enough to accept any truths ye see. But accepting truth, is not the same as accepting feelings, actions, thoughts, and everything else that makes up life."

"Trust me Luna, Ah know there are things that ya keep private."

"Thank ye Abigail. There are things we have done even before our sins as Nightmare Moon that we know would only serve to cause harm rather than good if torn open for all to see. As ye do, and every pony ye know does. We art proud of you for having the self control to control power rather than letting power control you."

"That's some might heavy burdens to carry forever and ever Princess . . . do ya ever get tired of bein' the night and wishin' ya could be Luna?"

And she just stood there stunned for a bit, giggled, then burst out laughin'.

"Dear Abigail we bless ye. I AM Concept of the Night! That is like asking if you get tired of being an honest and dependable pony who loves their family and could just be Applejack."

"In other words, everythin' that makes meh, 'meh.' If ya stopped bein' the night, ya'd stop being yerself too."

"Exactly. Names and titles are precious because they are gifts from our loved ones. But they are not ye. Every night in existence is us, Abigail Jacqueline. And Abigail, thank you, we like bein' reminded that ponies now are willing to be friends with, and think about the night's burdens."

"Hey, what are friends fer?" We shared a quick nuzzle.

---

"Cousin Ellis! Long time no see!"

"Yeah, hasn't it? Ah tell yah, a world tour is somethin', but it can sure make yah miss the family! Even if some of 'em are a tad crazy!"

"Tell meh about it. Hope the Apples round the world are doin' fine."

Ellis gave a nod. "Just fine. In fact, the ones in Roedinia are doin' great, what with the stuff the Deer can come up with."

"Really? Hear of anythin' Ah could use?"

"Yah bet. Ah'll tell yah next break Ah get. Oh! Hey there Applebloom! Yer gettin' big!"

"Big enough for yah tah help meh and mah friends try tah be Cutie Mark Crusaders Demolition Experts?!"

"Well..."

"Don't even think about it. Either of yah."

+++

I wish Rarity would let me help. I know I messed up helping her before but, I WANT to get better at helping her. Don't worry, I don't think Rarity hates me or anything, I was shown crystal clear (or is that muddy clear?) that she loves me more than anything at the sisterhood social.

I just want to help her.

Silver Spoon was splitting he day between seeing Caterlot's sights with us on Spike's private tour, and spending time in Canterlot with her father. There were places only Spike could get into, and there were places only Silver Spoon's dad could get into.

We wanted to come along, but apparently most of the places Silver went with her dad were 'private members and family only' or something. But I don't think any of us minded, I don't. I don't know about Spike or Scootaloo, but I know Applebloom, and I know I'd trade a month in Canterlot to spend a day with my parents.

Spike showed us a bunch of stuff that we didn't even KNOW was in Canterlot. We did run into this funny fountain that had a warning sign saying we weren't allowed to swim in it. No no no, I mean, it had our names on it saying we weren't allowed to swim in it.

"Ah see they made the signs bigger," Applebloom said.

The crown jewels really were pretty, I wonder why Princess Celestia doesn't wear them as much. There was a little posted note to Spike saying 'Not for eating.'

I think all of us were left speechless at what we saw. Spike said if Silver Spoon had to be with us for two spots on his tour, it had to be these.

"Get a look girls, Princess Celestia's golden apple tree."

"Are those really gold?" Silver Spoon's eyes widened.

"Just don't tell anypony."

"Can it make me fly?" Scootaloo touched the big tree.

"I don't think it works that way, sorry."

Applebloom gazed with reverence at the apple tree, "Does it really make you live forever?"

"That or turn you into a gold statue, nopony's been brave enough to find out as far as I know."

"What do you think I'd look like as a gold statue?" I asked. Okay, we weren't speechless. What? I'm just curious. Dolls and statues are nothing alike.

+++

I DIDN'T share with Sweetie there were models who signed contracts to spend time AS gold statues in some of Canterlot's more 'special' galleries.

I actually intended this tour to be for my adult pony friends back when we visiting for the Gala. I never imagined I'd be giving the core CMC and Silver Spoon the tour!

I forget sometimes these girls are still fillies, everything is still wondrous and new for them. Or maybe, I forget I'm still a baby dragon. Ya know, Rarity is always saying how the Crusaders are in a rush to grow up. I'm going to be around for centuries, maybe I shouldn't rush trying to grow up too. It's just . . . Rarity isn't going to be around forever, and I want to win her heart while I still can.

I actually did try to arrange and put together Shining Armor's bachelor party. I mean, come on, I'm the only guy in this group, who else was gonna do it? But all of Shining Armor's friends were on duty, and couldn't time off. You think it would be easy since the bride and groom were their bosses, but Shining Armor kept giving the exact same speech like a robot about how duty came first, and protecting Equestria came first, and that a bachelor wasn't really his thing. Blech, guess the army really does suck all the fun out of you.

I asked Cadence, but,

"I'm sorry Spike, I'm helpless, it's Shining's decision, it's not like I can force his choices. Or make his decisions for him. I'm not his wife yet." Heh, we both had a laugh at that one.

Yes I was upset, my one job in the entire wedding, well, that and ring bearer, and I couldn't even do it because the groom didn't want it. I like Applebloom and the others, I really do. But I can't but feel, brushed off. It's a familiar feeling and I don't like.

At least the last stop on my tour gave me an excuse to drown my indignation.

+++

Pony Joe's. I'd never tasted such great donuts in my life! Dash must have loved it when she came here! Maybe I can bring some back with me to our room at the castle! Oh that? Heh heh. Well. Me and Dash might have trashed the room a little, but it was so awesome, I've never lived it that good in my life! My parents and I never exactly stayed fancy hotels or given rooms by royalty!

Us Crusaders were supposed to have our room together all together, but Silver Spoon was sleeping in her dad's room, and Spike was sleeping with Twilight.

So we figured we'd bunk with our sisters instead.

But then Rarity blab about her and Sweetie 'needing their space' and Applebloom didn't want Sweetie Belle to be lonely and neither did Sweetie Belle, and I could sleep on Dash's bed any time I wanted now anyway and so the core three of us in our own royal bedroom!

The maid with a heart-flame candle cutie mark who cleaned it for us (somepony cleaning our messes for us! It was a dream come true!), must have not gotten much sleep cause she took a quick nap in the hallway at the sight of it before getting started and saying something about hazard pay. She was really nice and was surprised when we wanted to chat with her. She said her name was Arcane Spell and she had a little sister our age. We asked about her sister but she got a sad look on her face and said she didn't wanna talk about it.

We decided to try our hooves at Cutie Mark Crusader Royal Maids, but we had to cut it short for the rehearsal. Arcane Spell said she didn't mind finishing by herself. No we DIDN'T make the room MORE messy while helping clean, we ALL have plenty of experience cleaning our rooms! I wish everypony would stop thinking everything we Crusade turns into a disaster! We made our card super big for Miss Cheerilee but it didn't cause any trouble! We can help too! I'm skipping too far ahead? Okay.

-

Donuts. DONUTS! DONUTS! DONUTS! So many kinds! So many varieties! It was like the Gaia Festival all over again! And mom was in another town and couldn't tell me to watch my filly figure! I loved it! And with Spike's royal tab, I could stuff my face to my heart's content.

I may have gone a little too hyper when I ran around on the ceiling a few times. And when dad met up with us, he gave me a few words about making myself into a pig just to spite mom caring about my diet.

No I didn't suddenly hate him again for that. When I started to get a little woozy from too much sugar, I had to admit he was right. I'm an Earth Pony, so 'too much' tends to be very very much instead.

And it made me wonder. Did I chaff against being a lady because it wasn't me, or because it was what mom wanted and so I went for the opposite? I thought about how Scootaloo and Applebloom lived, and working before sunrise to sunset, playing wild sports . . . that wasn't me.

Sweetie Belle: she wasn't afraid to play in the mud, but she likes beautiful things, she believed in always having the right dresses and other necessitates on hoof . . . dad's right, me acting like a pig? That isn't me. I am a little lady, but I'm a little filly too! And I don't need to have just one friend for all my friends to be special.
-
Me? Ah was just thinkin' how Ah could tell Applejack how Pony Joe seemed like a reasonable sort, and he could maybe sell some of our apple treats in Canterlot!

And his apple-fritters, well, Ah think for the sake of family Ah better not say. We gotta a reputation to keep. Ah wonder what Zap-Apple Fritters would be like.

Ah was just all around happy all mah friends were havin' fun.

-

Silver Spoon sure liked her donuts. I keep forgetting her mom didn't let her eat sweets a lot. I think even Spike felt she went a little overboard. None of us really said much when her dad said Silver Spoon had been kinda a pig.

I never imagined Silver Spoon acting like that, then again, we only began to learn about the real Silver Spoon after Fluttershy's festival.

I gave her a hug.

"Be careful Silver Spoon, any more and you might need to resize your dresses," Scootaloo teased.

I tensed.

"I guess you're right," Silver Spoon said with a small laugh and a smile. I felt relieved.

Have I had any other odd feelings since the night I was hurt and sang with Rarity? Not really, yes, no, maybe? I just feel this far away calm, like those ice ages they talk about in school, no heart to it, just this chilly creeping sense of waiting.

+++

Do I wish I was helping Rarity right now? I guess me and Sweetie Belle have that much in common.

Me and Silver? I try to imagine what it would be like if Twilight ever said to me the things Diamond Tiara said to Silver Spoon . . . I don't like where it goes.

Normally I don't come with everypony, and no I'm not happy about that, but it did mean I wasn't in Ponyville to look after things. (I don't look after ALL of the girls' animals at once, but I normally do after one or two).

This wasn't their first full herd trip, remember Appleloosa? But I wasn't in Ponyville in this time.

Never said I didn't know I was needed remember? Okay so I forget that, a lot.

Big Mac is taking care of Applejack's dog. Angel and Owlowcious are pretty much taking care of themselves, I think. The Cakes are taking care of Gummy.

Rainbow Dash had to ask around the weather team until Raindrop agreed to keep an eye on Tank.

As for Rarity and her cat . . . Since Rarity didn't want to risk taking unruly Opal to Canterlot this time and Fluttershy being in Canterlot with her . . . it took a lot of begging and pleading for the twins to look after the furry Tartarus-spawn of their best customer.

The bell above the door rang.

"Spike? Is that you? I've been looking all over Canterlot for you."

That was a voice I hadn't heard in a long long time.

+++

Spike looked like Applebloom whenever she said she saw Ruby.

+++

"Moon Dancer?" I whispered turning to look at the mare.

She was just as I remembered, milky white coat, red mane and tail, and her moon and stars cutie mark. When I first met her, I thought she was the most beautiful unicorn in the world. Now I couldn't stop myself from thinking she was the second most beautiful. Just because Twilight didn't socialize didn't mean I didn't too. I had gone to parties at Canterlot Castle and Celestia's School For Gifted Unicorns, I didn't hesitate to take part in the fun at Twilight's 'Welcome To Ponyville' party remember? So yeah, I knew a lot of unicorns in Canterlot, I wasn't best friends with any of them, my first priority had always been Twilight, but that didn't mean I was socially stunted like her.

Okay, I liked Moondancer, I admit it. She was pretty, she was nice, she was smart, and all those other things a guy looks for in a mare. I didn't buy her a birthday present just cause . . . repairing that teddy-bear before we left had been harder than you think. I barely had time to say good-bye to her. She took it really, really really well. I didn't think she loved me, I just figured we'd get, ya know, closer over time. But then came Ponyville, and then came the new most beautiful mare in Equestria who was classier than classy, loved the finer things in life without treating them like the only things in life, and I basically fell head over heels at first sight and barely thought of Moondancer again.

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Barely?)

Okay, I can't remember when I last thought of her. I didn't feel proud of that, even if she didn't like me that way, she was still a friend. She was still always somepony who'd been there for her friends. I hadn't even thought of visiting her the times I had come back to Canterlot. She likely didn't notice the difference, but seeing her here, I was kinda ashamed a little. I couldn't see her blue eyes, she was wearing sun glasses.

"Hello Spike, it's been forever, I was hoping I could find you."

"Find me?"

"Yes you Spike. I haven't seen you since you left for Ponyville, I'm so sorry I didn't think to see you any of your times in Canterlot, that was inconsiderate of me."

"Spike." Sweetie Belle said flatly. "Who is this?"

"Oh! Heheh! Sweetie Belle, Moondancer. Moondancer, Sweetie Belle. No need to talk about this to Rarity, at all."

Ugh! Did I just say that?! Stupid stupid!

"Whose Rarity?" Moondancer asked.

"A very nice mare I met in Ponyville she's super nice, and very pretty," I said before I could stop myself.

Silver Spoon looked at me like she could read the entire story in a second and looked annoyed.

"Oh is that so?" Moondancer whispered smiling.

I looked at the other other CMC, "Moondancer was a classmate of Twilight's! I went to the parties of hers that Twilight got invited to in her place."

"And it was very adorable to have such a cute, sweetie, pretty, and polite dragon at them all." Moon Dancer said smiling. "It felt a little boring not having you there with me."

"Friend of a friend huh?" Sweetie Belle said not smiling.

"We're just friends!" I swore.

"If you say so," Scootaloo said.

Silver's dad politely turned a deaf ear to the whole conversation. Thank Celestia.

"Great to hear ya have friends in Canterlot Spike," Applebloom tried to say politely, glancing at Sweetie Belle.

"I'm sure Rarity is happy too." Sweetie Belle said.

"Now now filly, don't be like that," Moon Dancer smiled, "I just wanted to catch up on a good friend, that's all. And it's been what, two years now Spike?"

Uh, can we please skip all this? Me blushing? Erm, I plead the fifth and point out I'm a cold blooded dragon who can't physically do that. So yeah, me and Moondancer talked, caught up on the old days, me boasting about all the stuff I've witnessed, and saved Ponyville from strangling itself over Twilight's doll by mailing the letter to Celestia, doing my best to keep Twilight grounded, cooking, cleaning, and doing all the other things Twilight would be utterly helpless trying to do on her own.

I think the others were surprised when I DIDN'T exaggerate.

Celestia it was embarrassing. And I kept feeling Sweetie Belle's eyes on me.

+++

If Spike had a mare that he wanted as his special-somepony before my big sister. What was to keep him from just wanting another mare as his special somepony when he meets somepony prettier than my big sister? That sounded a lot like how Rarity described Prince Blueblood.

+++

I was feeling more than a little trapped between Moondancer acting more comfy than she used to around me and Sweetie not liking it.

I wish I could say she was irresistible, or I could say I was just being polite towards her, or that the CMC knew I was just being nice. I wasn't. Rarity didn't vanish from my head thank you very much. But I wanted to prove to myself I guess, that if given the chance, I could be a gentledragon to a mare who treated me nice and not try to swoon them off their feet. Besides, even if Moondancer hadn't like me in that way, we were still friends enough that I wanted a chance to show I could be nice. Or maybe I wanted to just make up for forgetting she even existed after laying eyes on Rarity's perfection. And I wanted, I needed to know, that what I felt for Moondancer wasn't the same as for Rarity. And I hadn't just flirted onto a new pretty face.

I wanted to be Rarity's knight in shining scales. And Moondancer, she was still my friend.

So when she invited me over to her place, just me, for an evening, I couldn't think of a polite way to say no.

I promised to be back soon and asked Mr. Silver to get the girls back to their big sisters.

Moondancer being a collage mare meant she wasn't glanced at as much by Canterlot ponies who found ponies going around naked as weird. Me going around naked didn't bother 'em much, I'm not a pony and most dragon nobility didn't wear clothes anyway...and technically I am dragon nobility.

I've been to Moondancer's place once or twice before, with other friends of hers, but never alone like this. It still has plenty of stuff animals and the rolled up dance mat. I saw my present with them. Unlike some ponies I could name, Moondancer was never unhappy about there being those better than her at something. She never groaned about those better than her, and never rubbed in the faces of those she could do better than. That's the kind of pony she was.

I saw a bunch of letter on her desk, noticed they were all addressed to an 'Amethyst Star' in Ponyville. Where had I heard that name before?

Moondancer locked the door behind us to give us some privacy. I was relieved for it. I was sure one of the CMC was shadowing me or something. The less rumors they could churn out of this the better.

"Make yourself comfy Spike. I meant it when I said you're a good friend."

"Uh, thanks."

Moondancer took off her sunglasses.

"Moondancer, your changed your eye color?" Well, this might not have been the first time she tried this sort of thing.

"Do you like them? They were changed for the wedding. Princess Cadence considered me for a bridesmaid, but she decided that I'd be more useful as a greeter in case a friend of a friend showed up who has a habit of wrecking things like an on coming storm."

"Oooh, one of THOSE friends."

"Exactly."

"Wait! Did you say- Princess Cadence wanted YOU as a bridesmaid?"

"Incredible isn't it? I was completely caught off guard. I know Minuette and Twinkle Shine, and would know if anything was wrong with them, so she thought it was best if I took part too, but then she had much better ideas."

"So you'll be taking part in the wedding too?"

"I'm more of a back-up plan than anything, like I said, in case some unwanted guests show up. So what do you think of how my eyes look? It's really a new fad here in Canterlot, everypony will be into it very soon. It's a real run away fad Spike."

"Well, you know fads, here today, gone tomorrow. Everypony was over my friend Fluttershy when she was modeling, but fluttered onta the next thing as soon as-"

"So what do you think of them?" She moved on close, gently letting me look into her eyes.

"They're . . . they're really really pretty." Well. I hadn't had my first crush on her for nothing.

"You need to really see how great it is. A little change can help you really get away from your troubles. It's a really great way to get a new perspective and escape the trap of routine."

" . . . I . . . dunno . . . I dunno alot . . . ya sure are pretty." I dunno what it was, but I felt really comfy. So comfy. Yeah. But at the same time...I couldn't help feeling something was off. How she was talking just seemed...weird...wrong...I couldn't tell what it was.

"Please Spike, don't you want to try it out out? It really does make me feel clear headed. I promise nothing bad'll happen if you do this."

"Moondancer." Rarity, "wha' 'er ya' 'oin'."

"Shhhhhh," she nuzzled me. "Just relax. This will not hurt a bit. You'll like it." I dimly heard the door behind us unlock and open. "Welcome Your Majesty."

++++

"Don't follow them," Silver Spoon said before I could convince the others to do exactly that. "Trust me. The less you get involved in this the better." She said the next part lower so her dad wouldn't hear, "Spike's not an adult, he isn't going to ignore things just to be polite. If we try to throw ourselves into the mix, it'll just make things more complicated, and not in a good way."

+++

Mom and dad always insisted I attend their big adult parties, so I guess I knew more about being a mare than a filly. I saw and heard of one pony who tried to mend the friendship between two of his friends, in the end he only made the situation worse and lose his own friendship with them. I wasn't about to let the new friends I'd made repeat that same mistake. I've been taught how to play the game, I could tell Spike didn't want to go with her. Well, either Spike would realize he didn't know the difference between love and a crush (not sure I did), he'd 'fix' things with Moondancer, or Rarity might stumble on the mess and make things more 'interesting.'

I'll confess, I couldn't stop the sense of excitement at this juicy little bit of gossip . . . I wish Diamond Tiara had let me help her on the school paper, I could have provided her with enough high society gossip that she wouldn't have even needed Gabby Gums. And maybe actually popped some egos that needed popping.

Point was, I knew the CMC being involved was only going to make things more nasty.

+++

I didn't like it when Scootaloo and Applebloom argued, and I didn't like it when Rarity and me argued. And I didn't want to argue with Silver Spoon. But I still wanted to go check on Spike.

Just because I don't like Rarity's rules doesn't mean I never learned any of them. I knew how to say one thing and mean another. We CMC did everything together. But the others weren't going to help, so I was going to follow Spike on my own.

I was surprised when Mr. Silver put a hoof in front of me and looked me in the eye saying, "Let them go. This is private for them." I was surprised by the no-non-sense look on his face, it was the same look he gave Silver Spoon telling her not to be a pig. My hooves didn't want to move. It reminded me of the identical look all the royal guards had (were they all cloned with a magic mirror or something?).

Mr. Silver gave us a much shorter tour of Canterlot, but my mind wasn't on it. Spike wasn't back at the castle yet. Not following him just didn't feel right. I wonder if this is how Applebloom felt when she wanted her cutie mark super-bad that day she visited Zecora's. And I could feel it more than before, that weird feeling that felt like a 'cold wind far away.'

The night before the wedding (being part of a royal wedding, we got a couple days off from school), I couldn't sleep. Rarity had been saying Twilight had been acting a little paranoid. And Spike if anything had acted too normal when he got back. Was he bottling up what happened?

Luckily our room had a balcony (our big sisters hadn't known that I think, or they might think we might try to be Cutie Mark Crusader Cat Burglars or Assassins or 'Run-Awayers' (which was silly, we'd done those already).

Going outside, and looking around, I didn't see any pegasi nearby or other open windows, and the others were fast asleep. My family has a song we're only supposed to sing around family for some reason, it's been past down since forever.

It made me feel a bit stronger inside every time I heard it. I closed my eyes and sang.

"Sweet Music
Sweet music
Ooh sweet music
That's what I hear when you appear

Sweet music
Ooh sweet music
Life is a tune when you are near

When you are gone
The song just isn't there
But then I see your face again
And music fills the air, fills the air

Sweet music
Ooh sweet music
I love the sound when you're around

Sweet music
Ooh sweet music
Beautiful harmonies abound
I know our song will never die, never die, yeah
We make sweet music you and I, you and I
We make sweet music, you and I"

"That was a very lovely song Sweetie Belle."

I startled. I opened my eyes and saw Princess Cadence sitting on top of the banister before fluttering down next to them.

"Princess Cadence! Please! Don't tell anypony about that song! It's a family secret!"

"I promise I won't tell, princess' honor!"

"Thank you. But I thought I was alone."

"Don't worry, your song was so full of love I could sense it half-way across Canterlot in my sleep. It was very very beautiful. It was so full of love. I've never heard anything like it before in my life. It's incredible. I think anypony who hears it would feel so much love, they'd be able to eat it all up and there'd still be enough for seconds!"

I giggled at the funny metaphor. "Thank you! Mom and Rarity say how it carries the love of every member of our family who sang it before. Or something like that. Sounds kinda funny to me."

"Oh not at all. Love comes in many shapes and forms. So many different textures and flavors. Like music itself. You know, so many songs in the world are love songs, I think they're everypony's favorite. You know Sweetie Belle, you sing very lovely indeed. There is so much love in your voice, you really should share it with everypony. That is my honest opinion as a singer by the way."

Something felt funny about that last part but still, "Thank you very much. You really think so?"

"I KNOW so! I know music and I know love, and your voice has both . . . Sweetie Belle . . ." She tapped her chin thoughtfully. "How'd you like to have a special part in the ceremonies?"

"I'm already a flower filly."

"Yes but this is something super special, just for you. Something only that lovely voice of yours can do, and give so many others strength just by hearing it. I know it would be PERFECT for you to sing after the wedding ceremony."

"ME?!" I blushed bright red. "Sing?! In front of . . . in front of . . ."

She leaned closer, and whisper in my ears, looking me in the eyes. "I know it's scary to be in front of a large crowd. Thinking of what they could be thinking of you. But I speak truth when I tell you, they don't matter. Your performance is yours. It's something beautiful to be shared, if those you share it with don't appreciate it, then that's their problem. Your voice is lovely, and should be shared. There is nothing to be afraid up, nothing to be worried about, nothing to think about it. If you like, I could help you. Would you like that?"

"That, that would be nice." She was so pretty. I wanted to be pretty like her.

"Would you like to make your sister proud of you? She mentioned how you always want to show her what you can do, now's your chance."

My heart skipped a beat. "Y-Yes! I want that!"

"I know. This is my special day after all. And as one of my flower fillies, you're a part of my special day. And a good little piece does what she's told. She doesn't need to worry, she doesn't need to have second thoughts. To be a good little part, just do what I tell you. That'll make your sister very proud when you do what you're told. She won't get upset you, she won't get mad at you. She'll love you for doing such a nice job. You want that do you?"

"Yeah."

"How much do you want it?"

"M-more than anything."

"Then just be a good little part of the plan. Don't worry. Don't question. Only obey. It's what makes you happy to obey, because you're doing what I want, which is what your sister wants. My little song bird."

I feel all my troubles wash away. I can't even remember what I was so worried about before. I smiled at her pretty smile. "I'm your little song bird."

"And what does the little song bird do?"

"She obeys."

"And what makes my little song bird happy?"

"To obey. Because I'm a good little part of the plan. I won't mess up at all. I promise."

Her Majesty ruffled my mane. I'm a good little song bird.

"Now just keep repeating those thoughts until you wake up in the morning. They're all you need to think about until then. And no need to mention any of this to anypony."

"I don't need to mention any of this to anypony."

"Yes, because you're my obedient little song bird."

"Because I'm your obedient little song bird."

"Just trust in what I want my little song bird, it's my special day, so what I want is what's best. Don't worry, don't be afraid, just be happy little song bird, and know that Her Majesty knows what's best."

"You know what's best Your Majesty, I won't worry, I won't be scared. I'm happy to be your little song bird." And I was so much!

Her Majesty graces me with more of her precious time, telling me what a good little song bird was to do, I listen like a good little song bird should. She kisses me on the forehead, gives me a hung with her wings, and I go straight to bed, because that was what I was told to do. And a good little song bird doesn't question, she only obeys. It feels good to obey. Because I'm Her Majesty's little song bird. If you can't trust Her Majesty, who can you trust? And I know she'll do what's best!

Episode 165: "Everything Is Just Perfect"

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Pony POV
Not the Wedding You Remember! Part 7
"Everything is just perfect."

The ponies being stupid? Oh please, stop trying to take away from my victory. I've had this plan in motion for decades, many of my changelings were born here, and their parents came through quite legally. They know better than to reveal themselves least ponies lynch them for being emotion eating monsters. We've been working slowly, nothing here has been rushed.

The best part is that the ponies who are paranoid enough to suspect something have their eyes focused somewhere else entirely. Either at the rookie guards or some other supernatural threat (unknowning the one they need to watch out for is right here), not at my infiltrators who either worked their way up or replaced an established pony higher in the ranks! Throw in a few little pieces of fake evidence to spark concerns along the borders, so the ponies think the mysterious danger is on the outside rather than the inside, and they're looking in the opposite direction.

After all, it would be insane to keep all the experienced guards tucked away inside the capital within the barrier it'd take an entire army effort to break through and send newbies to get slaughtered at the border when the mysterious enemy strikes. Equestria doesn't believe in the 'wave tactics' the Hooviets believed in. They sent most of the experienced guards to the boarders or other locations around Equestria because they believed an outside invasion was coming and Canterlot was well protected from outside threat. Why would they expect the threat would come from inside when all evidence pointed otherwise? Not to mention my little pawn who is neither a Changeling nor brainwashed making sure an invasion was possible, unaware all I needed from him was to turn a blind eye to the details I permitted him to know.

Not to mention my own position and those of my pawns made it quite easy to tamper with communications to ensure Canterlot was safe and sound inside the barrier. They believed inside Canterlot was the safest location in Equestria between the boarder fortifications and the barrier.

Oh, I know sooner or later somepony would smell a rat...but then again, whoever said taking Canterlot was my only goal? Or my only potential endgame for that matter?

+++

Ah don't have mah eyes open ta the truth twenty-four-seven. Ah respect there are things that should just be keep private. Stuff like Lyra said, secrets ponies keep that ah got no right tah peak at. But Ah gotta agree with Nightmare Mirror on one thing, it is like a sickness how much ponies lie to themselves and each other. Sometimes Ah feel Ah keep mah 'true eyes' closed fer mahself more than everypony else. It's a wonder anypony knows what reality even is with how much we nudge things.

What did ya think Ah'd say? Me an' Nightmare Mirror? Only difference between us is my Applebloom got away from Sunnytown. Her Applebloom wasn't that lucky. Ah coulda been Nightmare Mirror same as her.

Ah use mah 'true eyes' and a mirror sometimes ta see the truth about myself. Luna says Ah'm still a flesh and blood pony and Ah could lose track of mahself, but a little peak wouldn't hurt none right?

Ah learned the heart world version of me got 'er hat as a prize bobbin' for apples, it wasn't a gift from her pa'. Hmm. For a tick' Ah wondered if she had it better cause she didn't have to lose somethin' dear, but naw, Ah loved pa's hat while Ah had it. Ah already accepted other meh's don't share mah life with meh.

Well, the outin' we had with Princess Cadence we were all kinda pressed for time. Right right, ya'all already know this part. Meh doin' the caterin'. But did ya know Apple Fritter and Peachy Sweet was there to help me (somepony had called in help)? Look, Ah know my rep', but Ah'm done with that, this Applejack is gonna get help when she needs it! Besides, Ah'm an Apple! We don't pass up a chance tah be with family!

Yes Ah did that ice-sculpture. Just because Ah'm not inta all that froufrou stuff doesn't mean Ah can't appreciate beauty none. An' just cause Ah'm a farmer doesn't mean it's the only thing Ah can do.

So the Princess showed up, taste tested the goods, and told a white lie about what she thought about my cookin'. Believe it or not, Ah don't mind why she lied, she was just bein' nice, but this was her weddin' day, the food SHOULD be up to what she wants. Poor girl is getting everythin' worked up by her lonesome that she's willin' to let stuff get by half done . . . Applebuck season all over again for somepony else.

Seriously Twili, just cause somepony is high-strung and on the hostile side the day before their weddin' doesn't make 'em evil incarnate!

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Exactly. Happy to hear you being so rational and reason Applejack.)

Why thank you kindly.

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Maybe you should talk with Her Majesty about what kinds of foods she does like?)

I was just gonna.

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): What if she doesn't like apples?)

Impossible! JUST KIDDIN'! HA HA! Ah know some ponies like apples, and some ponies like oranges, different strokes for different folks. Don't forget the Orange Family are mah kin too!

The Princess was all over the place. It was hard to pin 'er down. Ah finally found 'er with Twili's brother (who Ah still felt had popped out of nowhere from how she hadn't said a word about 'em and suddenly was gushin' about 'em).

Ah focused on Twili' brother, Ah mean really focused on 'em. Wantin' ta see the truth of this pony. Ah admit it, Ah haven't looked at a pony in the true way since this trip got started, not wantin' tah uncover one of those secrets Lyra mentioned that shouldn't be dug up...but this was beyond weird and Ah wanted tah get tah the bottom of it. Ah covered mah mouth at what Ah saw.

Bridle and shackles? Dang what was this stallion into? Ah didn't want to know more thank you kindly! Ah closed off mah 'truth sight' faster than you can say 'howdy!' Too much information. Lyra was right, there are some secrets yer better off not knowing.

Ah shook mah head and asked the princess to speak with 'er in private about the eats. The princess was surprised but nice about it, and Shinin' didn't complain.

" . . . almost everything is nearly tasteless to me. It has been for a long time," the poor thing confessed once we were alone.

"Oh Ah'm so sorry!!!"

"It's okay, most don't know. It seems to be a unique trait of mine. Nothing really clicks anymore. I prefer to keep it private. So I just like whatever is put in front of me."

"Don't worry, yer secret is safe with me."

"Thank you Applejack, I'm surprised to hear that from the Element of Honesty though."

"Hey, Ah know all about keepin' stuff private ain't the same as hoofin' out lies. That there are secrets it ain't mah place tah butt in."

"Commendable." She leaned in a little, "Has anyone told you have very beautiful green eyes? They're unique among your friends."

I blushed a bit. "Ah shucks, Ah'm not into that sorta thing, but thanks for the compliment."

"Well it's true," she said strangely matter of fact, "I know appearances, and yours is quite appealing. With a little extra work you'd be a knock out."

Ah remembered Orangejack. "Erm, thank ya kindly, just cause Ah don't like to get all frou frou doesn't mean Ah can't pretty up for mah friends."

"Do you consider me a friend?"

"In Ponyville, strangers are just friends ya haven't met yet as Pinkie would say, and Ah like ta think we carry Ponyville wherever we go."

"How very, sentimental."

"Is there anythin' ya can taste? Ah can cook more than just apples."

She smiled. Reminded me a bit of Opal. "As a matter of fact there is, however it's a little exotic."

"Well, this here is the most important day of yer life, Ah'll try mah hardest to whip it up."

"My, how generous," she said smilin' a bit wider.

"Shucks, that's Rarity's department, not mine, but thank ya kindly."

"Still, I imagine you would make a lovely-"

"Your Majesty!" A pegasus royal guard came tumblin' inta the window somethin' fierce. Pony must have been in a big hurry. "Twilight Sparkle is-- I didn't realize you had guests."

The guard looked at meh like a deer in the headlights (no offense tah any deer) and started looking REAL nervous.

"Yes, I do. And I WASN'T expecting anymore," the Princess said in a way Ah could tell she meant.

"And what about Twili?" Ah asked, narrowin' mah eyes.

"Well...you see she was...uh...well she.." he seemed tongue tied suddenly.

Now, normally Ah wouldn't have worried none about this guy. But...somepony had threatened the whole city enough for the guard tah lock it down tighter than a barn with a cattle rustler on the loose. And Cadence WAS a Princess. Somepony bargin' inta her room uninvited and actin' nervous and twitchy the moment he saw meh? Suddenly not able tah answer a question he claimed he came tah answer? Ah couldn't be too careful, now could Ah? Ah AM the Bearer of Honesty, it's mah duty tah protect Equestria!

Plus, if the poor guy was just LOOKING suspicious and being tongue-tied, then Ah might save him some trouble. This weren't buttin' in where Ah didn't belong, this was tellin' a truth Ah knew Ah should tell.

So Ah just turned up the truth vision and...Holy horseapples!

"What are Tartarus are yah?!"

The guard jumped. "Whatever do you mean?"

"What?" asked the Princess behind meh, soundin' right surprised.

Ah can tell yah this much, he weren't no pony! Ah focused inta his eyes, burnin' deep in as Ah could. He started shaking and sweatin' until finally, he burst inta green flames and dropped that mask he was wearin'! He was a big black bug! That's about all Ah can think tah call him!

"What?!" Ah heard the Princess yell.

"Are yah the ones threatenin' Canterlot?"

"Y-Y-Yes!" he stuttered as Ah burned through any lie he might have told. And Ah saw a few of the things Ah was burnin' through in 'em...dang, this guy has a warped world view!

"Princess, think Ah found us a spy!"

The thing tried tah lunge at meh suddenly when Ah took mah eyes off him, but before Ah could buck his head in, a beam of green magic blew 'em across the room and left him out cold on the ground.

"Thank yah kindly Princess."

"Oh, you're welcome, Applejack."

Ah took a look outside, then turned tah the Princess. Did Ah shut down the truth vision? Of course Ah did! Why would Ah turn it on the Princess?

"Princess, Ah think we need tah tell Princess Celestia right quick!"

"Of course, Applejack...but how did you do that? I've never seen anything quite like it," the Princess asked meh. She seemed rattled, but given what happened, Ah can't blame her.

"Well...long story, but Ah can pierce through lies and deceit, stuff like that. If Ah try, no one can lie tah meh, with words or looks."

"I see. What a special gift you have, my little pony. Do your friends know you have it?"

"Well, yeah, of course they do."

"And they believe it?"

"Of course, we're friends, why wouldn't they?"

"And you don't have it on all the time?"

"Nah, Ah...Ah think that'd be violatin' ponies' privacy. Especially here in Canterlot, lots of ponies who need tah hide somethin'."

"I see, how noble of you. Sorry for the questions, as you can guess I need to confirm the information you're giving me."

Ah nodded. That made sense. "Ah understand."

"Still, it was a blessing you were here, who knows what might have happened if you hadn't stopped to visit me," she said, giving a sigh of relief.

"Just doin' mah job, but we'd best go report this!"

"You are correct, but first, Applejack, may I ask you something?"

"Yeah, of course, anythin', but best make it quick!"

"Do you trust me?"

"Yeah, of course."

"Will you listen to me?"

"Yer a Princess, kinda mah duty to."

Then she looked meh right in the eyes. Ah...Ah started tah feel a little weird. Like Ah was in a big warm bath. So relaxin', so easy ta just let go of everythin'.

"And can I count on you to do what I require of you?"

"Of course yah can! Ah'm the most dependable...dependable pony yah could ask for!" Ah said. Huh, who went and stuffed mah head full of cotton? Ah'm just sinkin' inta the nice warm bath.

"Perrrrfect."


(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus) (Addendum): Applejack, it seems our notes of what came next got damaged...)

...With all due respect, Ah DON'T want tah talk about it, okay? Please...it was hard enough when it happened...


I held Bumblebee to the wall with my magic. Good help is SO hard to find. My newest property stood obediently nearby. "You do realize how close you came to ruining EVERYTHING, don't you, Bumblebee?"

"Y-Yes Your Majesty!"

"And that if I didn't still need you, you wouldn't be breathing right now, correct?"

I watched him start trembling. It'd be easy of course, just say 'give me your love' and poof, no more Bumblebee...but that would be more trouble than it's worth. Covering up a missing guard is much harder than explaining an injured one.

"Y-yes."

I held his muzzle shut with my magic and snap, his leg was broken at the joint. I waited for his silent screaming to stop. "You crashed on your way here and that's where the injuries came from, understood?"

"Y-Yes, Your Majesty."

"Good. And as for Twilight Sparkle, don't worry," I stroked my little pony. "She'll take care of her."

I released Bumblebee. "Now get out of my sight."

He scrambled off like the nervous coward he's had always been. But he was fast good flyer, he had his uses.

I chuckled, gently pushing little Applejack's muzzle to face me. "You know the irony dear? If you hadn't worried so much about other ponies' privacy, you could have stopped all of this. You know that, right?"

She kneeled. "...Yes, Yer Madjesty."

+++

Early the next morning, Spike and Sweetie Belle snuck out of their rooms, doing their absolute best to not wake up their roommates. They went down to the royal kitchen finding Applejack already making breakfast for them.

"Hi ya'all, good morning," the green eyed mare said with a smile, wearing her cooking apron.

"Good morning," Spike and Sweetie echoed as they sat down at a table already set for them and two others.

The green eyed dragon and green-eyed filly happily stared into space, Spike not budging or saying a word letting Applejack cook in peace. The filly however, seemed extra happy this morning.

"Yah seem happy, Sweetie."

"I am! Her Majesty and I talked some more! she introduced me to some of her guards! I even know some of their names!"

"That's nice. Yah and her madjesty seem tah be gettin' along, huh?"

"Yeah! I can't wait until after the wedding! I'm sure Rarity will be so happy to hear me sing!"

"Yeah, Ah bet she will," Applejack replied, the orange mare looking sick for a moment.

A unicorn walked into the kitchen next. She had a red mane and cream colored coat. She took off a pair of sunglasses that hid green tinted eyes that were not her natural color.

"Hi ya'all, good morning," said Applejack to the last breakfast guest.

"G-good morning," Moondancer croaked out. Her coat was covered in sweat. As she moved towards the table, her motions were jerky, like a puppet's. The smiles never left any of their faces.

"Good morning Moondancer," Sweetie Belle said in the exact same tone she had greeted Applejack with. "I am happy you and Spike are still good friends."

"Y-yes, good . . . good friends," She said, the smile not leaving her face, like it was glued that way. "We are good friends, yes Spike?"

"Yes we are good friends," Spike replied his inflection and tone never changing.

Moondancer sat down, her body nearly going limp, like she had been carrying heavy chains. "I'm . . . I'm h-happy to k-know that Spike. I truly do value you as a close friend. I never wanted that to change."

"Your mane is a mess," Sweetie Belle said, her tone changing ever so slightly, "Oh. Sorry. That was not a nice thing to say."

"I-it's alright. I haven't been, sleeping well . . . o-or waking well for that matter."

"Alright girls, and boy, eat up." AJ cheered, balancing perfectly the four plates and with expertise placed pancakes in front of Sweetie, scrambled eggs with semi-precious stones mixed in for Spike, oats cereal for herself (she could eat more than just apples), and French-toast that Spike had told AJ Moondancer enjoyed.

"We gotta a lot to do today," AJ said still smiling, eating earth pony style.

"We sure do," Sweetie Belle replied smiling.

"Gotta make sure everything goes right, right Moondancer?" Spike nodded.

"R-right," The mare said, looking ill.

"For Her Majesty!" Sweetie Belle cheered raising her hooves, her mind filled with thoughts of singing for everyling. With making Her Majesty proud.

AJ nodded approvingly, "For Her Madjesty!"

"For Her Majesty!" Spike joined in.

"F-For Her . . . Ma-jest . . ." The white unicorn's eyes rolled up in her head and she fell out of her chair, hitting the floor with a thud.

"Moondancer!" Spike hopped out of his chair checking on her.

Applejack put what Nurse Redheart had taught her to good use, looking the mare in the eye and checking her vitals.

"M-minuette, T-Twinle Shhhhine, I-I-, I'm, s-sorr-"

"Shhhhh. It's alright darlin', ya just rest now ya hear?" AJ whispered. She put the unicorn on her back and looked at the others. "Ah'll get'er ta bed, Ah think it's best if she just rest fer a bit longer. Ya two clean up the kitchen all sparkin' and nice ya hear?"

"Absolutely." The two echoed again standing at attention perfectly with the smiles still on their faces.

AJ's smiles almost became a smirk as her eyes softened a bit. "Alright, ya go back to yer friends when done here. We can finish chattin' later."

Spike and Sweetie obeyed without so much as a thought of complaint.

As the two washed dishes for Applejack, Sweetie Belle chatted about how great today was going to be and how she was gonna practice her singing for her big performance, becoming more lively as she went on, Spike merely nodded and went through the motions, becoming more subdued.

Sweetie Belle skipping ahead as Spike moved like a good tin soldier. Sweetie Belle knew Moondancer would be alright, she knew Her Majesty would take good care of her. She had more important things to think about. She could barely keep herself from laughing out loud at the big surprise Her Majesty had made for everypony! She couldn't wait to see the looks on Applebloom and Scootaloo's faces when she did her performance for Her Majesty as her little song bird. And Her Majesty said she was making big plans for the little filly! She couldn't wait!

"This day is going to be perfect," She sang in a perfect deceptive cadence. She loved being around Her Majesty, it was like her parents had come home.

Finding out where Moondancer lived from Spike, AJ gently put the mare to bed and silently kissed her on the forehead. The mare was sweating, but her heart and breathing were both steady. AJ thought of getting a doctors, but that would attract unwanted attention for Her Majesty's property, and there would plenty of time to rest after today. After today. AJ felt sick to her stomach as she nearly banged into a wall. AJ trotted back to her room, she had a lot to prepare for Her Majesty's special day. Her friends all did. She felt dizzy and sick again but shook her head and carried on.

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Yes, we have much to do for Her Majesty.)

+++

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Look, sis, this is NOT going right. Chrysalis knows things she SHOULDN'T know.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): It's only natural some minor details would change, but have faith in them, victory will come to the worthy.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): But what if she wins? Or Discord is helping her?)

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Unlikely. Chrysalis and Discord are like him and Grogar: their motives are so opposite there is no way they could tolerate one another, let alone team up. Everything's going how it is supposed to.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Like how I'm supposed to give Peewee to Spike?)

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): I'm sorry little sister, I really am. But if we took Peewee home with us, he'd be seen as an alien presence in OUR reality, and awaken OUR reality's Blank Wolf! You've seen the constant danger it put Shining into! Do you want that on Peewee just because you don't want to lose his company? You'd have to release him when we go home whether we give him to Spike or not. Do you think it makes me HAPPY to see you upset?)

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Maybe I'll just stay here then.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): We've been tolerated so far because we're a transient presence. If we try to become a permanent one, we'll be violating this reality, and there will be actually consequences. Is being with Peewee worth hurting others over it? I'm sorry!)

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Well my other sister understands right? Right? Where did she go? Siiiiiss?)

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): . . . . I-I'm so sorry.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn) (addendum): And everything I told my littlest sister was completely true.)


(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Our big sister is too caught up with 'the rules' to realize something stinks right under her nose. We need to do something.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): You agree with me right? That I should get to keep Peewee? I need, I mean he needs me.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Will you stop talking about him for five minutes?! Everypony could be in danger!)

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): That's what bigger sister keeps say too.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Ugh! Look! Sorry! But our big sister is hogging Twilight and her friends to herself and won't let us near them! And things are spiraling WAY off course!)

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): What about everypony else? She didn't say anything about them.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): . . . You're a genius little sister! If there's something we learned from Minty Pie, it's that the 'main characters' aren't the only ones who can be heroes.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): What about Mr. Filthy and Golden? And Mr. Silver Axe and the other Crusaders?)

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Nah, they're just civilians, they can't do anything. Blueblood might work, he's at least got power...)

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): But Silver Tongue is an ex-guard and Golden Tiara is really REALLY tough and-)

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Currently recovering from having Discord tape her brain back together. Blueblood is a Prince, he's at least got pull, and he's a better guy now!)

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): But they're upper class, they have pull too, and Blueblood isn't involved in the military or anything...)

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Ugh. You want to get them involved so bad? Fine, I'm going to actually DO something about this mess.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Big sister come-she left...Why are we fighting so much? We used to think like one pony.)

++++

"Ah wonder if Twili' is comin' down with the green eyed monster."
-
"Hey Applebloom, Ah heard about how Sweetie was actin' yesterday, ya just make sure doesn't start workin' for the green-eyed monster."
-
"Just don't start actin' like a green-eyed monster cause of Cadence's singin' Fluttershy."
-
"Rarity, Sweetie hangin' out with Spike a bit more, ya should keep a closer eye on her to make sure she doesn't become a green-eyed monster."
-
"Hey RD, ya should keep yer guard up, big fancy weddin's like this always bring out some green-eyed monster."
-
"It's really great ya've gotten over yer green-eye monster thing with yer sister and Pip Princess."
-
"Trixie, ya know green-eyed monsters better than anypony, ya should keep yer eyes peeled in case there are some at this here weddin'."
-
"Rarity the dress ya made for the princess is so dang beautiful, Ah figurin' Ah'm becomin' a green eyed monster it's so pretty."
-
"Ya know Twili', with how Spike acts around Rarity sometimes', Ah worry 'bout him becomin' a green eyed monster."
-
"Twili', would ya say any of yer classmates acted like green-eyed monsters cause of how special ya were to The Princess?"
-
"Pinkie Pie ya got so many lovely candies for this here party Ah wouldn't be surprised if a whole buncha bugs invaded Canterlot for 'em."
-
"Ya know Rarity, Pinkie Pie hostin' a Canterlot party is gonna be like mixing apples and oranges, ya should be ready in case things get really rowdy really fast and we haveta do a Grand Gallopin' Gala retreat or knock some sense inta some over-salted ponies."
-
"Princess Celestia, maybe ya should have Princess Cadence get a full check-up, can't have her gettin' sick before the weddin'. The doc' said she's perfectly healthy? Okay. Good to know Her Majesty is fine. Her fancy-smancy magic all check out too? Perfect match 'cept' fer the color from that thing ya can't talk about? Whao kay."
-
"Ah'm . . . Ah'm just fine Apple Fritter. Ah look a little sick? Ah'm, just tryin' to make sure everythin' works out fine for mah friends at the weddin'. Ya know what ya say, love is a war, and Canterlot's about to be a battlefield."
-
"Ya be careful Twili' makin' things go right, ya know the worst kinda bugs are the ones ya can't see, or hidin' in plain sight."

+++


+++

Applejack is still not listening to me...neither is Spike. They can see how I feel, can't they? They just keep saying 'everything will go as it should,' but how do THEY know?!

Cadence...Why is she acting this way? Why isn't she acting like...like her? Princess, you said she wouldn't change.

-

She threw out her bridesmaids?! I know my friends are her bridesmaids now but...from what I heard she broke them!

How could...how could Cadence do that?! How could my sweet, wonderful foalsitter do something so cruel? This...this just feels so WRONG!

-

I...I don't believe it...She...she did something to Shining...Cadence...you can't...you're...you're not the Cadence I knew anymore...Not if you could do that...I wanted you to be my big sister but now...I don't know...


+++


+++

It was such a pity Princess Cadence's parents couldn't attend. Princess Cadence explained to me when I asked if I could make a suit and dress for her parents as a gift. The poor dear explained that they had been under the weather since before we arrived in Canterlot. Truly a tragedy that parents should miss their child's most wonderful of days. I know I have not the best track record with my parents, but even I would never want them to miss the day I became a 'Mrs.'

Oh, hello again dears, Miss Rarity Belle at your service once again. What shall we reminisce upon today? Oh . . . the wedding rehearsal . . . I can safely say that was a black moment for all of us. Nopony in that room had anything to be proud of.

Evil . . . evil doesn't just take advantage of good ponies' inactions. We become focused on the monster sneaking in through the backdoor, we don't see the monster wearing a smile walking in through the front door.

I believed Princess Cadence had to be simply mistaken when she off-handedly mentioned she was worried Twilight seemed to be shadowing her while trying to keep out of sight. Stalking? Twilight Sparkle would never engage in such uncouth behavior.

But that was just the beginning.

You've heard much, but you haven't heard quite everything.

+++

My name is Twilight Sparkle and I . . . I can't believe it. I don't want to believe it. I couldn't believe it. This all felt like a horrible nightmare. But there was no laughing chimera, my friends weren't twisted into parodies of themselves. But my world was still turned upside down!

I had marched in the brave hero, bravely disrupting the wedding rehearsal, I nobly pushed my friends out of my way when they asked if I was okay, I was the one who was going to save my brother from that witch who used to be my foal sitter. I valiantly bullied the bride to tears. I faced her down, I drove her out. I had declared in front of everypony the wicked witch she was! I felt so proud of myself.

Then I noticed the angry look I had never seen on my brother's face. Our friendship had been like a fairytale, we had never had a truly awful fight. I suddenly felt a little small.

I saw the horrified looks on my friends' faces, and I felt even smaller. I saw how Celestia was looking at me, and I shrank to the subatomic.

I listened as my big brother dismantled every single one of my arguments, all of my 'proof' of Cadence no longer being the pony either of us knew he tore to shreds.

"You think Cadence wanted to let go of her Hoofmaidens?! She thought they were her friends and they just wanted to use her! As soon as they found out we were engaged her entire entourage began asking her for privilege positions thinking she'd get more power once she was married! She's had to do everything herself!"

+++

I'll admit. I know what that's like. Sonic Rainboom. Lots of 'friends'. Gonna be the first filly Wonderbolt. Can't do the Rainboom again. Those friends disappear.

+++

Poor Cadence's time as a sheltered princess couldn't have been easy, as a lady I am fully versed in the games ponies play as part of high society, now that she is going to become a mare, she finds out the reality of her world. I can imagine the pain she must have been hiding. No wonder she wanted to make friends with us.

+++

"Cadence was scared about meeting you again! She was worried that after saving the world twice you'd be a different pony! I promised her, there was no way my little sister would changed from the wonderful filly she knew, you made me a liar!"

Not again. Please not again! I-I didn't mean it! I was just trying, just trying to protect my brother!

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Protect him? Or keep him? Maybe you just saw what you wanted to see.)

I looked at my friends, none of them came to my defense. If anything, they looked scared of me.

No!

"Don't any of you remember 'lesson zero'?!" I begged looking from face to face, "Wasn't the whole point of that for you to always listen to me-us to listen to each other, even if you don't recognize why it should be a big deal?!"

Rarity trotted up, she wasn't smiling. "Twilight darling, your comparison is superficial!"

Pinkie Pie spoke sadly, she couldn't look me in the eye, "That time you were kinda actin' crazy . . . now yer kinda actin' like a big meanie pants."

"I'm sorry Twilight," Fluttershy whispered so low I could barely hear it, "Maybe we should have listened to you," then she looked me in the eyes and I really really wish she hadn't! "Maybe then you wouldn't have hurt a innocent mare on her wedding day!"

"Shining has a point Twilight. You really have been so fixated on Cadence you haven't really cared about the wedding at all." I heard Spike confess before the Flutters broke their gaze. "And back then, you were worried about disappointing Celestia, you had a reason for acting weird. Here you just jumped to conclusions, you're the one not listening to anypony."

"AND TWILIGHT!" Shining snapped, "Cadence went through A LOT on her world tour! A lot she can't even tell you about no matter how badly she wants to! So SORRY if she isn't exactly the same!"

"And aren't you the one ignoring the lesson Twilight?" I knew it wasn't Fluttershy speaking, "You said when stopping Nightmare Whisper that friends change whether we like it or not! Cadence has changed since you saw her YEARS AGO, therefore she's not Cadence?!"

Rainbow Dash uncharacteristically didn't say anything. But the look in her eyes. I had seen it before, when Gilda walked away rather than apologize for mistreating Rainbow's other friends, Rainbow, she felt betrayed.

++++

I don't want to say it. But the other friend of mine Twilight is reminding me of right now is Gilda. She didn't want anypony inching in on 'her territory' either.

++++

"Twilight, you . . . you were willing to give Trixie a chance when her show caused trouble she never intended. You tried to understand Trixie even when it didn't make sense and SHE gave you every reason to think she was a lost cause. This is . . . inconsistent for you." Trixie's voice, if anything, sounded hurt.

"Applejack!" I asked desperately. AJ looked she had eaten one of her own 'baked bads.' "You can see the truth of things can't you? Look at the truth!"

AJ had a disgusted look on her face, my heart cracked. "Ah do! But Ah don't wanna say it and ya don't wannt hear it! There's a difference between actin' crazy, and ACTIN' LIKE A JACKASS! Then we thought ya were makin' a mountain out of a mole hill, and we made the mistaken of brushin' you off when we saw you were actin' weird instead of takin' ya seriously. Ya ain't crazy or frazzled or at yer wits end here! Instead you're acting like a self-righteous nag who doesn't care she made a mare cry on her freakin' weddin' day in front of her fiance, yer brother! Until yer worried yer brother might not like it! Ya want to hear the truth Twili?! Ya won't like it! Ya wanna hear the real reason yer bein' a nag to Cadence?!

"Ya COMPLETELY FORGET THAT YOUR BROTHER -EXISTS- FER TWO YEARS and, and ya only remember him after he invites ya to his weddin'. Then ya go on about you how missed him when ya never so much as had a picture of 'em or mentioned him! This ain't about yer brother or Cadence! This is about ya! Instead of sayin' sorry or tryin' to make up by makin' sure his weddin' is the best it can be, instead: he's a non-pony to ya fer two years, THEN ya can't bear to let 'em go? Ya call that family?! That's selfish! He's not yer buckin' property! Ya think yer the only mare he needs!" She looked the way Cadence had fled. "You green-eyed monster." AJ looked positively sick.


I'll admit it...that one wasn't entirely Twiley's fault. Even if she didn't handle the situation right in a lot of ways...it's not her fault she didn't remember me until then. And yes, I DO wish I could go back and say 'that one's not my sister's fault' even if I couldn't explain why it wasn't. I was so angry I didn't even think of it. Hindsight is always 20/20.


Shining told me I didn't need to worry about being his best mare anymore, and I didn't need to worry about showing up to the wedding either. Then he went after the mare I hurt.

AJ looked back at the others. "Come on everypony, we better go check on the Princess."

Rarity passed by me. "I have to leave Twilight, I'm afraid if I stay I'll say something unlady-like I can't take back..."

Then the others trotted by me.

Then CELESTIA walked by me, I tried to speak with her,

"You have a lot to think about," she said, she looked so, disappointed.

+++++

I had to leave before I said something unkind that I wouldn't be able to take back later. Twilight was still my friend, but I was worried if I stayed I might say things that would damage our friendship. -Rarity Belle


I wasn't abandoning her, I was letting purple's big brain process how much she had clopped up instead of just 'sorry/forgiven, tra la la', in under thirty seconds. That isn't how we learn from mistakes, that isn't how the lessons SINK IN!!! Lessons don't sink in unless there are consequences.

Was I worried about leaving her alone? She wasn't drunk. Trixie didn't look to be going anywhere. And to be honest? 'Lesson Zero' didn't turn Twilight into a Nightmare, and if that didn't, then she wasn't facing a scenario where she'd figure 'everypony should be friends whether they like it or not.' I screwed up and I have the scars to prove I faced the consequences of my own actions.

And seriously, that thinking sounds like what somepony would use to justify we should be kept frozen when the Elements aren't needed if we keep worrying that we'll go Nightmare every time we get depressed. -Flutercruel

I don't like seeing anypony in pain. Not a friend I met a day ago, not a friend who saved me. I didn't want to hurt her back, and I wasn't trying to hurt her back. That doesn't solve anything. But I was angry. I don't like anypony hurting anypony else. I could tell Twilight was sad for what she did. So sad. But Cadence had run away after being told she was evil by a filly that she really truly loved, she might do something foolish. Imagine if being hurt like that made her think she hadn't given out enough love and became a Nightmare?! I didn't want to see that happen to another pony. And I had seen, I had felt the spirits of black magic before. I didn't feel them swarming towards Twilight, and I think I'd be able to tell if they were swarming near Cadence, I'd check on her and be right back! - Fluttershy


. . . . . . . . . I'm a bad friend. I was going to come right back. I Pinkie swear. But I needed a little bit to breath first. . . just, seeing Twilight act like that brought up bad memories. It was like Twilight wasn't acting like Twilight. Maybe I was a little scared. Yes, I was a little scared I'd been wrong and Shining WAS a Mare-ty Stu warping my friend's head, but that doesn't make it right... -Pinkie Diane


If I have to choose between a student of mine whose just made a destructive selfish choice, or my niece who is hurt because of that selfish choice . . . Twilight needs time to reflect on the full weight of what she's done. These hard lessons are sadly needed with power like hers, when she realizes I won't be there to clean up every impulsive mistake she makes. Of course I still love her, I always will. But I love my niece too. -Princess Celestia


I'm loyal to Twilight, but I also told Discord I'd always be loyal to The Princess, and like it or not, Twilight isn't a princess. Loyalty isn't about how long you've known somepony, if it was, I'd have ditched over half my new friends for the Shadowbolt's offer. I've spent a long time learning life doesn't always have nice third options. No one said being loyal was painless. It sure isn't for me. What stinks the worst is how I suck at words. I wanted to say something to Twilight so badly. Somethin', anythin'! After what happened with Gilda I didn't want to be the one to walk away this time. And a part of me was just saying 'this time there IS a third option,' that there was something I could say to be loyal to both. I just sat there, looking at her, not having a clue of what to say. I was back with Scootaloo the night she first slept at my home. And all the others were still better at sensitive words than me. Maybe I should ask Rarity for lessons how to say all the nice and mushy stuff now that I have Scootaloo to look after.

The even more weird part was how Trixie was there too, the loudmouth at as much a loss for words as me.

We both listened to Twilight sing her broken reprisal about her BBBFF. I...I know how she feels. It's like how I felt when I found out my friends had done what they did because I'd endangered ponies LIVES. But...I just couldn't figure out how to put THAT into words. How could I say 'I know how you feel' to somepony who'd just made their big brother so furious he'd banned her from his wedding? That would just sound wrong.

That was when AJ came back and put a hoof on my shoulder, "Come on Sugarcube, ya ain't doin' any good here."

And I let AJ drag me out of there, keeping my eyes on Twilight the whole time.

-Rainbow Dash


I think I felt a little bit betrayed. This was the pony I envied in every sense of the word. Who I wish to be. I'll admit at least she acted sorry for what she did. She was actually sad about what she did. At least she didn't need to be infested by an evil spirit to realize how badly she had made things. She just needed a reality check.

I just knew I hated seeing her like this. A joke since once I would have given anything to be present at this moment.

I was actually going to speak with her. I wanted to tell her I knew exactly where she was. Maybe I could return the favor? Wouldn't be the first time.

I opened my mouth.

"Can you please leave us some privacy Trixie, now," I heard Princess Cadence whisper in my ear behind me. She really did have a talent for sneaking up on ponies. "I wish to reconcile things with Twilight."

I wasn't feeling up to saying no to a princess. Her whisper held more force than any shout Trixie had ever heard. I wanted to stay. No no no I really did. But when Cadence began to just above 'gently' push me, Trixie suddenly felt out of her Element. I stayed put anyway.

"Trixie, please go." It was Twilight who spoke that time. Her tone was lifeless and her purple eyes shimmered with tears.

I was the last to leave. - Trixie Midsummernight of the Lulamoon Herd


The worst part is. The meh that said all that, and how she said it was a lie: but a lot of what Ah told Twili' was the truth. -Applejack V


I admit, after how beautifully I played the part of her foalsitter, I was surprised when Twilight tried to wreck my moment. But you know the fun part? Hehe. There were so many ways I could play that beautiful moment. Some of which might have been a tad more efficient, I admit. But none quite so brilliant. I am an actress.

Part of my mind control? Oh please. Why waste magic, when my dear's love for Cadence, and a few well placed lies are more than enough for my knight in shining armor to defend me from my 'wicked step-sister to-be?' And for her friends and mentor to all turn on her? Ha ha!


How do I feel about it now when all is said and done? Awful. It doesn't matter what was really going on...that I was telling a truth I didn't realize I was telling. If I hadn't been? You wouldn't even be considering calling me a hero for it. Whether it was truth or a lie, I still handled things poorly. I was like a self-righteous bully. And if I hadn't, then maybe things wouldn't have gone as far as they did...maybe fewer ponies would have been hurt. - Twilight Sparkle.


She looked down on me smiling with kindness I didn't deserve.

"I'm sorry!"

She gently stroked my mane. "I know . . . " She cooed. Her smile never wavered. This was my foal sitter I remembered as she knelt down and covered me with one wing and gave me a slight nuzzle. "We all make mistakes. Things don't work out the way we want. Even when we think we planned for everything so carefully. I'll admit, I did look a bit incriminating, I've been so stressed recently. My wedding is coming up and it's making me nervous, I know you can understand that. But the important thing is that we don't repeat those mistakes, and make up for them. How about we do it right this time? A second chance doesn't always come. We should always take full advantage of one if we get one. You really are sorry Twilight?"

"Yes!" I said pressing myself close to her, closing my eyes.

"Want my help in making up for it?"

"Y-your help?" I whispered. My heart nearly skipped a beat. I had hurt her and she was offering HER HELP? After everything? I had been just a paranoid mess.

"Yes dear. Would you like it?" She gave me another muzzle and returned it.

"Yes!"

"Want to help me make sure things go right this time?"

"Now and for forever." I pressed myself against her neck. She gently laid her horn against mine, and I felt her familiar magic mingle with mine.

"Then just listen to Her Majesty," my light in the dark whispered.

"Yes," I said, and everything became crystal clear, all the pain went away, everything made sense, everything was so simply, I had been so blind. Nothing else mattered. Only Her Majesty mattered.

+++

The assembled ponies clapped and hugged upon Twilight and Princess Cadence's emergence, announcing the restoration of their friendship and bonds. Twilight Sparkle was now peachy keen.

"Are you sure you're well Twilight?" Princess Celestia asked, every vibration in her voice holding the deepest concern, "Nothing I said was intended to hurt you."

"It's perfectly fine Teacher," Twilight Sparkle smiled. "Everything worked out how it should in the end."

She nuzzled Cadence who affectionately nuzzled back.

"You'll have me back as your best mare BBBFF?" Twilight numbly asked her brother.

"If Cadence wants you back, then so do I," Shining Armor said as the two hugged.

"It's so sweet! Happy ending to the second season! About time too!" Pinkie Pie said, none present questioned what she meant.

"Trixie," Twilight said smiling at her friend.

"Yes Twilight Sparkle?"

"Thank you for showing me your illusion magic. It's been a wonderful addition to my spell list," said the purple eyed mare.

Trixie was a little confused but said, "Well, I borrowed teleportation from you, so I suppose we're even."

"I'm just relieved we can put this behind us," said Rarity looking very happy. "This is supposed to be a beautiful day. We shouldn't be tarnishing it. And happy to see we're all still together." She put a hoof over her heart, "We're a gift to each other, we shouldn't take it for granted."

Rainbow Dash said, surprisingly meek, "Hey, Twilight? I'm, I'm sorry I couldn't help you there. No, seriously, I'm sorry. I can cover your flanks in a fight, but when you're hurt I can't do a thing. I'm sorry. Please, I'm just sorry. Forgive me?"

"It's alright Rainbow Dash," Twilight said her smile never varying as she stared at her friend, "Everything worked out for the best in spite of me trying to mess everything up. Again. We're still all together and that's what happened."

"Twilight," Fluttershy spoke getting a bit close eyeing her, "You're not trying to force down any guilt or worry are you? It's alright. We all make mistakes. I'm sorry for how I acted. I'm the one who should apologize."

Cadence wrapped a wing around Twilight Sparkle, Cadence spoke. "It's perfectly fine Fluttershy. Twilight is alright. Things were almost completely ruined. We're all a little flushed."

Cadence released the wing hold as AJ, and Spike hugged Twilight, all three wearing the same smile. "Welcome ta the club girlfriend! Of the mares admitting they were stubborn club," AJ said the last part a little fast.

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Yes, welcome to our club.)

"Yes." Twilight grinned nodding up and down, feeling more happy than she could remember, "It is very good to help Her Majesty."

Episode 166: "Hope In Unexpected Places"

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Pony POV Series
Not The Wedding You Remember
Part 8

"You're fired."

Sometimes, Trixie wonders if fate simply likes to toy with Trixie for its own amusement. Trixie can speak in third-pony if she wants to!

But Trixie wonders if she can be happy if she wants to.

"Wha?..." Trixie's mouth became a hanger bay for parasprites. Her eyes were glued onto the pink princess and purple pony before her. Trixie wondered if this was what being made into glue felt like.

"It's nothing personal Trixie," Twilight Sparkle said, her smiling never wavering as she spoke softly and warmly like she was addressing a filly.

"It's just Twilight has informed me of your history, and after a calm discussion between us, we've decided it would be best if you were to leave Canterlot at once. You will be provided special permission to leave. A special escort hoof-picked by myself will be waiting at the train-station to take care of you. We shall be forwarding your severance pay to your family in Hoofington with my condolences."

"B-but why!" Trixie couldn't keep her voice from cracking. Please no. "You invited me here!"

"Yes. But a showpony of your...caliber will be just embarrassing at a royal wedding. I'm sorry, I apologize, that was cruel. I don't mean to hurt you. Your are special and good in your own way like any pony." Stop it.

"The truth is Trixie," Twilight's didn't stop smiling at me. "That's what will be officially told, for your sake. It would be rather risky to have the back-up Element of Magic here in Canterlot during these dangerous times. Her Majesty didn't count on me being here after all. She was so nervous about meeting me that she forgot to send the invites to me and my friends, others had to do it for her. And Trixie, this is really for your own good."

"How...How is THIS for Trixie's own good?!" I cried out. Please don't do this to me!

"Oh Trixie," Twilight said putting a hoof on my shoulder. "Remember who you are. I know you thought this might be able to get your hoof in the door, but do you think ponies would ever let their foal be entertained by a fraud and liar? Might corrupt them. You were infected by Discord's evil longer than anypony." She leaned in and whispered the next part, "And of course you had an unidentified evil spirit lurking in you." She leaned back, "And your actions directly led to the demolition of Ponyville. You've spread lies across half of Equestria." I never though Twilight's touch would make me shiver. "Your mother slaughtered an innocent familiar as a filly. A pony with your dark and troubled past might not look good for Cadence, and it might stir up trouble among the noble for her hiring a criminal and put you in danger."

"Criminal!? I've never spent a day in a dungeon!"

"Now now Trixie, after all the trouble and misery you've caused, did you really think you could just escape everything you've done? That you could be considered anything else? I'm just taking care of you. Like I always do."

I pulled away from Twilight's touch like it was a branding iron.

"Twilight! Please! I...I...This was my big break! It was my chance to finally show Canterlot that I am a great showpony! That the One And Only Trixie is worth their time!"

She nuzzled me. Like I was a foal having a tantrum.

"It's alright Trixie. You'll always be Great and Powerful to me.

It doesn't matter that Element of Magic in you is a test-run fake imitation."

"Twilight, stop, please," Trixie whispered, gritting teeth.

"Shuuuuush. It's alright Trixie," Twilight whispered nuzzling me again, gently stroking my mane, "It's doesn't matter all you're good for is momentarily entertaining ponies with worthless cheap cantrips. It doesn't matter that you're the most useless unicorn in Equestria. It doesn't matter you've been nothing and will always be nothing. It doesn't matter you're incompetent at anything but lying to idiots and humiliating innocent ponies. None of those things matter. Because we're friends. And we all care about you. This is just all too dangerous for a little pony like you."

I don't remember when I started crying. Trixie didn't try to hide it. Trixie didn't deny it. If Trixie was going to be treated like a foal, maybe she should just cry like one.

Who invented the stupid rule that said adults weren't allowed to cry?

I wanted this to be another nightmare, another horrible dream with some evil spirit of magic necklace wanting me to sell them my soul! Wake up Trixie! Why can't I wake up!?

Trixie couldn't take it anymore. She ran from the royal office.


I gently placed my hoof on my property's little dark mane, her staring smile not so much as twitching.

"Excellent." I grinned after the showmare was gone.

I noticed my Twilight Sparkle doll's eyes were looking a little wet. Heh.

+++

Please, help me. I have to escape. I have to get out of here. There's no telling what that witch is going to do to Shining! To my friends! To my family!

She's going to conquer Canterlot and then Equestria? YOU HAVE TO--- w-what do you mean nopony is coming? Nopony is going to save me? Nopony is ever going to know I was ever down here? I have no chance of getting out of here? There is no escape?

SHE DID WHAT TO TWILIGHT?! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! I'LL ESCAPE NO MATTER-AGH! . . .

. . .

I won't give up! I'm the only chance they have left! I have to get out! You won't stop-AAAAAAAAAGGGGHHH!!!!!!!!!

Twilight, Shining, mom, dad, Aunties, Minuette, Twinkle...I'm sorry...I tried.

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Tried. And failed.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn) Supplementary: Cadence. I beg you. Forgive me.)

+++++

I couldn't get over how wonderful I felt today! I was Her Majesty's little songbird after all! I didn't need to think about a single thing! I just did whatever she told me! It was just a great feeling! I hope Scootaloo and Applebloom and Rarity and our parents would get to experience it like I am!

Today was going to be perfect. Like the day she's dreamed of since she was small. But it was a surprise. So I needed to keep it all my little secret! I was gonna help Her Majesty make her day perfect! Just like Rarity always wanted to do with all those noble ponies! I bet she was gonna be so proud of me! But if she wasn't, that was okay too...it...it was okay, because her Majesty said so. And if Her Majesty said so, it was!

How had I ever gotten along without Her Majesty?

Why is Her Majesty so good? Because she's Her Majesty, what a silly question, you're silly!

It's a lot like what I felt with Princess Gaia...I feel like I'm with a family I didn't even know I had. Like I've known her before I met her! Oh well, doesn't matter. Only Her Majesty matters.

"Sweetie Belle are ya okay? Ya've been actin' a little...funny."

"How Applebloom?" I asked as we finished having donuts delivered to our room by Arcane Spell to us straight from Pony Joe, we were personal guests at the castle after all!

"Well...ya just seem like yer having a great dream while yer awake."

"Did you meet somepony?" Silver Spoon asked (she had snuck to our room after we invited her).

"Yes." I nodded. I gasped and covered my mouth. "But it's a SEEECRET. I pinkie promised."

"Ah." Applebloom knew that was that. "So when can we meet yer new friend?" She asked excited.

"Are they a blank flank?" Scootaloo asked.

"That's a secret too! Don't worry, you already have, I'm sure she'll have time for you later." I said, I couldn't risk saying much more without giving Her Majesty away. But it was so fun to have a secret!

Her Majesty is the best...so why does she remind me of when I was Gabby Gums? Oh well, doesn't matter.

"You got to spend time with Princess Cadence by yourself?" Silver Spoon asked. "When?"

"Last night." I stared in shock. "But-but-"

"You said 'she' would have lots of time after the wedding, it wasn't hard to guess."

"Please please don't tell Her Majesty I told! She'd so upset with me!"

"Don't worry Sweetie Belle, our lips are sealed, right?" Applebloom looked around, and my other two friends nodded.

"Thanks!" I gave them a hug, they hugged back. "You girls are the best!" Wait, wasn't Her Majesty the best? Oh well, doesn't matter.

But I kept feeling this 'dark chill.' When I'd look in the mirror, or look outside the balcony, or turn my head in a hallway, ever since coming to Canterlot, I felt like there was somepony there, or like there was no-pony-there-who-was-there. That made my head hurt.

Like I said before, it hadn't started until we came to Canterlot...maybe I should sleep with my dream-catcher after all. Blech! Now Rarity was making me worry!

After she saw how well I did helping Her Majesty's wedding, I know she'd know she could trust me.

I just wish I knew why I dreamed last night about cradling a crying Silver Spoon while wearing a crown telling her she'd always be my best friend and mom was hang-gliding and dad owned Barnyard Bargains.

I wish Her Majesty would let me think more. Because Silver Spoon while holding a free teddy bear that came with the room was whispered:

"Tiara...everything's forgiven, just come home."


"Hey! Haven't I seen you somewhere before?" Your pie with the pink asked!

"Um...I'm not sure...My name is Garnet."

"Yeah that's right! It was at a rock farmers market! We were both fillies!"

"...You REMEMBER that?!"

"Yeah, I've got a REALLY good, I mean REALLY good memory for ponies!"

"It would appear so...oh! Wait! You were with the more traditionalist farmers, right?"

"Yeah! That's me! See! You've got a good memory too!"

"Well, it's not that difficult to remember a pink filly at a rock farmer's market."

"Yeah, I get that a lot. My name is Pinkamenia Diane Pie! But you can call be Pinkie Pie! Or Pinkie Diane, I go by both. Glad to meet you!"

"Wait...Pinkie Pie? As in the Element of Laughter?"

"Yep! Finally somepony knows!"

"I'm in the squad of your best friend's big brother, it'd be difficult for me NOT to know about that. The Captain and the Princess nearly fainted hearing about it."

"Yeah, my mom says that's about how she and dad reacted to. So, Garnet, how's rock farming in...Yorkshire, right?"

"Um, Esto Gaza, actually, it's in Yorkshire, and you really do have a good memory. As for rock farming, it's going pretty well. Some new developments seem to be helping."

"Are they super secret ones or can you talk about them? My parents are kinda old school, but they're still willing to work in new things. It could help them out."

"Oh, I can talk about them, they're not secret. And sure helping ponies is my job."

+++

Well, nice to meet you. I'm Lyra Heartstrings, but please just call me Lyra. You interviewed me on the train remember? Nice to see you here in Canterlot!

I'm your average unicorn. My bestest best special pony friend in the whole wide world is Bon Bon, I promise you'll never meet another pony like her, oh there's her twin Moth, but they don't act alike like twins do in plays.

My special talent is music, in particular harps and other string-instruments.

Yes I'm a human enthusiast, I'm sure they're real, or at least were real. I know ponies like Twilight Sparkle brushed it off as superstition, but a bunch of old text refer to them like they were real living beings, and all myths have some grain of truth right? So I guess I was surprised when Twilight and Applejack of all ponies showed at Lickety Split's story telling get-togethers.

I actually spent a while looking for the rainbow bridge that's supposed to connect our two worlds but came up zilch, there's also supposed to be a magic mirror, but a kick to the flanks from Bon Bon stopped me from always asking 'is your mirror a portal to another universe?' of everypony I've met.

Oh, and there's the cute little foal in Ponyville: Tootsie Flute, BonBon and I take care of her together. She's a fair weather friend to a lot of foals, but we're trying to encourage her to build more lasting friendships. She didn't have much luck on Hearts and Hooves Day, but she was surprised her new favorite Superhero was four ponies in one! And we've trusted Sparkler to look after her more than once. "That means they can do four times as much good!"

Yes I'm a Ponyvillian, but Rarity's not the only unicorn who feels they fit in more in Canterlot than in Ponyville. And it's not just about all the unicorns here, Ponyville's tastes in music...aren't really into the kind of stuff I play.

So is it any surprise of how much time I spend in Canterlot? I already told you how I've got some good friends here, and I'm about to be part of the greatest celebration in Canterlot history!

I put Moth in charge of the camera for Tootsie to have some pictures. I guess I've always been the mover and shaker of our little family.

I didn't give Moth the camera just so she'd be encouraged to do more than tag along for the ride.

Moth once told us she had a nightmare where everypony was ignoring her, and us saying she was dead even thought she was right in front of us. She could anywhere, but none of it matter since she was as good as a ghost.

I actually had a nightmare like that once too, everypony I talked to forgot I existed after they finished talking to me, and every proof that I existed turned blank, then I lost my cutie mark and forgot who I was.

These photos, they're part of the proof we were here, that we exist, nopony deserves to just be 'incidental unicorn #2.' So yeah, I know where Moth is coming from. And looking just like her sister, I think Moth needs to assert her identity more.

We arrived where I was supposed to be picked up for a hello with Princess Cadence herself to become one of her bridesmaids. Except...there was just Twinkle Shine and Minuette . . .

They had been crying.

I looked into those blue eyes of theirs, yes I said blue, what did you expect pokadots? I had never seen them look so crushed.

I reminded me of that letter they sent me about losing somepony they both cared about deeply. An acrobat who had been a fellow hoof maiden.

Bonbon and Moth were aghast at the sight of them, I was left doing the talking.

They looked ready to start crying again right there.

Of course I asked them what was wrong! They're my friends!

"L-Lyra." Gasped Twinkle Shine. "I'm sorry, I couldn't get a new letter to you."

"Twinkle, you're not making sense."

"Lyra," Minutte said, her voice was way too even, "It looks like you won't get to serve as a bridesmaid for Princess Cadence after all."

I felt my heart cracked but managed to smile, "Well, if you found somepony else, I guess that's the way the string breaks."

"No," Minutte said like she was holding everything back with a giant dam, "The Princess, she fired us."

"WHAT?!" Nearby ponies looked at me for a few seconds then went about their business. "What do you MEAN she fired you?! For what?!"

"She said we didn't deserve to be her bridesmaids or hoof-maidens, that we weren't any good to her. She said the only reason we wanted to be her hoofmaidens to begin with was to meet Canterlot Royalty....She...she said that she was sick of being surrounded by brown-nosers. That we were..."

"That we've spent the last two years proving that we're no good," Twinkle Shine whispered, neither of them looking me in the eye. "That if we were her bridesmaids, that we've proven useless."

I stood up on my hind legs and put my forehooves on my hips not caring who stared.

"Twinkle Shine! Minuette! What happened to the makers and the doers I know so well?"

"She got a full course meal of the world outside of Equestria," Minuette mumbled.

"She couldn't protect one friend," Twinkle Shine finished. "She realized she was a nopony pretending to be somepony."

Okay. Enough was too much!

I took them both by the forehoof. They startled as I dragged them along. "Okay! Stop! Just stop! I didn't wait all this time to see you girls again to see you hurting like this! Everything you say Cadence told you sounds like a stupid excuse! Bon Bon, Moth, come on! We're going straight to the top about this! We're going to go and get this sorted out right now!"

+++

"And stay out!" The Captain of the Royal Guard snapped at us we were thrown out on our flanks. Technically Minuette and Twinkle Shine landed on their flanks, the twins landed on their bellies, while I landed softly in the pile of mares upside down with my horn stuck in the ground.

"Hey! What gives!" I snapped, carefully pulling my horn out of the ground. "I demand to speak with your superior!"

Bon Bon is normally the pony who gives others a piece of her mind. Or Twinkle Shine...or not me. So it was weird role reversal.

He ignored me and spoke to my friends. "You have proven you are of no use to Her Majesty and therefore you are terminated. Your severance pay is in the mail. If you have any further complaints, feel free to waste the courts' time." The captain of the guard said with a face that was the opposite of welcoming.

Me standing up for them I think ignited some of Twinkle Shine's normal self, cause she said, "What about Moondancer?!"

"What about her?"

"TALK TO HER SHINING! She KNOWS we didn't sign up to be Cadence's hoofmaidens just to meet royalty and not just so we'd get any 'favors' from her!"

"You are no longer privileged to address me by name. You will not do that again. Understood? She is now on Cadence's staff. And if any of you are caught interacting with any of the staff connected to the wedding before the day after its conclusion, you are going to the dungeon for trespassing, disturbing the peace, harassment, and breaching Canterlot security! Have a nice day." The doubles doors slammed shut in our faces.

We stood there in silence, still in the pony pile with the guards just standing on either side of the doors like statues.

Something didn't feel right...this wasn't the stallion Minny and Twinkle had talked about in their letters...at all.

"Oh, I'm Bon Bon by the way, that's with a space in the middle, and this my sister Moth." We exchanged greetings and get-to-know-yous all around still cluttered in the pile on the front steps for all on the busy city street to see.

"Nice to meet you Bon Bon, and your sister? I never would have guessed. Lyra's written a lot about you. Have we met somewhere before?" Twinkle Shine asked.

"Maybe. I get around a lot. Did Lyra ever write about when I visited Applebloosa?"

Then some pegasus guard walked out of the castle with a broken leg. He mumbled something about going to the infirmary.

"What happened?" Asked one of the royal guards. They might have been royal guards but this is still Equestria.

"Just had an accident while delivering a message to Her Majesty."

"No offense but with the way you fly I'm not surprised. Stop being so reckless dude."

"Sorry," he apologized.

"Hey dude, you did nothing wrong, except for the whole crash thing. Take care ya hear?"

"...Sure. Thanks."

"No prob Bumblebee."

Moth's eyes widened and fear and turned quickly to look at us. "Everypony! I have a real bad feeling! If a wedding this important has this much security that MUST MEAN it's going to attract trouble somehow! You know, like the Summer Sun Celebration attracting Nightmare Moon! Let's get back to Ponyville!!! Minuette, Twinkle Shine, I'm sure you can bunk with us for in the mean time! I'm sure we'll be able to work everything out once the wedding is over and the new security is gone! I hear Appleloosa is nice this time of year! Maybe we can all take a trip there! Or maybe the Griffin Kingdom, I hear they're actually really nice to ponies!"

"Whoa whoa whoa Moth, calm down. Don't start panicking now," I said to the poor mare.

"Girls! I really do think we should get out of Canterlot and just wait for things to cool off!" Moth sounded like she was begging now. "I'm sure Tootsie will love a trip herself! Come on! I'll go buy the tickets right now!"

"Moth! Wait!" Bon Bon shouted as she took like a shot. That injured guard? Oh he already left. No we hadn't said her name yet before he left, what does that matter?

We caught up to Moth but, "What do you mean in lock-down?!" Moth looked like she was going to start crying now.

"Just what I said, that train you were on was the last one. Unless you have exclusive permission from a Princess, you aren't going anywhere until after the wedding," said the unicorn inside the ticket-booth.

"No." Moth slid down on the floor.

"Sis', what's wrong?"

"N-nothing, absolutely, n-nothing. I-I'm sure everything will turn out alright. It's, it's not like it's the end of Equestria or anything."

"Is this about that hurt guard?" Bon Bon asked, "He said he got hurt flying. Canterlot wasn't really built with pegasi in mind, it's no wonder he got hurt if he was flying like crazy. He wasn't attacked by some monster inside the city."

"Don't worry," Twinkle Shine said, "All this 'threat to Canterlot' nonsense is just rumors being taken way too seriously. Nothing is going to happen."

"Trust me," Minuette spoke up. "I know how out of control a little fear and some vague unknown threat can make ponies act crazy."

Moth didn't look that convinced. I shook my head. We had more important things to think about than some induced mass hysteria. I nuzzled her and so did Bon Bon, she calmed down some.

"Don't worry Moth, whatever happens, your herd's here," Bon Bon said warmly.

"Thank you," she whispered.

And no, we weren't going to take this brush off lying down! I just needed to figure out what we were actually going to do about it.

The three of us ended up staying at a hotel. This was gonna be pricey. I had been expecting free royal accommodations. That wasn't happening now.

Moth at least was taking pictures like Canterlot was going to be gone in the morning. Moth got up in the middle of the night (a three bedroom room was cheaper). I was still brain storming and couldn't sleep. I could barely hear something in the still of the Canterlot night (this wasn't Manehatten, the city that never slept). But Moth stood at the window looking like she was looking at one of the Princesses, maybe she caught a glimpse of Princess Luna outside? When the song I could barely hear faded, Moth wandered back to bed. I didn't ask her what was going on.

But hearing that tiny faint song, it hit me like a ton of bricks what I could do. And I explained my brilliant plan to my coconspirators in the morning (we paid for breakfast, Minuette and Twinkle Shine were the ones out of a job...did I think about becoming Cadence's hoofmaiden too? A little, it was super tempting. But it didn't seem Bon Bon's style, and Cadence had gone on a freaky two year world trip. I didn't want to be separated from my friends for that long. Or from our foal. Buuuut . . . maybe Cadence wouldn't have one of those again now that she's gonna be a married mare?

Oh my cunning plan? Well. It so happened that Canterlot musicians tend to be a close knit bunch. So I knew who had been hired to do the music. A certain classical band led by an ex-rock farmer, and one DJ P0N-3.

"The guards said we'd be facing dungeon time if we tried to speak with anypony involved in the wedding!" Moth warned, she sounded terrified. I admit I was scared too, but it wasn't like they were going to banish us. Or imprison us in the place they banished us to.

"Don't worry!" I declared, "This is where my cunning plan comes in!"

"I'm not dressing as a stallion again Lyra," Bon Bon deadpanned.

"No no no!" I waved my hooves. "This is a GOOD plan!"

And I happened to know a song Octavia had personally composed, not all that imaginative titled 'I am Octavia.' If there was any song that would lure her out of the castle and away from the prying eyes of guards, it was this baby. And I know where she gets in practice before a big show, and they don't come bigger than this!

Twinkle Shine offered to 'change' my colors for a bit with her light magic. Colors are just reflected light after all. After being accidentally turned into a pegasus, an earth pony, and a seapony (sadly never human, I think), this wasn't the weirdest thing to ever happen to me.

Moth had given me a lot of funny looks after my adventures with accidental pony-type change.

To hide my cutie mark and blend in a little more, Twinkle Shine loaned us some of her dresses.

Did it work? Well, we're not having this chat inside the castle dungeon are we?

"Lyra? Is that you?"

"Shhhush! Not so loud!"

"What is this? What's going on?"

"Don't trust her 'Tavi!" Shouted Vinyl Scratch popped out of the bushes with a magically powered boom-speaker aimed at my head. "She's a pod-pony! She lured you out of the castle infect you with their spores!"

Octy rolled her eyes. "Vinyl, I told you not to read that trashy horror novel before going to bed."

I was trying not to have a heart attack.

"Hey! It's no more crazy than when you thought I was a vampire!"

"Well you don't like garlic, you slept during the day and worked at night and-"

"And for the last time I swear to Princess Celestia, I am not a vampire, that was punch, NOT blood, or blood-punch, or bloody-punch or blood-wine or-"

On the plus side ponies were giving us lots of room now.

"And she could still be a-" The white unicorn started again.

"Vinyl, not now . . ." She then whispered, "Lyra. What's so important you have to lure me out and speak with me in disguise."

I cut to the chase. She looked at me very confused and responded, "That has to be the most insane restraining order I've ever heard. And I've seen plenty given to Vinyl."

"Hey! Those restraints are only on how loud I can play music! Which is a violation of free expression by the way!"

She ignored her friend. "But that's not the ridiculous part. Moondancer isn't even on the wedding staff."

"What?!" I whispered, "But that makes no sense! Are you sure?"

"Lyra, one of Cadence's new bridesmaids is my sister. And she loves to talk with others. Moondancer is not a bridesmaid."

"Could she be another part?"

"If she is, then it would be top secret, since I haven't seen her near or around the wedding preparation at all!"

"I haven't either. We're talking about that red-head white unicorn right?" Our DJ added her two bits.

Alright. If Moondancer wasn't part of the wedding. That meant they couldn't arrest our flanks for whatever. I thanked the musicians and made them Pinkie Swear not to tell anypony about our chat. Octavia took that strangely serious for some reason.

Unfortunately, as I departed, I nearly ran smack dab into a white coated Earth Pony with rather fancy hat on. I got a little nervous she'd noticed something.

"Uh...sorry about that..." I noticed her cutie mark was a spiderweb. Huh? What color were her eyes? I didn't really notice, she was wearing sunglasses. "Uh...how long have you been standing there?"

"Oh, only a few seconds. I want so to see the wedding, but the castle seems to be impossible to get into without a reservation."

"Tell me about it. We've been trying to get in all day. It's annoying."

"Agreed, especially when you know a member of the wedding party. Oh well, I hope things go better for you than they did for me, Miss..."

"Lyra Heartstrings..."

"Ah, good to meet you, Miss Heartstrings, my name is Cobweb. I wish you luck."

"Thanks."

"Oh! And Miss Heartstrings?"

I sighed, turning around as I got ready to leave. "Yeah?"

"I suggest keeping an eye out for yourself, things might not be as they seem. Keep an eye out for green-eyed monsters. Don't want to ruin what's planned for the wedding."

I admit, that creeped me out, but I didn't have time to think about it!

When I got back to the hotel Twinkle Shine and Minuette were even MORE CONFUSED!

"But if she's not part of wedding, then why would...nothing makes sense anymore." Minuette lamented laying her head on the table. I didn't blame her.

"Come on!" Twinkle Shine said, "I want answers. If Cadence fired us out of the blue, and then tells us to stay away from Moondancer for a fake reason, then I want to know why."

"Technically it was the captain of the guard who said all that. Maybe he has something to do with it?" Moth suggested.

"That makes as much sense as Cadence: zero. Shining is the most decent and honorable stallion you can find. Something bigger is going on, and I wanna know what! Let's pay a visit to Moondancer, whose with me?"

We all were.

There were no guards around the apartments the students of Celestia's school called home. You think with all the drama there would be some. Guess we wouldn't be needing the giant birthday cake after all.

When we got inside, two of us knew Moondancer's room number by heart.

We knocked on the door and called, but there was no answer.

Bon Bon tested the door.

It wasn't locked.

Moth inched around like she was expecting to be ambushed any second. I admit things were looking weird, but not 'evil conspiracy weird'... for the next few seconds.

Moondancer was curled up in bed. She looked horribly sick.

"She has the plague! We gotta get-" Minuette stopped Bon Bon from leaving.

"Then the door would have been locked or she'd be in quarantine."

"Uh, good point."

I let Twinkle Shine and Minuette get closer, being better friends with Moondancer than me.

She was talking in her sleep. "H-Her M-Masjesty...S-Spike I-I'm s-sorry. N-no MORE. P-please n-no more. I-I'll be g-good. I-I'll DO AS I'm told. I'll be a GOOD PONY. No! PLEASE d-don't h-hurt them!"

Girl was delirious. She opened her eyes.

"Since when are Moondancer's eyes green?" I heard myself say. Green eyes? Where had I heard that before?

"It's not her?" Bon Bon asked.


Her...Her Majesty? Not Master? ...but that means...

Rosedust, she's here?! She's leading this herself?! The Queen is in Canterlot?! I never thought she'd risk herself like this! It's worse than I thought! And if it's her...if it's Her Majesty...We're...we're doomed...

But...Bon Bon, Lyra, Tootsie...They're my swarm now...they're my hive...A Changeling must protect their hive...


"No, she's under a geass," Moth said.

"Y-You're all HERE. N-No you're NOT! It's a lie! D-Don't take their shapes you MONSTERS!"

Moth looked ready to cry! "She doesn't mean it." Bon Bon whispered.

"I'll O-OBEY! I-I'll obey Her M-Majesty. Who shall I betray f-for HER next? I have a family if you wish."

Moth actually had some tears in her eyes at that.

Minuette looked like she was remembering a horrible nightmare, then a pang of guilt on her face. "It's horrid."

"We need to get a doctor!" Twinkle Shine said.

"NO!" Moth said.

We all looked at her. "We...if she's here because the geass is breaking down...what if The Princess or The Captain are under it too? We need to free her first."

"Can you do it?" I asked the sane mage unicorn in the room.

"If she's suffering like this, that means the spell either is indeed breaking down, or hasn't finished taking full control over her yet. But if the door isn't locked. That means they're not worried about her escaping or being found....Which means we could be in deep deep trouble." It was Mineutte who spoke, and her eyes went wide. She quickly shut the door and locked it and latched the window closed and pulled closed the curtains. "Okay. We need to either leave her, or fix her fast! No way whoever did this would leave a loose end just laying around!"

We all stared at her.

"Come on everypony think!" She pleaded.

"G-Go get away! C-Come closer! Her Majesty wants it all! J-just r-relax! Don't hurt them! I'LL OBEY!"

"Moondancer," Twinkle Shine said, showing her gently side, she hugged the sweaty dirty brainwashed mare. "Please. We're all right here. I'm right here." Moondancer continued to writhe in her hug.

Minuette resisted for a moment, then joined in the hug too. "I promise I'm going to help."

"I'll save you, I promise," Twinkle Shine whispered.

Moondancer's squirming began to get worse but they weren't breaking off. This didn't look like a good idea.

Looks can be deceiving.

Their three horns touched hers. A spark went off.

Moondancer gasped open, and the greenness in her eyes vaporized, like filth being washed away in the rain. She fell back on the bed totally limps. The girls finally let go.

Moondancer began crying, moving her hooves like she needed to reassure herself they were hers. "Celestia, I...I remember everything." She looked at Minuette and Twinkle Shine. "T-Thank you. Thank you so much."

"Moondancer, who did his to you?" Minuette asked.

"Her Majesty..." She hugged herself shivering. "She who rules from the shadows! She has waited and planned for this day, like how a spider spins their web."

"Moondancer, who is she?" Bon Bon begged.

"Not Cadence!" She managed to gasp out.

We all looked at each other. Everything was slowly making horrible horrible sense!

"What time is it?!" We told her. "Oh no! They'll have started!"

"Who?!" Minuette implied.

"Let me introduce them to my horn!" Normal Twinkle Shine outright said it.

"Those who harvest love as we would hay. Those who see ponies as much people as we would wheat stocks."

There was a banging on the door. "Open in the name of Her Majesty!"

Moondancer sprang up in bed. "HIDE! Twinkle Shine! C-can you make my eyes green?"

"Y-yes I think-"

"Doit!"

And the green eyes were back. -Green-eyed monster! Cobweb! Was she like Moondancer?- She opened the door.

"You're late. Her Majesty wishes her personal slaves to be present for the claiming of her new husband. Come."

"I have been ordered by Her Majesty to aid her in a way that I am not permitted to share with grunts. For now I am ordered to remain here."

I FEEL whoever was out there narrowing their eyes at her.

"Lift a leg off the ground." Moondancer did so.

"Heh. Lift a leg off the ground." Balancing on two.

"Lift a leg off the ground." One.

"Lift a leg off the ground." She fell to the floor.

Laughter and they closed the door behind them.

Moondancer looked disgusted at herself.

"SLAVE?!" Bon Bon gasped.

"That's actually rather generous, instead of simply saying 'livestock,'" Moondancer sighed. "If we run right now, I think I might be able to bluff us out of the city, maybe."

"MOONDANCER!" Twinkle Shine snapped. "What about Princess Cadence?! The real Cadence?"

"She...she might not even still be alive."

That was the most horrible thing we heard all day. Twinkle Shines eyes misted up a little. "You said 'might'! So she might be! So I'm saying she's still okay! I took an oath to be there for her, I might not be a guard but she's still my Princess!"

Mineutte nodded the same.

"They're going to invade Canterlot! Today!"

"Then we need to warn Princess Celestia and everypony!" Minuette said.

"You don't understand, Her Majesty said a lot in front of me. The invasion, if it hadn't already started, is just about to."

Two panic filled screams filled the air from the hallway.

I dared open the door before Twinkle Shine could.

Two big bugs fled in terror down the hallway paying absolutely nothing mind but retreat.

"RAWR!!!" A lemon mouthlessly snarled as it chased them.

Let me rephrase that: a lemon larger than a stallion with rubber hose like arms and legs came rampaging down the hall.

The two bugs smashed a window open and flew out.

"HOW'S THAT FOR AN ANGRY MOTHER LEMON?!" A familiar yellow unicorn with blue eyes and mane shouted. Her cutie mark was two blue and one green liquid-like hearts. She blinked and turned her head noticing us. "Hey girls, wasn't gonna goin' ta the weddin' cause Cadence fired you, what up?" Lemon Hearts asked.

Episode 167: "White Knight?"

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Why am I not at my cousin's wedding? Erm. Well...

I didn't get an invitation.

No. I couldn't find that less suspicious.

I have a long history of being 'swept under the rug' for events that seemed to hold emotional importance to my auntie or cousin.

It's felt like any time something didn't involve Canterlot nobles playing their games, and was 'actually important', I just happened to be on a voyage or serving as a diplomat. You're wondering how come I haven't started any wars with my, erm, winning personality?

You'd be surprised how doing the dance with nobles and being a diplomat have in common. Everything is about saying one thing and meaning another, acting like somepony's best friend even if you hate each other guts, and acting generous when you're always putting your own interests first.

Yes, we've gone over that, I treated Miss Rarity as a servant because she wasn't nobility, but I know how to behave around ponies who would start a war over getting their grandfather's name wrong. Trust me, wars have been started for equally stupid things.

Yes I was present at the Elements window unveiling, in the back row, placed conveniently near the exit.

Sometimes I felt like a prop being put aside whenever the scenery didn't call for me. I simply told myself those events were unworthy of my attendance. I imagine many now thought the same thing but for opposite reasons.

So no. Not getting a wedding invite from the cousin who slapped me and called me filth when we were foals is not that surprising.

A pity. I sure Arcane Spell would have liked to attend. Yes yes, I am fully aware of the irony, the first pony in so long I care about besides myself and treat like a friend instead of a servant is a servant, thank you very much! Her father is actually doing better by the way.

Well, if I wasn't wanted, far be it from me to break tradition. Yes. Maybe I do have something in my eye. Do you know what it's like to realize that you just might have messed up very badly, and when you try to make it for it, just a little, to those you wish would notice, you might as well have done absolutely nothing different at all?

Then, when you try to address what you did wrong, they see through glasses telling them it's just more proof that you're a bad pony.

Yes I was hurt by what Cadence had said to me, and the Element cheering for her when she did. Maybe some things were never meant to change.

Wasn't one of the many joke at my expense that a judge had declared nopony cared about what I thought or said until the end of time?

Maybe this was just the role I was meant to play. I didn't have any other reason to exist other than to be the 'royal annoyance' for Auntie to sic on nobles that agitated her or to wake up innocent wide-eyed mares from their delusions. Maybe I couldn't escape my destiny as a prop anymore than I could become an Alicorn.

"Blueblood, what's wrong?" I looked up from the coffee table to see Arcane Spell wearing the dress I had given her, only care on her face.

Well, maybe to one pony what I did mattered.

+

I'd, I'd rather not go into details on what happened next please. I tried to hide what happened. Unfortunately, I don't have Auntie's poker face. She noticed I was uncharacteristically un-chatty, and besides she wanted to know why I had been crying. Truth be told I was feeling too tired to come up with a polite enough lie. She wanted to talk to Cadence about it personally.

"Please Arcane, just don't. It won't change anything."

I didn't want her dragged into mistakes from before I ever met her as a friend. If she stood up for me, they wouldn't suddenly feel ashamed, they'd decide I must have simply manipulated and lied to her to trick her into standing up somepony as awful as me.

But she did ask me one thing.

"Blueblood, tell me the whole truth. Did you treat me to a night as a lady because I looked like Lady Rarity?"

"...I didn't even realize how your colors were similar that entire evening or the next day, or the day after that. I was thinking of how Miss Rarity's dresses work for you, but I still didn't connect your similar...pallets."

She nuzzled me. "I believe you."

I blinked. "What?"

"Blueblood, I asked you to show me what a jerk you are. You have. And that jerk is more interested in buying big boats than inventing elaborate back-hoofed revenge schemes." She gently stroked my mane.

Nopony reacted to a prince having a date in their cafe.

You know it's rather demeaning when you realize that ponies turn their heads at your cousin's presence but barely give you a glance. I've never had to go outside in disguise for a moment's peace in my life. No pony, seemed to care.

Well, there was one now. She wasn't the world's most beautiful mare, she wasn't the most talented, the most gracious, the most brilliant, the kindest, and couldn't hold her salt, but she was somepony who cared. And that meant something for me now.

She was somepony who was willing to listen. She was somepony willing to be there for me. She was somepony who didn't mind that I wasn't their perfect fairytale prince. She was willing to do work that nobles would die before doing for the sake of her family. It didn't matter if it had to do with her special talent or not. She absorbed the rules like a sponge and learned how to play the nobles' game, but didn't let her real self be suffocated underneath. She had a real self underneath. And I hadn't ruined our first true meeting by treating her like dirt.

After I spent more time with her, I begin to feel a lightness in my chest, a brightness in my brain, a feeling that things would be okay as long as she was nearby. I thought I was suffering a heart attack. I'm still not sure what it was.

Moron?! There's no need to be rude! What? It means I'm happy? I've been happy before! I've visited the the opera, I've cruised my new airships, I've attended countless parties. And...I had finally made a real friend.

Was I going to ask her to marry me? Maybe. Wouldn't be the first decisions I hadn't put much thought into.

I'll admit (rare enough for me), a part of me is scared. Am I so attracted to her because she can be just my yes-mare? Am I happy with friends? Do I want friends? Or do all I want is sycophants?

Yes I've been given praise and more praise by many a noble-pony, I am royalty after all, it's not like I don't deserve every single word of it in honor of my bloodline. There was just one tiny problem:

The one problem is knowing the rules of the game? You realize everything is platitudes. No I never tried connecting with the hired help before, no real friends, no siblings, two aunties who are always busy, just 'good friends' who materialize or melt away as the pecking order changes.

Why have I been with any other mare? Mostly because they were the most beautiful mare present so they'd made me look good by addition. Yes, that does mean I considered Miss Rarity to be the most beautiful mare at the Grand Galloping Gala.

Would I trade Arcane for a hundred nobles who can't stop telling me what a great stallion I am? No. Never.

I actually tried to get her appointed 'court mage' but I don't pull as much weight up the food-chain as I'd like to think, and Arcane Spell said she didn't want a job she hadn't finished fully qualifying for. Yes I obliged by her wishes. Yes I've given her a raise and bonuses, until she can get a job that has to actually do with her special talent. It just feels like, a waste for a mare whose talent wasn't even clean. That and her family needs the money...especially in light of recent events.

Oh? Why were we meeting at a cafe instead of a restaurant more expensive than a dentist bill? I wanted to, but she said she wanted something simpler to get away from the 'upper class games' we had been doing.

... Do I like her as a friend? Do I want her as a friend? Of course I do!...And she didn't just happily agree to something she didn't want to do. I guess you're right, she is no yes-mare, and yes-ponies are not what I truly want.

...

I decided to take her someplace special. Someplace important. Yes, I'll get on with it! I chose to take her on a tour of where I got my cutie mark! She didn't seem to care we were missing cousin Cadence's wedding. She was very surprised when I showed her some of the secret passages hidden through the castle. Still wish I could figure how to open the one in the entry hall Auntie thinks I don't know is there.

No need to push! I swear I'm getting there! Watch it! These stairs are more tricky than they look!

Yes. Most ponies have no idea these are even below the castle. These crystal mines have existed since before recorded history, they've been mined by countless ponies over the centuries, and have claimed countless ponies. As a foal I never appreciated the danger I was in down here. Don't worry! I know these caverns like the back of my hoof! Even if I didn't have my night visions spell I could still do these caverns blind folded.

Navigating this place is what earned me my cutie mark, there are some things you don't forget. Yes. Arcane trusted me completely. I was giving her a tour nopony had ever seen before.

If there is more to this crystal maze than what I know, then those are spots you can't reach unless you have a thousand years to wait for mother nature to shake things up.

Did I have a ring in a box to pop the question so it would be somewhere special instead of the 'ordinary' setting of Canterlot's beautiful buildings? Not telling.

Though I will say I sparkled inside when I saw her eyes sparkling at the sparkling jewels. Yes I knew a light spell, getting your horn to glow was easier than falling off a log. I've yet to meet a unicorn who could do magic without their horn glowing. Miss Rarity can? Oy.

Arcana calmly created some floating candle flames for herself. Blag! Maybe I should have told her what that did to night vision. Ow! My eyes.

Maybe it was the history of how many ponies had been lost down here that made this place extra special for her, there's a certain attraction to danger, the thrill of risk.

I knew every short cut. Every passage way. Maybe I was being idiotic, if something happened to us down here, heh, by the time they found our bones archeologists would be thinking we were some buried royal couple.

This day was going to be perfect
The kind of day of which I've dreamed since I was small

"Somepony singing?! Down here?!" Arcane Spell exclaimed before I could. "Who could it be?" She asked her guide, namely, me.

"I...I don't know." I said honestly.

There was something very familiar about it. Made me wish I had a better ear for music.

Did you have to ask if we followed it? We're still ponies.

With all the echoes you'd expect from this place, following it proved a lot easier than it should have. It was like the vibrations had a life of their own. Like they were leading us.

Everypony was to gather 'round
Saying I looked lovely in my gown
What they don't know is that she has fooled them all!

If it turned out to some ancient evil using a siren song to lure victims to release it from its eternal prison, at least we were likely to be eaten together or we'll have a nice tale share over tea of when we were turned into an evil overlord's brainwashed minions.

Yes I was scared. But I put on my best (not very good) brave face for Arcane. And I think both our curiosities would drive us mad if we didn't follow this song to its source.

"I know I've heard this voice before," she said.

We came to a dead end. But Arcane didn't hesitate to put her ear against a wall.

"She's on the other side," she said. Even I wasn't tone deaf enough to not tell the singer was a mare.

Time to put that see the see-through spell I use to watch under-class mares undress to good use.

"COUSIN!?" Impossible! She looked like Tartarus. This had to be some illusion or trick. But this was behind a solid crystal wall! What was the point of having an illusion behind that?! You didn't hide bait!

I'm sheltered, spoiled, cowardly, inconsiderate, and classist, I never said I was stupid.

"Who?!"

"Cadence!"

We could hear her, but she couldn't hear us.

"But she's at her wedding! It HAS to be a trick!"

"...Which would make it a very poor trick indeed."

She sighed agitated. "Fine. But if we're turned into dragons by the ghost of Tirek, I'm never speak to you again."

Arcane charged up her horn and fired! And left a small crack in the the crystal wall. I looked at her.

"I never said I was Twilight Sparkle." She blushed.

Arcane's horn glowed again and she began -drilling- through the crystal.

"That'll take years!" I exasperated.

"Don't count on it!" She hissed.

The spiral cone of magic around her horn eroded and broke. But the crack Arcana had made had become a hole, but it hadn't poked through to the other side yet. Arcana panted, and created another one. This one broke faster than the first one. She was right, she wasn't Twilight Sparkle, she didn't have the Alicorn-like reserves of mana that auntie's student did.

"Dear, stop."

"No."

"So you believe me?"

"When I start something I finish it Blueblood," She formed a third drill-spell one around her horn and tried again, grunting. I gently hold her, touching my horn to the base of hers. If she'd support me, I'd support her.

In that instant the crystal wall shattered into a million pieces. We both blinked in surprise. The Alicorn inside was looking just as astonished.

"P-Princess Cadence?" Arcane Spell stuttered.

I gingerly approached the mare, she did indeed look like she had just spent an all expenses paid vacation in the Black Pit of Coltcutta.

I inched closer, she leaned back, like a deer caught in the headlights.

I gently held her chin in one hoof. "Cousin? Is it really you?"

She slapped me.

"It's really you," I said.

"Wait! Why aren't you at your wedding?!" Arcane Spell asked.

She looked past me. "W-Who are you?"

"Arcane Spell, this is Cadence. Cadence, this is Arcane Spell. We're dating. Cadence what is going on?" I demanded ignoring my beautiful throbbing face.

"I'm not at my wedding because the Cadence getting married is an impostor!"

"How do we know you're not the impostor, or some back-up impostor?" Arcane Spell asked.

"Then it's the most stupid convoluted scheme in the history of stupid convoluted schemes and I've invented plenty!" I snapped.

Wait. So this meant. The Cadence who had told me how worthless I was yesterday was a fake? Small miracles.

"We don't have time for this, we have to stop her, Shining, Twilight, Auntie, they're all in danger!"

In less than a minute we were running, not like Tirek himself was after us, but like we had to catch up to him!

Cadenced explained more along the way. And she sang. It was a duet. The terrifying part was: I could almost hear the voice of the other Cadence, the same voice, but a completely different tone and inflection, the other voice was vicious.

I said I knew every short cut and passage way in these caverns, I hadn't been lying.

Cadence had no clue which way to go, her captor had apparently phased her through the floor into her cell. Given just enough air and water to keep her alive. This might be why I had to carry her more than once. Of course, why keep her alive after all? I considered what Arcane Spell said about a back up impostor, but that simply felt too insane to be true. Us coming here had been completely spur of the moment. I stopped myself before I began thinking of time travel and ESP and other such nonsense.

When we emerged back in the castle, Cadence didn't even waste a moment to enjoy Auntie's precious sunlight cousin hadn't seen in she didn't know how long except to cover her eyes to adjust to the bright light.

We made a beeline for the wedding hall.

Then we ran into two royal guards who were not looking all that friendly.

"Halt! No ponies that are not- You're Majesty!? What are you doing here?! Shouldn't you already be at the wedding?! Everything is set!"

"I am on my way now! Stand aside!" Cadence barked.

"Yes, Your Majesty," the two guards fell to their knees and covered their eyes.

We didn't stop to ask questions we just ran. This made me wish any three of us had bothered to learn how to teleport. Or did Arcane or Cadence know how? The wedding hall having an anti-teleport field around it wouldn't-YES YES I'M RUNNING I'M RUNNING!!!!

+++

Princess Celestia spoke happily as the ceremony concluded, "Princess Cadence and Shining Armor, it is my great pleasure to pronounce you mare and-"

"STOP!!!"

Rarity narrowed her eyes and growled at the intruder to the happy moment. 'Does that gelding have to try to ruin everypony's happiness?!'

"I...I object!" Blueblood shouted.

Princess Celestia did not look happy. "Nephew...what is the meaning of this?"

The fillies were wondering if the stallion was Princess Cadence's secret boyfriend. Silver Tongue felt ready to get rid of the brat if the guards wouldn't.

The Elements were feeling ready to politely tell Blueblood to turn around and leave and not show his face ever again in Canterlot. Pinkie Pie's right ear rung and her left ear twitched and her temples tingled. She had never felt that combo before.

Shining's four groomstallions were distracted from the groom's lack of reaction, along with the unresponsiveness of a few others in the room.

Starlight Sparkle wondered if this was what her horoscope meant by her son's wedding being 'full of bugs.' Moonshine Sparkle had a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach.

"Ignore him Auntie," the bride said irritably, "He just can't stand I'm marrying a guard."

"It's not the groom that's the problem, it's you, 'cousin.'"

"What? Why do you have to ruin my special day?!"

"Because it's not your special day! It's mine!" Another Cadence stepped in supported by a white unicorn. This Cadence was dirty, uncombed, and uncrowned.

'Uh-oh,' Sweetie Belle thought, laying her ears flat. 'Chryssy, I think we're in trouble.'

Episode 168: "Then All Tartarus Broke Loose"

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"Twins?" Pinkie Pie gasped.

Celestia's eyes widened at what she sensed, something only she could sense. 'They...they feel the same...but...that's impossible...'

The bride stood with her mouth hanging open. Her right eye twitched.

"This time. Bucked up. From low.
Because of a random nothing? NOO!"

A ball of green magic condensed into raw force fired from the bride's horn, aimed at either the dirty Cadence or Blueblood, none could tell, but the white unicorn mare summoned a shield spell that shattered on impact sending the mare out of the wedding hall so hard she bounced and skidded on the royal carpet.

Blueblood went to the downed mare's side, she was breathing, but not much else, he hoped he imagined the cracks in her horn.

Everypony's eyes were now on the bride who couldn't brush off what she had used as a harmless stun spell.

The dirty Cadence put herself between the bride and the couple then shouted. "She's a changeling. She takes the form of somepony you love and gains power by feeding off your love for them."

The bride's breath came in haggard gasps, her entire body shook with fury of a wild bull, her eyes were like an enraged beast's. A pillar of green fire exploded from her, the image of the bride Princess Cadenza slid away, the wedding dress burning off her.

When the flame cleared the mare could have been a black Alicorn, if you were blindingly drunk on salt. She had green dragon eyes and fangs. Her dragonfly-like wings, legs, blue mane, and horn all had holes like they were moth eaten, or decaying. Nopony could tell if the green on her back and wrapping on her stomach were regalia or a part of her body. A black crown with blue jewels similarly could either be a part of her or an ordainment.

'Rosedust, they're alive,' Princess Celestia thought.

Nearly all present gasped in horror at the sight.

"Not a changeling you brat! The Queen Of All Changelings! I. AM. CHRYSALIS! And you still being here changes nothing Cadence! My duty is to find my subjects food, and Equestria has more love than any other! And it all belongs to us."

"Not going to happen! Shining Armor's protection spell will keep your changelings from ever even reaching us!" Princess Cadence snapped.

Queen Chrysalis chuckled. "Oh little princess, what made you think my army was outside Canterlot?"

Cadence's eyes widened. "No," she whispered.

"This wedding was their signal to begin! I thank everypony here for cooperating with 'your' local royal guards! And the only reason I'm saying any of this, is because I already know there is nothing you can do about it."

"WANNA BET?!" Rainbow Dash snarled readying to cold start a Sonic-Rainbow to the changeling
s face, but got dragged down by a familiar tail bite by, "AJ! Not now! You heard the big bug!"

"Yeah Ah heard Her Madjesty, it's hopeless," Applejack said matter of fact.

"The Tartarus?! AJ!" RD didn't believe what she just heard. "Come on! We can't just stand here! Pure Evil Ten O'clock!"

"There's no such thing as 'pure evil' Dashie, Princess Luna, Fluttershy, Trixie, were all still good inside, even super-mega-nasty-awful Discord had a fun side," Pinkie Pie pointed out.

"Fun does not equal good!"

"K'. But the point is Dashie, she said love is food for her, but love grows when ya share it right? So she just can see sharing is better for her bug-ponies than this whole invasion non-sense. If she lives off love, she must have a heart right? After all, the Paradise Ponies convinced total nasties to be nice a lot. We should do the same before the nasty fighting even starts! That's the pony way!"

"BLAGH! I can't stand another word of your tripe!
You are hunting Snipe!
I am not part of your naive 'bad and good!'
The hungry beast is all that's under the hood!"
Chrysalis hissed forgetting herself.

"That's not true! See?!" Pinkie Pie pulled a small cloud from nowhere despite not being a Pegasus with the view inside only visible to the Elements and Chrysalis. Pinkie Pie's jaw dropped, when she saw in the cloud a grave etched with a little wing and halo so badly desecrated she could not read the name, and dancing around it was an image the of the changeling queen in a devil costume,
"I am savage wild and free!"
Not bound by moral am me!"

The cloud fell away like a felt drawing. Pinkie Pie cried out in horror. "You-you're like a monster from the Everfree! You're WORSE than a monster from Everfree!"

Chrysalis rolled her eyes, "Finally a cattle gets it."

Rarity for her part was transfixed by the hope they could subdue this invader without violence (and through her, her army) and the combined disgust at this monster stealing an innocent mare's wedding day from her, playing them all like pawns, and destroying the wedding dress Rarity had made, that dress had been a gift, and now would never be worn by its rightful owner.

Fluttershy was snapped out of her own spine freezing fear at this pony-seeming horror by the wild panic of her song birds, they were terrified of the fake bride now that she had shed her mask. The poor things freaked out, wanting in fly in every direction. None but Fluttershy gave the poor creatures a moment's thought. Her animals were her family, she had a responsibility towards them. She desperately soothed and calmed them down least they catch the ire of this thing shaped like a pony but was not a pony. Fluttercruel felt an unearthly sensation of wrongness and familiarity from the monster.

The CMC hugged each other, it was almost the advent of Nightmare Moon all over again, but this wasn't the boogymare from Nightmare Night, this had been the princess who had been so nice to them! And hadn't even been the princess at all. They didn't notice Sweetie Belle was just smiling. Silver Tongue put his forelegs around his daughter, his eyes narrowed at the unknown danger, his heart beating like a drum.

"Hey, Shining. Time to be the brave knight and rescue the princess from the wicked witch," Banjo whispered.

"It's fine. Everything is going fine now."

"Shining, I know you almost married the queen of ugly but don't conk-out now!" Caramel prodded.

"Cadence will forgive you, just help her already dummy!" Cherry Coke implored.

"If you don't wanna I can give it a crack," Note Worthy baited.

"All of you stay exactly where you are. That is an order," Shining Armor said in a monotone not even looking at them.

"What?!" Banjo gasped.

"Are you questioning my orders soldier?"

"No offense Shining but if Cadence never needed protecting, now would be-" Shining Armor bucked Banjo's leg so hard it broke. He collapsed in blinding pain.

"Shin' have you gone nuts?!" Note Worthy gasped getting close to his friend.

"I said stay still, that's an order," SA's voice couldn't have been more emotionless.

Princess Celestia took one look at Shining Armor and ordered. "Spike get a warning out to all royal guards and my sister! The guard has been infiltrated!"

"I can't do that, sorry," Spike said.

"Spike! Now is not the time to be timid!" Rarity heard herself shout.

"I'm sorry. Her Majesty doesn't want me to."

"Spike what do you mean I don't want you to!" Princess Celestia gasped.

"My minion isn't talking about you your highness," Chrysalis said warmly.

Rarity gracefully forgot herself, elegantly charged at the baby dragon in her lovely dress, and beautifully struck the dragon in the face. "Impostor! Where is Spike?"

The queen of hunger rolled her eyes. "Pst. Your ponies are beyond stupid. You cling to the answer that's the most comfortable. That is the real Spike."

"You're lying!"

The Queen spoke in a copy of Cadence's voice, "Oh Rarity, don't you understand? If I was lying you'd never suspect I was. I am an actress."

"Rarity, I'm sorry. It's what Her Majesty wants," Spike whimpered. Rarity looked at Spike and herself in horror.

"How could we be such fools?!" Rarity lamented.

Chrysalis rolled her eyes. "It's your nature. BUT STOP selling yourselves, and me so short!" She spoke in Cadence's voice again. "I've fooled many, many ponies besides you lot, I once tricked a loving couple into thinking I was their son. So don't be so arrogant as to think you are wiser or more perceptive than all of them. I spent forever making sure the left and right hooves were too busy to think and weren't able to compare notes! I spent decades planning for this moment! If you were stupid, I'd have invaded years ago instead of slowly getting my troops in position to begin this invasion! If you were stupid I'd not even have NEEDED to launch an invasion! That's where me and that pompous, over inflated manchild of a chaos spirit differ! I didn't assume you couldn't beat me! I knew you could and that's why now I'm standing tall! I am an actress, the best!"

Cadence made a beeline straight for Shining Armor. Chrysalis stomped into her path.

"Don't even try little princess. Or do you want a one way trip back to a hole in the ground with no exit?"

Cadence gritted her teeth as she felt one of her legs shake. "Your Shining Armor belongs to me now. And he won't be doing much as your husband OR Captain of the Royal Guard now. Isn't that right?"

"Yes, My Love." Shining Armor gasped out dimly.

By now the assembled ponies were mortified.

Celestia had had enough.

"You made a mistake by revealing yourself early impostor! SURRENDER! Shining Armor is not Equestria's only protector! Stand down or I'll protect my subjects from you myself!"

-
I wished I was Luna, because then I could have shot this fallen Flutterpony through the back to protect my ponies without a shred of guilt. But I wasn't gifted with her ruthlessness. And I rationalized that if she did have an army, we needed her to call them off least they try to avenge their fallen leader.
-

"There's no way you were once the Element of Laughter, that was a terrible joke," Chrysalis said, "Tell your ponies to submit and my changelings will be gentle."

"This is my response." A beam of golden light shot straight at the changeling queen, the temperature in the room skyrocketed in seconds, causing the ponies watching to begin sweating.

A green beam of the queen's own horn perfectly aligned with the princess' magic, the two clashing.

(Notes (Earth Pony): Teacher! Give it everything! Don't hold back!)

Queen Chrysalis' eyes widened in surprise, then alarm as she found her hooves skidding across the floor leaving trenches.

"YOUR MAJESTY!" A handful of ponies and one dragon cried out in concern and fear.

+

Why is she so strong?! She isn't SUPPOSED to be this strong!

(Notes (Pegasus): Picked the wrong Celestia to mess with!)

You aren't even supposed to be here!!

+

Princess Celestia's beam forced back the Changeling Queen into a wall and overwhelmed her, the changeling queen's body exploded in a mass of green fire.

"They always explode," Pinkie Pie said.

The charred and empty remains of the changeling queen slid down down, burned and lifeless, a broken shell that had once contained life.

Several ponies and one dragon in the room seemed to be in a state of shock.

"I am sorry," Princess Celestia sighed and lowered her head.

"You will be." Celestia's eyes shot open, the corpse got to its feet, and green flames flashed revealing an angry and alive Chrysalis with a forehead bleeding green.

Chrysalis let out a changeling war cry and unleashed another green beam, this one at much closer range and with much greater intensity. Princess Celestia, caught off guard, counterattacked, and the two beams locked again, but this time the green beam was shaped almost like a spear, or needle, and struck Princess Celestia's horn dead center. Princess Celestia cried out the attack traveled through her horn, and overwhelmed the magic centers of her brain. Her eyes rolled up in her head as she fell to her side, her legs involuntary twitching.

+

If...if I had given anymore, I would have burned to ashes everypony in that room before I put down Chrysalis.

+

"I told you, I'm an actress!" Chrysalis hissed, putting a hoof to her head and snarling at the blood she saw on it.
"What was supposed to happen, was not that.
YOU LITTLE RATS!"

Every Equestrian in the room felt her hearts fill with consternation. Fluttershy and Rarity's eyes filled with tears. So did Twilight's, but you wouldn't know it from her happy expression.

"I always knew Princess Celestia was weak!" Shouted a noble, nopony saw which one, or they'd have clobbered him before the changelings could.

Chrysalis groaned. Not about to have her victory lessened. "No you morons, she could have killed me. The amount of Shining Armor's love for Cadence I've taken has made me more powerful than I thought possible. I didn't think love this pure and intense existed. Then again, I had never fed on the love for a goddess before."

"I always knew Princess Celestia was incompetent!"

"Oh shut the buck up!" Chrysalis groaned and face hoofed. "Slipping through and infiltrating her information network undetected and avoiding her magical security precautions were the greatest challenges of my life. Let alone fooling her! Stop trying to belittle my accomplishments you nobility morons!"

"Everypony! Protect Celestia!" Rainbow Dash snarled before the guards could, rising up and the others got the memo to protect the beloved mother of their herd.

Only to be stopped by a line of spell blasts that strafed their path.

Twilight waved her hoof in a 'naughty-naughty' gesture. "Now now Friends, don't ruin Her Majesty's big day, remember what Spike said before you hurt him Rarity?"

Rarity blanched. "We're dead."

"Of course not!" Twilight cheered, despite the tears beginning to trickle down her cheeks. "All they want to do is eat our love! And the love between six good friends like us is sure to scrumptious!"

"TWILIGHT! Not you too!" Pinkie Pie, a horrible feeling in the pit of her stomach.

RD made a snap decision. "Sorry Twilight! But I'll bet my Sonic Rainbow is faster than your magic or ta toss yourself in my way!"

"RD ya still talk too much!" AJ snapped sounding angry, then said softly, "And ya can't do that."

RD turned to her, "AJ we don't have time to debate Celestia...could be."

=Dark Underground Rap Instrumental=

AJ's eyes shined with the Truth.

"AJ...stop, please, I can't, I don't want to." Rainbow eyes twitched as she looked upon truths she never wanted to learn. Tears began to form in her eyes.

"Her Madjesty can't have ya causing trouble now can she? Too bad she was worried that pesky Element of Loyalty might make ya resistant ta lettin' her make ya all nice and cooperative-like. Ah'm sorry. How deep inta the truth can ya go before yer brain breaks in itty-bitty pieces Ah wonder," AJ said in a callous almost cruel voice gently holding RD's muzzle, RD unable to bring herself to even closer her eyes.

Rainbow Dash's entire body was shaking, seeing every thoughtless, callous, and cruel wrong she had brought upon Derpy over the years since foalhood.

"HI-YA!" Rarity did a leaping kick to Applejack, knowing she was tough enough to take it, knocking AJ away from Rainbow and breaking the connection by force. "Pardon Applejack, but Rainbow darling looked like she could use a break from reflection." She knelt down to the Pegasus, "Darling are you alright?"

"No. I'm not," Rainbow Dash hissed in pain.

+

Ah'll say this about mah time under that witch's spell. Makin' meh do THAT tah Rainbow? Makin' me do the ONE thing that refusin' tah do separated meh from Nightmare Mirror? That's second on mah lists of things Ah'll never forgive that no good rotten rattlesnake for!

(Notes (Pegasus): Second?)

First is the look on Applebloom's face when she saw meh like that!

(Notes (Pegasus): Oh.)

+

Cadence hated the feeling of helplessness welling up inside her. She couldn't have escaped for NOTHING could she? She couldn't made things WORSE could she?! Her eyes wandered to two empty seats, looking rather out of place in the room full of standing ponies, put there as a reminder for two beloved friends she had lost before that she could do nothing about.

Chrysalis touched the bleeding area on her head with a snarl, then looked at the group. "Thank you so much for leaving my Twilight Sparkle behind in this room. Alone. If you'd bothered to stay, then I'd never have had the chance you gave me."

Pinkie Pie's eyes teared up.

Applebloom's eyes went wide with shock.

"But don't worry, you're not the only ones who made this possible," said Chrysalis, walking over to Applejack. "If your friend here had just been a little more observant, this never would have happened. Isn't that right, my little pony?"

Pinkie sunk to her knees. "Please...no."

Applejack didn't look sick, but she still seemed...unnatural, like her eyes were sad while the rest of her face said nothing. "Yes...yer madjesty. Ah coulda ruined this whole thing if Ah hadn't been worryin' about ponies' privacy. This is all because of meh."

Chrysalis grinned at the looks on the faces. "What? No 'oh, she's lying'? Oh, right, she's Miss Honesty. Oh, you don't know how hard that stubborn little mind of hers was to make lie at all. Tell them again."

"It's mah fault this happened."

Chrysalis chuckled. "That's a good little pony. And who am I?"

"You are Her Madjesty."

"And what does that make me?"

"Mah Master."

"And what are you?"

"...yer property."

+

I'll admit...I know exactly how Applejack must feel now about that...The baddie revealing your big mistake to the entire world, or at least to Cloudsdale. I've been there...She was there for me when I let my mistakes begin to eat me alive, just like Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy were when I went nuts. I'll be there for you AJ. That's a pegasus promise.

+

"Sis...no...p-please." said Applebloom, trembling, tears streaming down her face.

Applejack looked at her sister. She opened her mouth to say something, but instead literally gagged on the words she was trying to say. After a few moments, she stopped...and a single tear ran down her otherwise unreadable face.

"You and your brother have done a good job Twilight Sparkle." Chrysalis, AGAIN switched to Cadence's voice just for the fun of it. "You are a pair of remarkable siblings."

"Thank you, Your Majesty," The two echoed together.

"I LOVE ponies who do a good job, but I like it more when they give me love instead." Queen Chrysalis whispered leaning close to the smiling purple unicorn. "Your brother's love tastes so good, yours is very delectable too. Let's have another little taste."

=Pure Odio Live-A-Live=

"GET AWAY FROM MY BABIES!" Starlight Sparkle hissed as she teleported right in Chrysalis' face, catching everyone in the room by surprise. She kicked and bucked at the changeling queen who dodged all of her blows not even blocking them, then Starlight grabbed a solid stone pillar with her magic and threw it high speed at the queen who deflected it with blow of her own magic. In that instant Starlight Sparkle teleported again and blasted the queen with a concentrated blast of starlight magic at point blank right in the queen's face. The flash cleared to show a tiny oozing crack on the carapace of Chrysalis face.

Chrysalis felt pain, then fury. "YOU'LL PAY FOR THAT YOU LITTLE WORM! NOW YOU SQUIRM!" All four of Starlight's legs were caught in Chrysalis' telekinesis, then TWISTED in ways Princess Gaia never intended. She cried out in pain as Chrysalis released her now with four broken legs, then abruptly caught her magically gripping one leg, causing more pain. "Leave the ad-libbing to the professionals."

She then threw Twilight's mother at high speed toward a wall, Moonlight Sparkle barely managed to catch her with his own magic to prevent her from being permanently damaged.

"Tertiary characters who exist just to embellish a character's background should just stay in the backdrop, where they belong and let the main characters play the important roles. And parents should run away to breed another day," the queen said. "I carry within me the indestructible desire to survive. What makes any of you think you can break it?!"

Neither Shining nor Twilight had even flinched.

"My foals, forgive me, for failing you," The mother said through the pain as her husband cradled her.

"Your books stink by the way, I burn every copy I find," Chrysalis verbally threw at the broken unicorn. "My one good deed for the arts."

+

Mom...Have I ever told you how much I hate being made to watch ponies I care about get hurt?

(Notes (Earth Pony): Yes, Shiney. We were there in the old timeline.)

Then you can imagine how I feel looking back on that...I think Twilight feels the same way...

+

"Seems your love and faith in your student weren't so unbreakable after all." Chrysalis leaned and whispered to Celestia.

+

I didn't waste breath on the fallen Flutterpony. I had little to spare.

+

(Notes (Pegasus): Grandma...I'VE HAD ENOUGH!)

(Notes (Unicorn): I'm sorry.)

(Notes (Earth Pony): The bad big witch hurt grandma!)

(Notes (Unicorn): I'm sorry.)

(Notes (Pegasus): Dawn! You talk with Queen Tiamat and tell her Teacher is calling in a BIG favor! I'll go to the Wonderbolts, every guard who isn't a changeling, and get Trixie's mother in Hoofington and lead her to where she can find a good teleport mage! Then you see if you can find where The Doctor's gotten to this time! He should be here in Canterlot already! And don't you dare tell us this is all still 'normal' Dusk!)

(Notes (Unicorn): I'm sorry.)

(Note: (Pegasus): This isn't how things are supposed to go! This is an emergency!)

(Note: (Unicorn): Sisters. I'm sorry. I...let my guard down. Because Her Majesty is not as powerful as Nightmare Whisper with the Elder Horn, I believed Her Majesty couldn't effect me when I interviewed her. I let her get too close, I didn't think she could be a threat. I under estimated Her Majesty.)

That does seem to be my fate. But thankfully there are some fates I can change.

(Note: (Pegasus): WHAT?! NO WAY! THERE IS NO WAY!)

(Notes (Earth Pony): You big bully!!!)

=AUTO RECORD SET=

(Note: (Pegasus): Dusk, what did you do with the notes? They're writing on their own?)

(Notes (Unicorn): I'm sorry. I've failed you. This is all MY FAULT. We outside of time, divine light be sealed, down our perch we climb, naked in the mortal's field. Scattered by the wind. In mortality we're pinned.)

Excellent.

"Yes my queen."

It is fate it seems that I am always to be underestimated! May all recognize now, that the I, and my changelings, are NOT to be trivialized.

+

"Hey, you okay?"

BLECH! What a headache! This makes that punch Fluttercruel gave me seem like a love pat. Wait. Huh?

I opened my eyes, focusing on a blue pegasus stallion in a Wonderbolt's uniform. "Uuuuuuugh."

"Can you speak?"

"S-Soarin'," I gasped out.

"That's my name. Spitfire says you teleported right into our hotel room. I'd say you went to a lot of trouble for an autograph, but you look like you just went through Tartarus."

I must have influenced Dusk's spell slightly through our link and landed me somewhere safely close-by. Or I think I did.

What the buck. This is impossible. Oh no. Please no!...I felt sick, naked, and terrified all at once! Horseapples.

I curled up in a ball and began to shake. No. No. I can't be. This isn't right! This is WRONG!!!!

"Miss? Miss!" Dawn. Dusk.

+

Ow!

I'm hurt?

This is...is like when Mr. Discord hurt me when I tried to help Tiara.

Peewee? Thanks Super-Mommy! You're okay! Hugs! I'm so happy you're here. Where is here?

Huh? Where are my notes?...I feel funny. No, not silly Peewee, I feel, not right.

OW! I can't, I can't walk through walls? I better get back to when the wedding happens! We gotta help...huh? Why...w-why can't I walk through time? It's still here! So why can I move through it Peewee?!

This reminds me of that play where the narrator gets pulled into the story by the characters...I'm not going to be fed me to a giant am I Peewee? You're right, our friends wouldn't do something like that.

I'm still in Canterlot, all the fancy dressed adults are looking funny at me.

Everypony's looking at me! But Peewee I'm supposed to be 'as good as invisible.'

Bigger sister...big sister...I don't think I've ever felt this alone before...I'm scared Peewee....

"Excuse me little miss, are you alright?"

+

My name is Half-Light Dusk. I write this as I stand atop the roof of the wedding ceremony. I am branded by Her Majesty's taint. Her other slaves and her people know not to attack me even though I am no longer outside of time. I was born old. Because of the link my sisters and I share, my power was sealed when theirs was, and I was pushed into normal time when they were. I could have done so to them alone, but thankfully Her Majesty ordered I do so at once on the spot without time for me to prepare. My only hope is that my two sisters are able to thwart me. And save Cadence and the rest of our families.

+

Caramel inched towards his princess, hoping the changeling queen would be too busy listening to herself talk to notice. Sadly, he hadn't counted on the brainwashed ponies and dragon in the room doing anything other than stand there like zombies.

"You were ordered to stay put Caramel, bad soldier." Caramel was bashed in the face by a force field.

"Trying to protect someone with no chance of winning?" Chrysalis said in a disinterested tone, "Insects like you should scurry back under their rocks."

"We have to get The Princess out of here."

"The rules say when facing something you can't beat: retreat!" Cherry Coke stated.

"They didn't say abandon Princess Celestia when she's right there!" Note Worthy snapped back.

"I'd do the heroic thing and say 'I want you to leave me', but I'd be lying," Banjo hissed through the pain.

"Spike, send the signal to Digger Wasp, and an order to Hercules Beetle to divert troops to the wedding hall immediately."

"Yes Your Majesty," Spike droned, pulling out scroll and swiftly scribbling a message on a second note.

"Spike no!" Rarity called.

"Sorry, it's what Her Majesty wants," Spike replied.

"What about what I want? What about what you want?"

"I'm sorry Rarity."

"And I'm sad Spike. Do you want me sad?"

"No but it's what Her Majesty wants."

+

I kept talking, like most of my friends, I can talk my muzzle off when need be. Nopony's eyes were on my target, Shining's were on his men, Chrysalis' were on Cadence, Twilight's eyes were on our fronts, Spike was on me, and Applejack's was on our backs.

Only Pinkie Pie knows I can use my telekinesis without making my horn visibly glow, it's a little trick I've learned as a side product of the illusion magic I've studied for presenting my dresses as I did with Hoity Toity.

With precision and quietness that Trixie and Twilight can't compare to, I lifted our Princess' crown off the floor, maneuvering it around the field of vision of the wicked queen and our enslaved friends.

Princess Celestia's crown wasn't mere gold, or I didn't think it was, it had taken a full head on magical blast and was only scorched rather than sundered, I hoped that proved it was made of sterner stuff. I silently apologized to our Princess for using her crown this way.

I had struck Spike once already this hour, twice more pained me, but what had to be done had to be done, and with that thick dragon hide of his, this would just knock him off kilter instead of cracking skull like it would a pony.

I focused all of my magic, the crown still wasn't glowing, and the assembled ponies had thankfully been wise enough not to say a word as they saw what I was doing. Just a little more, in position. Alright, focus as much as you can, they'll be prepared for a strike on the queen, that's what they'll try to block. Focus, center, breath, think of Equestria, and like a falcon, STRIKE-
"RARITY STOP!"

WHAT?!

The crown, still going fast, Sweetie Belle, NO! PLEASE! NOT AGAIN! I GRAB THE CROWN WITH FULL FORCE and stop it just in time before it can touch a hair on Sweetie's Belle head.

"Sweetie! Out of the way! Spike's not himself!" I begged. I had forgotten completely how Sweetie and her friends could sprint like lightning if they were so inclined, covering the span of the hall in a moment...I hadn't even seen her until it was almost too late. Almost. Again. Almost I had hurt her again. Sweetie Belle, I'm sorry.

She was smiling at me, her eyes wide and staring. "Sister, please don't hurt Spike, he's just helping Chryssy."

I gasped. I looked to my baby sister as she stood using herself as a shield, always smiling. "No...Not...Sweetie, not you too."

+

Mah heart broke in two. "Sweetie."

All Ah could think about is 'why is this happenin'?" Spike...Applejack...Sweetie...She...she took them all. Mah sister...two of mah best friends...Ah'd never felt so alone...

+

Scootaloo did the only thing she could think of and hugged Applebloom. Silver Spoon's lip quivered. Silver Tongue felt ashamed he couldn't stop the white filly in time.

"That's very good of you Sweetie Belle!" Twilight praised. "You're a good filly!"

"Thank you!" She chirped back.

"Y-you, y-you, YOU MONSTER!" Rarity screamed.

"Don't throw a fit pony, I'm the one having a bad day," Chrysalis said matter of fact, "I didn't tell my little song bird to do anything. She did that one on her own, didn't you?"

"Yes Chryssy! I wanted to help!"

"And yes you did." Chrysalis ruffled Sweetie's mane affectionately, "But don't risk yourself like that again, you're far too important, my little song bird, to be sacrificed in that matter."

"Okay!"

"DON'T YOU DARE TOUCH HER!" Rarity snarled.

Meanwhile, Spike went about his given task of dragon mailing off the two message.

"Sister, don't resist. We can have so much fun together!" Sweetie Belle said like Rarity was refusing to do something because it wasn't 'couth' again. "You don't wanna end up like that other unicorn do you?" Sweetie grinned. "She went KA-CRACK!" Sweetie made a short happy jump.

Rarity took a step back, her head swimming. The world turning completely unreal. "N-no."

The green eyed filly turned and waved at her friends. "Hey! Scoots, 'Bloom, Silver, this is great! You should join me and Spike! We can be Cutie Mark Crusader Royal Pets! Or Cutie Mark Crusader Royal Minions! Or Cutie Mark Crusader Royal Dark Apprentices! It's totally awesome!" Then she said in a zombie-like, "Join us. Joooooiiiinn uuuuuussss!" She burst out laughing. "Heheh! But seriously, let Chryssy fix you up, you'll love it."

Fluttershy felt sick to her stomach.

"Ain't she just adorable?" AJ said smiling. "Come on Rarity," she said sagely, "You and Sweetie did promise to try new things together."

"It'll make a lovely friendship report for Teacher," Twilight encouraged.

"Not this again," Pinkie Diane lament with a hint of despair.

Chrysalis thoroughly enjoyed the love the filly offered her on a silver platter, she chuckled, as sweet as Sweetie Belle was Chrysalis had a schedule to keep, time to start rounding up the cattle for processing...hm? Hadn't there been two unicorn guards at the back of the doorway? Must have run off like the panicky animals they were, let them, there was nowhere for them to run.

The idiot who had tried to ruin everything, showing his dedication to be removed from the gene pool, hadn't done the intelligent thing and taken his broke mare friend of the week and fled like anything with the slightest trace of self preservation. What was the best punishment? Breaking his back, slamming him into a few walls, and draining his talking love-doll into an empty husk in front of him, would make for a decent start. Maybe hoof him over to Kabuto after that. Seriously, she was doing these cattle a favor culling the stupid and suicidal from their numbers.

As for her lesser half, she didn't have the courage to face herself, Twilight, and Shining all together. Crushing Celestia and making an example of that middle aged mare had cowed rest of the cattle.

+

Well. Am I scared? This prince is ready to wet his royal self. I want to scream and hide underneath a table. But Cadence wasn't running, so I wouldn't run either. I should have grabbed Arcana and galloped for he nearest doctor. Instead I stayed near my cousin. Hmmmm. If I made a big enough mule of myself, maybe I could get the talking bad dream so mad that while she's busy delivering mind numbingly pain upon my royal nerve endings, cousin could reach Auntie. Maybe she could help her? They were both Alicorns.

+

A bluish gray unicorn stallion with a black mane, Long Haul as his friends knew him, stood at his post in Canterlot Castle's communications room. He kept his eyes on the time. '600...599...598...'

A burst of dragon fire descended next to him and materialized into a scroll. He narrowed his eyes and took it.

"What is it sir?" asked one of the workers under him.

"Just an order from Her Majesty. We're to do a shift change now," he said, folding it a putting it away.

"Already? But our shift doesn't end for another ten minutes."

"There's been a change of plans, you're all getting to leave duty early," he said in a friendly, casual tone. "Her Majesty is a good ruler after all, she wants to be fair to her followers."

"Right about that!" replied a green eyed unicorn, one of the ones in charge of sending letters.

As everypony began gathering their things, he slowly trotted over to the door and locked it silently.

He trotted over to the lights and took a careful, calculating look over the group, making a close check of everyone's locations.

Green bolts of energy lit up the room and when the lights back on, the majority of the troops in the room lay unconscious on the ground, except for a number of green eyed unicorns, some of which had attacked their fellows.

"What's going on in there?" asked a guard's voice from the other side of the door.

He trotted over. "Oh, just a short circuit in some of the radios and a minor explosion, no pony is hurt, please keep an eye for the maintenance crew, we've already called for them," he replied.

"...Alright, will do."

Long Haul trotted over to the green eyed unicorns. "Keep sending the all clear messages," he stated, his tone now cold and calculating.

"Yes, boss."

The 'unicorn' nodded. "And send out the order, it's time to begin, so says Her Majesty."

"Yes sir."

Long Haul moved over and picked up one of the unconscious guards. "This is bothersome, why couldn't you cattle just make this easy?"

+

An unassuming pegasus guard patrolled the halls silently. As he did so, several ponies, some guards, some not, slowly filed in behind him.

"Sir, her Majesty has signaled we begin early," reported one of them.

The pegasus nodded. "Do as she says, it's time to-"

A letter materialized directly in front of him. He took it and carefully read it.

"What is it, sir?"

"We're needed in the Wedding Hall, now," he ordered, "For Her Majesty!"

The other 'pegasi' joined him, swarming towards the Wedding Hall.

+

Digger Wasp and Hercules Beetle should have read their orders by now.

This day has turned out perfect after all, this will be the day I've dreamed of since I was small. In spite of idiots and trouble makers everything important has gone as it should.

Wait. I sense something...No!

You are joking! This is absurd! It's completely illogical! This is ridiculous! It's not even possible! This didn't happen before! She wasn't here before! How could the other one even be here?! Wait! You are kidding me! Those two guards!

+

When we saw something take our Princess head-on...we quickly voted that we needed the scarier princess, and plenty of back-up.

+

Now I have to worry about quaternary non-characters? What a headache! The anti-teleportation wards were still in place, but I felt the immense power of the night itself coming down on me with a small army of tiny pieces of her essence flying behind her. That was the bad news. The worse news was Hercules Beetle and my changelings would arrived second. And even if they did arrive in time, I couldn't be sure she wouldn't just plow straight through them.

I wasn't looking forward to a fight with the more ruthless of the Royal Sisters after the unwanted surprise with Celestia. The reports from the Griffin Wars on thousand years ago showed that. What was worse was I had a feeling a focused laser made from moonlight wouldn't have as much collateral damage to worry about as a beam of solar plasma. Being in a room full of innocent civilians was not going to help me against her! This wasn't according to plan. Why had everything changed like this, it made no sense!

And the amount of power I felt coming towards me at the force of a comet wasn't giving me time for reflection!

"Your Majesty? Are you alright?" My purple pony asked. I looked at her seeing worry and concern in her eyes. Blech! I refuse to lose here! I refuse to die here! I refuse to be swept aside!

And it all came to me in one moment.

"Shining, drop the barrier," I ordered.

"Yes Your Majesty." The shield around Canterlot dissolved.

"Quake before the power of the Night!" The Canterlot Royal Voice boomed, causing the windows to shudder, not slowing down to negotiate, not slowing down to demand a surrender. From the energy I felt, she was instead charging up to try and blow my head off with one shot. I had to admire her, she wasn't as naive as her sister.

I placed my horn against Shining Armor's, I tap into his magic, assume direct control. A twisted green roaring fire engulfs us. Shining Armor is clearly in pain. Too bad. I don't have time to waste on making this pleasant! I force myself harder and harder into him, he feels pain and pleasure at my magic's touch. His heart is ashamed but he can't resist. He tilts his head back and cries out, our horn still touching, and the barrier reappears and expands around us in the blink of an eye. It passes through my changelings without harm, or the cattle in the wedding hall... however.

+

Princess Luna didn't stop as the barrier exploded in front of her, but it had changed, she had time to gasp in shock as the barrier hit her hard. She and her Night Guard, and nearly every free royal guard in Canterlot, were all sent flying out of the city, over the landscape, and over the horizon at blinding speed, Luna only able to redirect the power from the beam she'd been moments from firing at the queen to try and pull the innocent ponies close to herself.

+

The brainwashed slaves looked with joy and satisfaction, the heroes and guests looked in terror and despair. Chrysalis panted, Shining Armor's body shivered involuntarily. The Queen looked around, chest heaving and head aching from the magic overload, and a few moment later, the only sound anypony could hear in the wedding hall was the sound of Queen Chrysalis, laughing.

+++

"And that is how it should have ended the first time," Chrysalis said like to a lover as she looked at the crowd of broken faces.

"Princess Luna," Fluttershy whispered, "All those ponies."

"This...this isn't right." Pinkie Pie more to herself than anyone.

"Horseapples," RD hissed.

"Pleas be alright." Rarity whispered remembering how the ponies who had been thrown out all had wings. She hoped she wasn't just saying that to herself. Still, they had princess Luna with them didn't they?

"You should have all just played nice with Her Majesty!" Sweetie Belle called out the window.

The two other flower fillies and Silver were shivering. The guest likewise were petrified at the sight of their leaders as such. Cadence meanwhile was disgusted at herself for standing here like a mare in distress, but her legs removed to move. All the horrors she bought, why was she paralyzed by this. What was this sick feeling of right yet wrong from this monster?

Several pegasus royal guard then forced their way through the windows. Hope filled everypony's hearts, that quickly turned to despair as they were engulfed in green flames that turned into stubbier, smaller, bug-like ponies like the queen herself, but with compound eyes.

"Use the doors," Chrysalis grumbled.

Ignoring the slaves, Princesses, Elements and the groomstallions, the bugs began from the front to organizes the guests by gender and species.

Celestia looked at the monsters terrorizing her ponies as she struggled to think clearly through her repairing brain. 'Breezies. Flutterponies. I didn't want your legacy to be this.'

The lead pegasus guard landed next to the changeling queen and said, "I am here Your Majesty."

Chrysalis said indignantly. "Congratulations Hercules Beetle, once again you fail to protect your queen, I had to do your job and your sluggishness forced me to rework our entire plans. You are nothing if not consistent."

Green flames surrounding the pegasus guard, revealing a larger, more well armored Changeling with black and gold armor adorning his frame. He genuflected, "Forgive me my Queen, I came as quickly as-"

She struck him with one hoof.

"And your quickest was too slow. If it wasn't for my quick thinking, I'd be dead. Inform Goliath Beetle he is my new general, you'll be serving as his first officer."

"My Queen! Please pick someling else! I'll gladly serve as a foot soldier if you wish it. But my brother is too reckless to-"

"He has never failed his queen. And thanks to you reckless just might be what's needed. Are you questioning me Hercules?"

"NEVER!"

"Then do as I say."

"As you command my queen!" The changeling said without a trace of sarcasm or irony.

"Ya did yer best. That's all anypony can ask of ya, there's no shame in that."

The armored changeling looked back at the brainwashed Applejack in surprise.

"I didn't ask you to speak," Chrysalis said.

"Ya didn't ask me not to."

The queen rubbed her non-existent eyebrows, and refused a Changeling trying to tend to her head wound.

"My little song bird?"


"Yes Chryssy?"

"Give all of Canterlot your grand debut."

"YES YOUR MAJESTY!"

Sweetie Belle obediently, eagerly, practically willing hopped out onto the balcony, and with help from Chrysalis' magic, plopped her rump on the extra large guard rails like a stage. Sweetie gave Rarity a triumphant look that made Rarity's heart skip a beat. The filly then began to sing.

="Evil Luna's Song" - Silver Star Story Complete=

Rarity recognized the song, even if Sweetie was only singing to the the melody and not the lyrics. That song?! Their FAMILY'S SONG? Kept private for generations?!

"What is the point of this you witch?!"

Chrysalis shrugged casually. "I don't really understand it myself. But my little song bird's voice, and her song, carries within it a year's worth of love for a changeling. My subjects shouldn't be able to even metabolize that much love. And yet, her voice and this song, gives us all strength." Chrysalis grinned. "Maybe she just has the right spirit."

Green magic began to flow out of the filly's mouth like sparkling mist almost, and the sparkles gravitated to every changeling in the room and continued to float outside.

"There's something fascinating about her, isn't there Cadence?" The princess of music startled at how personal the monster now sounded. "Something almost familiar, a filly with such an obvious gift, and yet she turns a blind eye to it. Why could such a thing be Cadence?"

All the Elements wondered how to pop the witch's bubble by telling her the CMC were just thick-headed without hurting the little fillies' feelings.

But Cadence found herself thinking, feeling that the witch was right, there was something strangely familiar about the musical filly, or maybe she was just letting the witch's head games get to her. She tried drawing some strength from the filly's song as well as covertly as possible, but as it wasn't directed at her nor could she actively draw it in without giving away one of the few trump cards she still had up her sleeves, she could only regain enough strength to stand on her own, not nearly enough to fight. Not nearly enough to do anything.

+

This queen of lies. Ah hate 'er guts. Ponies ain't supposed ta hate like this, but Ah can't stand it. I'm disgusted at 'er. No Ah don't want 'er dead, do Ah look like a savage? Ah want her ta see the truth, for all these lies she's used to use us and she's made me say to bite 'er in the flank, for her to stare straight into the cruelest of truths and weep like a baby!

Ah want done with this here queen of Lies? I want to swim to the surface of this muck she has meh buried in and stop her? There's a choice Ah can make that'll fix 'er, and fix all mah friends and anypony else she has under her spell. Ah can save em, after all, the truth sets ya free. And show all her underlings how screwed up their worldview is. All Ah gotta do is accept the power. Ah can feel it, at the edge of mahself, Ah wanna dive into it, become one with it. And shine for everypony ta see me! Tearin' away all them falsehoods they've built around themselves. Would Ah become a monster to fight the worse monster?

And it would be an evil they know opposed to an evil they don't.

There's Trixie safe back in Hoofington, and big brother Mac in Ponyville, they could use the Elements to fix me after Ah'm done trouncing this here witch. Ah could even get a lot of good done in the mean time. Ah could get them Canterlot ponies ta see the truth that they ain't no better than anypony else, and get Princess Celestia's subjects ta see she just wants to be accepted by 'em as a friend and not just our Princess. I could get Mitta to see the truth she oughta just forgive herself and move on. Ah could get Princess Luna ta see the truth of how out-dated some of her ideas of what's alright and what isn't are. Ah could even get Big Mac ta see the truth he doesn't have ta be in his shell all the time. Ah can get RD ta tell the truth of Discord's day to Cloudsdale! Just like Ah got'er to finally see what a jerk she's been to Derpy, and Ah'll get all these cowards to see the truth! They'll hate me but Ah won't bucking care cause the truth's the truth and shouldn't be--NO!

...

Thinkin' Ah can direct the beast if Ah let her out? Ah know that's a lie. Becomin' a Nightmare is like a fire: light it and it'll burn what yah want it to, but it ain't stoppin' there. It's the nature of the beast.

The truth is, that is what Ah wanted. Ah never liked how most of the rules for Aunt and Uncle Orange's 'proper pony' spiel was say one thing and mean another. Ah told Twili' how Ah was gonna accept 'Cadence's' little white lie and have that be that, and it went and caused all this. Ah hate it. Ah'm a practical pony, Ah know ya can't go sayin' everythin' ta everypony, even if Ah don't like it... Ah can't do it. Ah ain't lettin' Nightmare Mirror loose on the world. Ah ain't makin' it so mah friends have ta worry about another monster. Ah just hurt Rainbow Dash worse than Discord ever could, because everythin' Ah showed her was the truth. That was close enough tah Nightmare Mirror for mah tastes. Ah won't hurt mah friends and family and a bunch of innocent ponies the same way. Not now. Not ever. Ah'm sorry girls, Ah just can't do it. Ah'll just have keep tryin' tah swim tah the surface of this muck she's drownin' meh in and hope yer hooves will be waitin' tah pull meh out when Ah get there. Stay in limbo where ya belong Nightmare Mirror, Ah ain't never becomin' ya, so just forget about it.

+

"I LIKED IT BETTER WHEN WE JUST DID INTROSPECTIVE ONE-SHOTS!" I cried out seeing the nasty and cruel bug ponies bullying everypony. Nopony paid me mind. An invading army? Betrayal? Impostors? When did we become a war drama?! This wasn't right! I didn't feel like the world was piling up contradictions, but everything still felt broken to me. We were supposed to be having the happy ending now! Everything dramatic was supposed to have been solved and we could finally just live our lives! Nothing felt like it needed fixing, but everything still felt broken.

HEH-HEH-HEH. I can fix-fix-fix that. I can make the world right again. I can have this back to a nice merchandise driven little girls' half-hour toy commercial where everything is happy-happy-happy and bright-bright-bright and there's no such thing as hatred. I just need to accept lent power. Hmm. That Nerutrot reference doesn't work well in first person. How silly-silly-silly of me! I should make the whole WORLD silly-silly-silly again! Minty will be herself again! Rainbow Dash will be herself again! Princess Rarity will be herself again! And all the brainwashing the Alicorns and the Draconequi did to all my friends can go away!

...

Stop Pinkie Pie. Just stop. You've already had your 'almost fall into darkness' plot point. Don't go recycling scripts at a time like this. You've got to stay calm. Stay smart. Stay focused. Well, stay on task, keep your mind on your friends, and don't go crazy. And going all 'super nice in a bad way' isn't going to help anypony the way they need help right now either. We haven't done any bad guy fights bad guy plot points and I don't want to be the first one! And if Zecora was here, she'd say,

Don't focus on who your friends were in the past.
Help them as they are in the present while they last.

Right imaginary Zecora. I really need to stop mentioning that plot point every one of my narratives or I'm going to end up flanderizing myself. Alright Pinkie Pie! Think! We're not in a grim dark fic after all! No way the authors brought us all this way just to have a nasty twist ending! Even the Second Age Ponies had their happy ending! There's gotta be an opening now or soon! Find it and use it! After all, the darkest hour is just a part of the story! And we'll get to the dawn even if we have to fight our hardest for it! We'll get our happy ending no matter how long it takes!

+

A tiny star flew into the wedding hall, then exploded in a blinding white flash of light magic.

"PRINCESS RUN!" Twinkle Shine's voice cried out.

Episode 169: "Escapes And Explanations"

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It made no sense when the Hooviets arrived on top of our hive grounds.

This was absurd, our swarm's hive was no zebra's land: legally labeled as 'bad lands' with nothing farmers, business zebra, tourists, or armies could want (admittedly the one of the few things that fat slug was able to do right). It was like Everfree in Equestria, it was quite literally the last place in the world you would want to do anything even as a dumping ground. Our puppet governments and front companies made sure that it STAYED that way.

First we tried to do the most intelligent things we could do: do nothing and let them just do their thing and simply leave. Often trying to cover something up just made something more obvious.

Then they started digging, then they started started exploring the cave. At least they were ignoring the 'giant termite funnels' for now.

Then they brought in heavy equipment, some of my subjects began to complain about the noise.

"What in the world could have brought those filth here?" I asked to no one.

"They must have come for the leylines," Pitcher Plant said like she was reading a script.

"What are you babbling about dear?"

Pitcher Planet showed me a map of the planet's leylines she just happened to have with her.

The leylines map was not the same from last time I check, I know leylines changed slowly over time, like stars, but they had changed completely!

We needed information.

So we plucked one away when it was their sleeping period (or close as the 24 hour operation seemed to get to sleep).

The results were disappointing.

Even for a no face grunt his mind couldn't have been more empty. He had no idea why he had been sent there. He had no idea what he was doing there. He knew he was working for 'Father Deer' and 'The Greater Good' and somecattle named Captain-Commander Blue Crow or something, but nothing SOLID, he didn't even know what the equipment was for and what it was even doing or was supposed to be doing. If this was just a faceless guard I could understand, but this was a technician he didn't even know or understand the equipment he had been working on, like he had been an actor in a play.

"I'm sorry Your Majesty! I do not know!" He apologized profusely in his native tongue. Blech. We couldn't exactly keep him, I know the Hooviets cared nothing for their expendable fodder, but him vanishing might still get somecattle's attention (even if we were in the middle of nowhere and wild animals abounded). Memory erasure spells can never be trusted, but a mental suggestion that this was all a bad dream to somecattle with all the strength of will as a wet noodle who WANTED this all to be a bad dream and dumping him back in bed worked well enough.

And the Hooviets were snooping and digging deeper, it was time for them all to mysterious vanish and spread rumors about 'ghosts' and 'alien abductions' again. Yes yes, we didn't want to risk exposing ourselves, but they were getting too close.

Lines of communication cut. Defenses sabotaged. Changelings in position. Of course I remembered the old saying 'if you want something done right, do it yourself' and was going to take part.

The most garish music imaginable suddenly blared from everywhere (I promised to find the composer and turn him into a husk for the sake of good taste). A giant gold cube in the sky blinked into existence. None of the staff or guards at the site we were supposed to be making cease to exist even looked around or stopped what they were doing at the noise. Was this a trap? I threw it off as paranoia, even if someone had a clue I existed, there were far more simpler and intelligent ways to draw me out.

Then a flash of lightning and a crack of thunder, and in a spray of colored sparkles a mix of unicorn and deer teleported in, wearing a garish uniform weighed down by too many medals. If I had ever been made to perform in a play with such a costume I'd have demanded it burned. Twice.

"MOTHER DEER! Outdated goddess! Did you blindly think that I would not notice one of my men's thoughts no longer being pure in their devoted to the Greater Good?! Your arrogance shall...Huh? Who are you? I don't remember making up-meeting you before." He was shouting in Roedian (I've expanded my language base since becoming Queen).

The Tartarus? He was looking straight at me! This illusion spell was supposed to keep me and the rest of the swarm hidden until we moved! I was going to have a lovely talk with our tactical mage later.

I noticed many of my changelings looking at him like he was a god.

I tilted my head and asked reactively in Zebrafirican at the confusing sight, "Who, what, are you supposed to be? A clown?"

He stared at me like I had spoken in a language he didn't understand, then began to tremble to and sputter like he was about to explode. "Y-you, y-you don't KNOW WHO I AM?! What joke is this?! Everyone should automatically know who I am laying eyes upon me! This insult can not go unpunished!"

I rolled my eyes. "I heard the Hooviet Empire was full of criminally incompetent idiots who had their position because they knew how to say yes to everything they were told, but I never imagined that they suffered from in-breeding as well."

"HOW DARE YOU?! MY PARENTS WERE BOTH GREAT DEER!"

I asked dully and pointed. "Then how in Tartarus do you have a unicorn horn and...blech, is that supposed to be a cutie mark?"

"ENOUGH! I am Grand Marshal Admiral-General Solomon Azure Raven Makarov! Second to only father deer himself! For your impudence creature, you will pay!"

"You're second only to an imaginary leader? Whose your second in command, the tooth-breezie?"

"DIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!"

I considered getting a love-sandwich during his battle cry but I wanted this stupidity over with.

He moved as fast as lightning, I don't think he even really galloped, his hooves simply 'skidded' across the ground towards me, horns lowered. I blocked with my forelegs in time and tried to hold him back with my magic, he just kept coming! His horn fit through through two of the holes already in my legs and inched closer to my eye as I skidded across the landscape as an absurd speed, the pressure would force his horn through my head or make my legs' carapace break first. I lifted up my back legs, spread out my wings, and spun, flinging him off me. He landed flawlessly on four hooves.

"You are as powerful as I though Queen Chrysalis Avalon, or is that Kifuko?"

He's not leaving here alive. "How did you learn that name?"

"Ha! My spy network is infinitely superior to yours!"

"You're lying. You were dumbfounded by us. You had no clue who or what I was when you saw me."

"I was clearly luring you into a false sense of security!"

"I'm an actress, I know that trick, and you weren't doing it."

"Well watch this trick, for it is the last one you will ever see!"

He drew two swords I knew he didn't have before, large golden jewel encrusted hilts of bright white broadsword.

He magically spun them both like drills, then spun them MORE on another axis like they were fan blades, then spun himself like he was a top. How was he not getting motion sick?

"One Azure Raven Two Sword Triple Spin Final Finale Finisher!"

He spun like a dust devil towards me, I tried to dodge but against the laws of physics his course adjusted into intercept me! And I tripped on a stick and fell on the ground. What? I was going to be cut to ribbons by a powered up idiot. Wait...the trees aren't nearby!

I did the only thing I could think of, and threw the stick I had tripped on towards his spinning hooves, he lost control of his swords that STILL managed to both fly straight towards me in a huge arc. I rolled to one side as they stuck in the ground, a sword still cutting a line through the edge of one of my wings. Agh! Could I still fly with that?

Makarov got up, he did not look happy. "You stupid grub! Can't you even die properly?!"

"You're the not first one I refused to die for when they thought I should."

"Yes..." He hissed, getting crazy a look in his eyes. "Yes. Yes! How many have died for you!? How many have died because of you? How many shall die of you?" He seemed to be getting larger. His eyes bore into me. I couldn't move as he stalked closer. What's going on?! I don't get scared easy! "You killed your parents, you killed your only friend, you killed your entire home town, you killed an innocent guest to our universe, you killed the stallion who loved you, you kill your queen, you killed your queen's protectors, you killed an innocent changeling who had already been experimented on so cruelly. Being selfish and killing is all you're good at. You're stupid, your incompetent, you're dumb, you're ugly, you're cowardly, you're weak, you're foolish, you're immature, you're petty, you're childish, you're small minded, you're petty, you're worthless, you're useless, you're just a stain upon MY world that needs to be cleaned up! Everything you've done-"

I head butted him.

"-I've done to survive! I have no regrets! And your voice is so annoying!" I snarled.

Makarov looked at me dumbfounded and shocked, I kicked him between the rear legs, he gasped in surprise and stumbled backwards.

"Yes, I've manipulated and killed! All at breakfast! By the rules of nature, I'll do what I need to to live! What does a brat like you know?!"

"You know I think I'll take your Pitcher Plant and make her my apprentice."

"...I'd say I'd kill you, but I'd already decided to. You're just making noise now."

"Well! Let's see if the noise they make holds your interest! Ancient Zebra Voodoo Zombie Resurrection Vengeance Reaver Black Shadow Death Doom Despair Night Midnight Void Spirit Dance!" Makarov began dancing around nonsensically like somepony who hadn't seen zebra dance magic except from plays.

I realized we were surrounded by grave stones. That was impossible. There were no above ground graveyards near the hive, and I knew we hadn't teleported! The names on the gravestones, were the names of...my family.

Zebra, changeling, and parasprite corpses began to rise out of the ground, along with a big fat bloated changeling corpse that had to drag itself around. There were...many of them.

"You killed us! You killed us! Vengeance! Die! Die! Die!"

"THIS IS ABSURD!" I screamed. "Most of their bodies were never anywhere near here! Or didn't leave bodies!"

"I obviously had all the bodies dug up and reburied before you arrived."

"That doesn't make any sense!"

"Does it matter? Tell me! Do you regret NOW you stupid grub?"

I regretted I was facing a zombie horde. I considered my tactical options. I could try to simply phase through the zombie horde and attack Makarov directly. But that would leave me exposed to the horde behind me, and he seemed the type to have another surprise up his flank. And the zombies were getting closer. So I made the best choice I could think of.

I screamed like a nymph and flew for my life. "HELP ME YOU IDIOTS!" I screamed for my changelings. My flying with my damaged wing wasn't as good as I had hoped.

Whatever had been keeping them from coming to their queen's aid now seemed to be broken as Hercules Beetle flew past me in a blur smashing the head in of the lead zebra corpse, our troops flying right behind in a blur.

The zombies didn't even seem to notice them as they kept mindlessly following after me. You could say they were so focused on vengeance for me nothing else mattered, but if you asked me, Makarov had simply made their programming so simple that they didn't know how to defend themselves.

The zombie horde didn't last long against Hercules Beetle and his troops. Again the Hooviet instillation didn't even seem to react to what was going on plain sight of it. Except for cheering like brain dead idiots for the big brain dead idiot.

"Forgive us former Queen," a drone said as they broke apart the big fat zombie. The rest of the horde didn't last long.

"?!..." Makarov stomped his hoof. "Your cries for help are not supposed to have anyone actually COME to help you!!!"

"Clop you," I said.

"That is it!" He pulled out a nondescript remote with a ball ended antenna and a single big red button he pressed with impertinence. A stock sound beeping filled the air.

All my changelings stopped what they were doing and stood at attention and spoke as one. "We live but to obey the greater good of the Hooviet Empire."

My eye twitched. "The Tartarus?"

"I've had this remote with me this whole time! With it I can control the changeling horde!"

"Then why didn't it affect me bozo?"

"Because you are clearly too stupid for it to work on!"

"How can you even HAVE a remote to control MY changelings?"

"Isn't it obvious? I created changelings species! You all exist to serve me!"

"You didn't have a clue what we were when you saw me or that we'd be here! And I promise that I'm older than you!"

"I was clearly lying."

"It contradicts everything we know about ourselves!"

"Clearly I invented that past for you."

"THAT'S THE BIGGEST BUCKING LOAD OF BUCKING HORSEAPPLES I HAVE HEARD IN MY BUCKING LIFE!!!"

"Whatever. Time for your final moment as it was meant to be, destroy her."

I saw my changelings come at me as one like they were a bunch of robots. Why couldn't they be this obedient with me? I retreated again, and I didn't have a third army to come to my rescue.

They followed me like a second tail, not even trying to second guess my movements or cut me off. Makarov just stood there looking smug. I fled from my own army as they closed in, I managed to make a huge circle and get closer to Makarov. I grabbed the remote with my magic and pressed the button again and crushed the remote.

"HEY! You're not supposed to do that!"

My changelings stopped what they were doing and blinked confused before falling on her knees begging for my forgiveness.

"Formation!" I snapped and they obeyed.

My hive and I swarmed together, buzzing about him randomly every which way.

"ROYAL RING!" I hissed as we swarmed, transformed, then landed in a circle around the idiot.

Makarov found himself surrounded by a horde of myself. "Now try to guess if you can," we said together as I had had Hercules Beetle drill into them.

"HA! You think this could possibly fool me?!" His eyes got this glowing color look to them. He struck one of the changelings in the circle, who fell down from the powerful force of the blow, enough to crack their carapace.

"B-but!" Said myself on the opposite side of the ring. "but, there's no way you should have been able to tell us apart!"

"Pst! Not to one who has awakened and enlightened their sense of magic it is not! You are all just ignorant and blind to true magic!" He said self-righteously.

Then the changeling he struck flashed green and revealed a normal changeling drone.

Makarov's jaw dropped. His eyes twitched. "B-b-b-but, t-t-that's n-n-not, i-i-i-it, it CAN'T!" He death glared at myself, who had been the one speaking.

The other changelings on myself's right and right burst into flames revealing normal changelings until only myself remained, who looked left, and right, then took a step back, gulping.

Makarov screamed incoherently. Makarov's mane turned gold, his eyes turned blue, and his coat becomes lens glare purple, all surrounded by a faming aura of power. He practically flew at me, fore hoof raised, "MAKAROV.... PUNCH!"

He struck myself square in the fact, smashing me into the ground so hard it created a small earthquake.

Makarov looked rather pleased with himself and breathed in and out as his colors returned to normal.

Then the broken queen he had struck burst into flames and became a drone (who'd I infused with my power, having figured there had to be a reason I seemed to be the only one aware of all this insanity).

Makarov momentarily lost the ability to speak.

I changed back into my true queenly form and got up, and fired a beam at full power straight at his exposed back. The impact somehow created a giant cloud of dust. A giant robotic suit of armor that looked like it could change into a something else flew out of the dust clouds right at me with two blazing thrusters on its back.

"AAAAAAGGGGHHH!" Makarov screamed from inside the cockpit, eyes pin pricks.

I shape shifted to a zebra, and did a forward flip over the super weapon (I had gotten used to the unexpected from him at this point, though my wounds were beginning to pile up and made it difficult) and changed into an Earth Pony as I landed giving one thruster a hard kick that sent it flying off and exploded for seemingly no reason a moment later. I was thrown off and landed hard as the mecha suit began spinning out of control and crash landed creating another explosive cloud.

Makarov leapt out of the explosion much farther than a deer should have been able to leap and landed without any seeming damage to himself. I wish I could say the same, my exoskeleton was cracked in several places and I think my ribs were bruised.

"I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF YOU AND YOUR STUPID TAROT OF HUNGER LETTING YOU DEFY ME! YOU'RE STUPID! YOUR SPECIES IS STUPID! U R STUPID! STUPED! Super-ultra-mega-power-ninja-samurai-captain-angel-demon-" he began making swift random poses as a power ball built up between his horns. "-heaven-hell-vampire-werewolf-light-dark-creation-destruction-erasure-big-bang-final-finish-ending-the-last-sunset-sunrise-bug-smasher-giga-cowboy-robo-" I buzzed towards him as he continued posing and punched him hard in the face. He lost balance and fell over, the twisting purple-red-whatever ball of power among his horns hit the ground, and exploded. It knocked me back, a lot back, along with my changelings.

I managed to stop myself from crashing into anything, I worry about my changelings later. the column of power went as high as the sky and deeper than Tartarus. The wind died down and the pillar of magic slowly shivered up and flickered out. Makarov dragged himself along, now he actually looked hurt. His uniform was a mess, but not vaporized like it should have been, and he should have been for that matter. You think he'd have at least blown his own head off with that one.

"PERISH DOG!"

Horseapples!

I barely put up a barrier as a horncannon bigger than his own head appeared out of nowhere and fired. And it still went through my barrier, only stopped enough to pierce my hide and send me flying a good ways away before I managed to recover instead of going straight through me. I had to dodge it a few more times before I barely managed to shoot it out of his grip. I think that the round that hit me fractured a rib on top of the fact I now had a gunshot wound. Wait, I have an exoskeleton, why do I even have ribs?

He yelled another overly long name, producing Rosedust knows how many swords. I just barely managed to dodge a trust that would've pierced my heart if I hadn't moved (the fact it cut through my hide like butter and left a wound assured me I needed to move, and quickly).

By the time I managed to send out a shockwave and blast them out of his hooves, I'm not sure how much uncompromised exoskeleton I had left!

He charged up a horn beam and fired it with another overly long name I couldn't hear over the drum of it powering up and I countered with one of my own. His overpowered mine and I had half my mane blown off before I could dodge!

His blows could crack Changeling armor, his weapons could pierce it. He'd overpowered me physically. I realized that taking him head on would be the biggest problem. I'd have to outsmart him and out think him to have a hope of winning this.

He spoke instead of screamed, "I, had enough of you, this is your-"

"Oh shut up!"

= "Endless Possibilities Instrumental" - Sonic Unleashed =

I buzzed towards him, randomly zig-zagging as I went, going below the grass as I did so like a lion would.

"Ultra-Raid-Omi-Bug-spray-canon-" He whipped out a backpack with a flame thrower like nozzle. I changed into a pegasus and dove into the sky burning through magic to heal my wing and landed on the back of the device, spilling it contents all over him, making him red eyed and his body began to involuntarily spasm as it seeped into his skin.

"Changeling poison is deer poison?!" He exclaimed as he took out another giant sword holding it in his HOOVES somehow, "The Pegasus-Slayer of King Ididntmakeup-" I landed and turned into a unicorn and stabbed him with the sword using my telekinesis. He touched a button on a belt he hadn't been wearing before. "Anti-unicorn magic shield-" A shape change into an earth pony later I kicked him in the gut sending him flying backwards. He touched a dime store looking amulet he was now wearing, "The stone of protection from all ponies, usable only on this night every hundred years, you can not-" I introduced him to zebra style kick-boxing and knocked that amulet off which dissolved into thin air like all his toys were. I didn't know what the buck he was. I didn't care. He wasn't going to win. "HA! Now you will see the ancient sacred deer technique of anti-equine jutsu, that no equine, pony or otherwise, can possibly-" Jaguar claws sliced into his pretty face, "AAGH!" I changed into zebra again, saddled his neck, applied pressure in the just the right way, and one of his antlers broke clean off at the base and kicked him in the face and he landed on the ground.

"Help us."

"Kill him."

"Please! I want to die! Kill us!"

I heard a chorus of voices that seemed to be coming from INSIDE his head.

Oh well, might as well oblige them.

I shifted to my royal form, and stabbed him in the chest with my horn and sucked the flank-hole dry. Wait. What?

He had no love to suck! No! It was like I was trying to bleed blood from a stone. But that insane! A deer as narcissistic as him had to have a gigantic amount of self-love! It would taste like sucking raw lemons and be unfilling, but it would still be there! This was not possible! Everything sapient creature had some trace of love in them!

Wait! What?! A robot?! That's even more possible! This had not been a robot a nano-second before!!! I swear it! The robot exploded in my face and knocked me to the ground, giving me third degree burns! I got back up and I was stabbed in the side by a red coated deer that I KNEW hadn't been there a nano-second before either.

I saw Makarov several dozen yards away, looking not harmed in the least and with both antlers. "I'm through with you, Tarot of Hunger!" he yelled. And I admit it, he'd suddenly sounded intimidating. "Activate the anti-transformation emitters! Good thing I have been working on these for years!"

"But that makes no-" I heard myself exclaim for all the good it did as tesla coils I knew hadn't been there before in a large circle activated creating a red magic dome.

"But sir, wasn't this supposed to be your death dome emit-" The red coated deer asked.

"It's my anti-transformation emitters! I am my death dome emitter!"

"Yes sir."

Makarov looked at me with hatred, absolutely pure hatred, but I didn't feel any from him, like he was just going through the motions of what he thought hate was. Or maybe I was too distracted from having an explosion in my face, being stabbed, and the shock of feeling my magic suddenly not working. Or the fact that his teeth were now sharp and his eyes slitted like a dragon's.

I groaned from the shock of having my energy short out. "What the Tartarus are you?!" I asked, a horrible fact finally occurring to me. I'd assumed I'd been dealing with a mortal. And I was wrong.

"CONCEPT OF HUNGER! THAT FLAWED STATUS MAY HAVE PROTECTED YOU FROM ME SOME, BUT NOW THE LAST THING YOU'LL SEE IS MY TRUE POWER!"

This wasn't like his previous boasts. His voice had changed into something not of this world and a bright, unholy light was coming from his throat. It sounded less like a child boasting and more like a video game stating a concrete fact.

Makarov then pointed at me with one hoof, which seemed to pulsate with countless things under his skin, and screamed at the top of his lungs, his voice now sounding like a legion, "YOU, SISTER, AND ALL YOUR KIND WERE GASSED TO DEATH!"

-

I'd rather not describe what happened next thank you. Just know that even I consider it too cruel a fate to bestow, maybe, and believe me, that's saying something. Suffice to say, there were no corpses. It was like myself and my changelings had simply become ghosts. There wasn't any proof of any gas had been used besides every creature we drew near mention it even if it made no sense for them TO speak about it.

If Makarov could still sense us, he didn't show it. Since we were technically 'dead' according to Makarov's fiction, at least we weren't going to starve to death.

Our livestock was even more confused, knowing we had 'been gassed to death' but had no idea why they were still alive since they'd have logically been gassed too if that was what happened. I didn't bother to see what the Hooviets did with them.

I slowly managed to piece together what Makarov was, or at least how he functioned, and what he was not. Of course I tried to kill him, several times, but being a intangible made that annoyingly hard.

My changelings, loyal to the end, continued to gather information, it actually proved easier with them and myself now being basically living ghosts. Unfortunately, since that maniac had twisted existence nine thousand different ways, a great deal of it turned out to be worthless after Shining did us the favor of erasing him from existence. I won't lie, as the Blank Wolf tore that psycho's existence to pieces and sent him to Oblivion, I cheered for Shining.

When time and space repaired themselves, I was the only one in my swarm who even remembered our time as living ghosts, let alone that fool had ever existed, or his Empire.

And there were those empty shades...can we please not talk about them please? I can still feel their hooves in my nightmares.

But we weren't really dead. Because those events hadn't really happened, but Makarov twisted fate to insist we were. So it created a paradox in reality. Fate hates paradoxes.

But it came with a surprise gift, none of my changelings could do it, and it took a while for me to realize why I could and they couldn't (and also why Makarov's powers hadn't affected me).

In this faux state between life and death, I began to learn, no, I began to remember my larger self.

Being disconnected from the world, I began to see things my changelings couldn't, I began to move in directions my changelings couldn't. They thought I was going mad, I thought I was going mad (considering our situation, it was a reasonable assumption). But I wasn't breaking, I was growing.

I saw possibilities, and I began to be able to travel up and down events, I was still a 'ghost' unable to change anything, but I could see and hear anything if I knew where to look for it. And I traveled up and down the lines of possibilities too.

I saw myself, I saw a path where Makarov, where the Hooviets themselves had never even existed, where deer had taken on the path of the viking warriors instead of 'greater good' imperialists. And I saw myself fail, utterly, twice, in my quest to take Equestria, and to exact my revenge on the ones who had stolen my victory and ruined my beautiful plans, worthless bridesmaids.

Mind numbingly oblivious ponies, going from terrified of a changeling about to clobber them to casually trotting along their day in moments as my changelings were scattered and splattered on Canterlot's walls! Seriously, how did we lose to these idiots?

Wretched talking Pinkie Pie costume.

In the alternate worlds, I saw myself making Twilight Sparkle the new changeling queen as I died and she made all Ponyville her hive. I saw myself turned into an earth pony for Celestia's sense of 'justice' in a world where my changelings were mindless beasts. A world where I was the FIRST changeling, the Princess of Hearts and Hooves Day. A world where I had been one of Commander Hurricane's officers who had objected to the new peace she embraced, and was turned into a monster by that filth Discord and turned to stone with him. And a LOT of worlds where I ended up heavily injured, and nursed back to health and learned to 'love' from their kindness...There was also this odd world where Cadence and I had a truce of sorts (us both being legally married to Shining) and I had moved in with Shining Armor and her as we both put up with his idiosyncrasies. Oh, and many worlds where I had a daughter, Pupa, born brain damaged and deformed, loved me more than life itself. THEN that world I was de-powered (but still a changeling queen) and put under house arrest in Twilight Sparkle's library and made, blech, FRIENDS with a retarded puffy pink pony who made Pinkie Pie look smart. Sure she had enough love to taste from the void, but me? Makes friends with such a brain-dead thing? Pathetic!

I saw a world where Maua somehow took my 'condition' upon herself while I became a normal Zebra. She killed Cocoon to took over the hive out of kindness for the Changelings she saw suffering and gradually went insane and she launched her own attack on Canterlot in a twisted attempt to fulfill my foalhood dream for me and I tried to save her from herself with the help of PONIES. Do I wish I lived there? Pst. Sorry to disappoint you but 'Kifuko' can KEEP her Zebrahood if she wants it so badly. What's the point of anything if you don't win it for yourself?

...Y-Yes. That...that's the only reason...Maua.

And I finally remembered my life from before I was born. Who I had been, what I had lost. but why didn't I feel anything? I vowed to repay Pandora for this existence in full.

And, a world where a much more mundane and unexceptional version of myself was given memories of my actions within the heart world, and broke down crying saying 'I'm a monster who didn't deserve to live!'

Disgusting. Weak-willed crybaby!

If all it took was some memories for a version of myself to abandon my ambitions, then I could not allow myself to risk becoming weak! A wild beast doesn't need a conscience.

Surprised? Expect me to fall on my knees and regret everything I've done? I'm the same ling who sang a song with the lyrics 'no I do not love the groom, in my heart ther